Ever just think, “You know, that beer needs to be tried. I don’t know if it will live up to its description, I don’t know if I’ll like it, but I have to try it.”? Because I do. Sometimes it’s for a good reason and it flops, sometimes it’s just weird enough to try, and sometimes it sounds like I should love it.
Dragon’s Milk and I still don’t get along yet.
So I stopped on the way home from church and bought a bottle that sounded like I should love it. Vanilla porter, aged in whiskey (note the spelling) barrels, and sub-10% alcohol. It’s from an Iowa brewery, so I had to at least try it.
When you buy a beer
that your wife is going to kill you for spending that much on that is really good and a quality brew, you should really try to enjoy it properly. So I looked up which glassware a porter goes in.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it goes in a pint glass or a mug/stein. It makes sense since porter is traditionally a sailors beer. Nothing fancy, nothing classy, just a pint glass or a mug and some dark beer.
If anyone out there in internet land wants to buy me some imperial pint glasses or beer steins, I’ll take pretty pictures with said glassware. But since that isn’t happening, I guess you’ll have to deal with my American pint glass and be happy it’s the one without a logo on it.
Madhouse Brewing Company Vanilla Imperial Porter
Appearance: Black (or damn near black) with a vibrant brown head.As I poured it, I noticed the head had a hint of red to it. It isn’t so red that you would notice, just a hint of red to give it a bit more vibrancy. It actually stands out pretty well.
Scent: The first whiff gave me the cocoa smell from the dark malts with a sweet smell I couldn’t quite place. The second whiff confirmed my suspicions: that’s definitely the smell of sweet bourbon. If you wonder, I’ve spent a lot of time smelling whiskey (and whisky) and not so much beer. When I smell something I immediately recognize, I know where it’s from.
Taste: I can taste the barrel that it was aged in immediately. Something about good whiskey (and whisky, I’ve been told) is that you can taste the barrel aging. Bourbon needs that charred, new barrel to taste like bourbon. I’ve heard of Irish whiskeys that were aged in three different kinds of wood, and whiskey aficionados can taste the hints from all three (and I believe them). The second sip let me taste some of the vanilla and the cocoa taste from the dark-roasted hops. Both gave me great pleasure, but then they ended with a weird finish. I could taste the darkness from the malts; not the dark malts, mind you, just the toast from those malts. It completely distracted from the amazing flavor I had before.
Drinkability: This is a heavy and dark beer. If that’s your jam, then this is going to go down pretty smooth, and you won’t notice the 9.0% ABV until you’ve finished a couple. That said, if you aren’t into dark brews, this is not going to be a good gateway. The things that people hate about dark beers are present and unmasked; there are much better options if you are looking for a gateway. I don’t fault the beer for this; it is what it is designed to be, and unfortunately you tend to like it or not like it.
Quality: I really do dig this beer. A part of me wonders, though, if it has the quality and the perfection to justify the price tag – and I’m still on the fence about that. I really enjoyed it, it went down really well, but it isn’t quite as perfect as other beers in the same price bracket.
Overall: I liked it quite a bit. If this sort of thing is your jam – and you drink beer in this price range – it’s unique and flavorful enough to justify giving it a go around, and it is good despite the price tag. If it isn’t your jam, pass and try something else; you will find yourself wondering why you paid for it.
Unbiased: B+. It’s good, but it isn’t quite perfect enough to command what I paid for it. I think I would bump this grade up if it was priced a bit lower.
Biased: A-. All that said, I finished all but about 4 oz. of the bottle before I finished…now about 2 oz.
Madhouse still doesn’t have a proper website, and the VIP isn’t on the graphic, so no link today.
As a side note, if anyone has any suggestions for how to take better pictures that won’t cost me anything, please let me know; I know what a good photo is, I just can’t take it.
To something new, and something delicious!