Review: Black Oak Brewing Co. - Nutcracker Porter

'Tis the season of dark beers.  Stouts, porters, black saisons and lagers…  So many to choose from and too many styles to list.  The season just screams for those big, heavy, hearty styles.  Like I've said before, they can be comforting.  And we can all use a little comforting to get through these cold, dark days, right?

So in the spirit of that thought, as it's about to snow and the temperature's been bloody freezing here in Ottawa today, I picked up a Nutcracker Porter by the fine folks down at Black Oak Brewing in Etobicoke.  It's a spiced porter, brewed with cinnamon.  Let's crack it open and see how it fares!

This seasonal 5.8% porter is available at the LCBO in 650mL bottles for $7.95/bottle.  

It pours a near black and has a thin beige head with little in the way of retention or lacing.  I'd expect a little more here, that head is a little disappointing.

The aroma is heavy on the burnt malts and coffee beans. There are subtle undertones of roasted nuts, caramel, chocolate, all-spice and earthy hops.

Those same burnt malt and coffee bean characteristics from the nose are strong in the flavour, creating a big bitterness.  However they're not quite overpowering or dominating, so don't let them scare you off.  They're there, they're up front, and they want to be your friend.  They also play very well with other flavour notes, such as cinnamon, walnuts, bread and sweet dark chocolate.  All of these other subtle flavours balance those up-front burnt and bitter tones very, very well.

The mouthfeel is a little lacking.  With this full, robust flavour profile I'd expect it to lean towards being a little more full-bodied like a stout, but instead it leans more towards a medium-bodied brown ale.  In my experience porters have that range of light stout to heavy brown ale mouthfeel, so that's not really a bad thing.

 

Overall, the appearance was a little disappointing, the aroma was big and bold and told you exactly what you were getting, the flavour was equally big and bold and very well balanced despite the burnt bitterness, and the mouthfeel could have benefited from being a little more full-bodied.  That being said, this is a solid porter.  The "festive" notes are rather subdued and this could easily be a year-round porter that I'd buy anytime my mood fancied a darker beer (which is most of the time.)  Pick this up for someone who's into the darker end of the beer spectrum, especially if they're into those burnt, coffee-style porters or stouts.

-James