Style: The porter style originated in England as the popular preference of the porters who worked in the shipyards. The style, an ale, is commonly dated to the mid-to-early 1700s. Porter is often confused with stout, which is also an ale, because of its similarly dark appearance. But porters actually can range from brown to deep black, a result of the chocolate or smoked brown malts that are used in brewing.
Hints of roastedness can be found in some porters, but generally, hoppiness is moderate. In the U.S. the porter style nearly vanished when, after Prohibition, light-bodied lagers grew popular. Homebrewers and small craft-beer makers are credited with reviving this traditional brew of the laboring classes.
Background: Ale Asylum just turned two years old, and production at the brewpub on the north side of Madison keeps growing. Two additional beer storage tanks have been ordered, and if projections hold true, in 2008 its output will increase over last year's by two-thirds. In response to local demand, Ale Asylum introduced this new beer to its bottled lineup.
Contorter Porter is a brown porter. Brewmaster Dean Coffey uses chocolate and crystal malts that provide a firm, soft texture, malty sweetness and light roastedness. The Contorter features a variety of London yeast, which adds to this beer's malty aroma. It takes about two weeks to make and ends up at about 4.5% alcohol by volume.
The beer was previously available only on tap at the brewery, but is now on local shelves in six-packs for about $8-$9. Look closely at the artwork on the Contorter, which features two intertwined and rather contorted griffons.
- Aroma: Light roastedness amid chocolate maltiness.
- Appearance: Very dark, opaque black color, with a marbled light brown head.
- Texture: Medium to full-bodied and round.
- Taste: Smooth, firm, chocolate maltiness dominates.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Lingering maltiness with light roasted tones.
Glassware: This beer really goes well in the standard pint glass, or even a mug. You'll want to feel this beer in a heavy, clear glass that shows off the beer's solid darkness.
Pairs well with: The porter is a wonderful summer meal beer, especially for grilling. It goes perfectly with a big steak. As well, the sweetness from the chocolate malt in the porter accentuates barbecued ribs or wild game. For vegetarians, grilled vegetables are a nice compliment for the beer's subtle smoky qualities.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Consensus: B+ (very good) from Beer Advocate and a 70 from