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Belt’s Beer Garden: Hey, Porter

Blackstone’s St. Charles Porter & Yazoo’s SUE


Johnny Cash’s famous song “Hey, Porter” might not be about beer...but this week it’s the basis for the two brews I have for you.

Cash would be proud, as both of these porters come from the city that made him famous - Nashville, Tennessee.

Up first, a beer with the same name as my hometown.

Blackstone is Nashville’s oldest and most award-winning independent craft brewery, opening their doors all the way back in December of 1994. But, despite their age, they are still only available in Tennessee.

As a resident of St. Charles, Illinois my entire life; when I saw their porter was called St. Charles Porter, I had to try it for the name alone. Turns out people have enjoyed this beer for a long, long time.

St. Charles Porter actually holds the distinction for winning the most medals of any porter in Great American Beer Fest history, taking home a medal a whopping EIGHT times (three bronze, four silver, and a gold), and has also won two medals at the World Beer Cup (a bronze and a gold). A six-pack of bottles runs the usual $10 and each bottle has a 5.8% ABV and 34 IBU.

It poured a dark plum, almost black, color with about one finger of tan head building up. The foam quickly fizzled down to a thin ring around the glass with no lacing whatsoever.

On the nose, this porter was packed with sweet chocolate notes along with hints of vanilla, roasted hazelnut, and just a dash of coffee bitterness. It was actually a really inviting dark beer.

Each sip begins with moderate fizz of carbonation before allowing the flavors to really kick in. Big notes of caramel, chocolate, and molasses start it all off with a nice dose of sweetness before that coffee bitterness and roasted hazelnuts mixes in midway through.

The malts add a slightly bready characteristic that swoops in towards the backend of things and join that slight coffee/hoppy bitterness.

As the flavors begin to fade, and rather quickly at that, the roasted/bitter coffee flavor is all that remained…and it continued to sit at the back of my throat for a few minutes after each sip.

At 5.8%, it probably won’t warm you up too much this winter (although it’s a lot nicer in Nashville than Chicago this time of year) as the alcohol is hardly noticeable. Just once or twice I got a boozy sting in my chest as I drank the beer down but nothing more.

St. Charles Porter was a mash up of coffee and chocolate with a hint of roasted nuts and a rather smooth finish. It’s a nice, balanced dark beer and I can see why it keeps claiming medals at the GABF. But I’ll still take an IPA any day.

Up next I have one of the most famous beers from Music City...a smoked porter from Yazoo.

Yazoo has been serving up Nashville, Tennessee since 2003 and can now be found across Tennessee and Mississippi.

I’ve only had one Yazoo brew before today – Hop Perfect – but have finally gotten my hands on their claim to fame, Sue.

Sue, an imperial smoked porter, was Tennessee’s first ever legal high-gravity ale and was first brewed in 2009 after they got their distillery license. Yazoo uses cherry wood-smoked malts and Galena and Perle hops to create their most well know beer. You can find a 12-ounce bottle for around $4 or a 22-ounce bomber for a mere $6; with each bottle packing a huge 9% and 93 IBU inside.

It poured surprisingly thin but was a deep, black color with just over a finger of brown head building upwards. The foam, like the beer, was rather thin and quickly faded away into a thin layer around the edge with some bubble clumps towards the center.

On the nose, this porter had huge chocolate and coffee aromas. It was surprisingly sweet, like a milk stout, with all that chocolate coming through the strongest. And, shockingly, there was very little smokiness emanating from it…maybe it’s all hidden in the taste because the smell was certainly not smoky at all.

My first sip started with a flash of carbonation that stung my tongue for a moment before the true flavors of the brew were able to make their way forward. It began with a bitter coffee flavor and, finally, some of that smoked cherry wood made an appearance.

It wasn’t overly smoky nor did it have that campfire-like taste to it but, rather, Sue had a nice sweetness to it from a bready malt characteristic that blended well with the cherry wood to impart just a light charred flavor atop the chocolate/caramel notes the malts gave off.

As things began to fade, which was rather quickly, the brew took on more of the coffee notes and, between that and the hops, there was a bitterness that rolled across the back of my tongue and sat down for a bit.

Outside of the bitterness, the only other things to last more than a few seconds was a slight dryness after everything else had gone.

Overall, the flavors in Sue didn’t last long at all. It all happened in a flash of maybe three to five seconds – carbonation, coffee, chocolate/light smoke, more coffee, bitter/slightly dry finish.

I’m not a huge fan of dark beers…that’s no secret. But Sue was one of the easiest drinking dark brews I’ve had in a long time…especially for 9%! The booze was no where to be found in the flavors, nor was there that normal alcohol burn in my chest or on my cheeks…instead, it was just a smooth porter with big notes of sweet and smoky cherry wood, chocolate, and coffee.

I can see why this beer made Yazoo famous. If you get the chance to try it, don’t pass it up.