Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cooperstown Brewing Co - Benchwarmer Porter

Baseball isn't really a huge thing for us Brits, even those of us who moved across the Pond.  If you're a Brit who's really not into spectator sports, you'll probably find that when the topic comes up in conversation, people will start jabbering on in a weird, alien language with lots of references to strike zones and curveballs and Lord knows what else.  You'll eventually have no idea whether they're talking about a sport, a particularly aggressive war manoeuvre or some sensitive medical condition.

Beer, on the other hand, amounts to something of a national obsession for the British, so I was excited to discover that a mere 10-minute drive from the National Baseball Hall of Fame is the Cooperstown Brewing Company, a microbrewery with an attached tap room producing six different beers, including a pale ale, porter, stout and IPA.

Six varieties isn't a huge range, but sometimes it's better to do a few things well than to try producing too many varieties and over-extend a small brewery.  Today's review is their Benchwarmer Porter, very much in season at this time of year.  Here are my thoughts:

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Cooperstown Brewing
Aroma - You can definitely pick up some roasted, dark malt aroma, and there's a slight chocolatey quality.  Some caramelly malt is evident too.  

Appearance - The Benchwarmer is a very dark brown, with a slight ruby hue when you hold it up to the light.  It's not opaque like a stout, and from what I could tell there was good clarity to it.  The beer has a decent light tan head with fair retention.  

Taste - Again, one can easily pick out the dark malts, but the taste adds a dominating hoppy bitterness to the experience.  I picked out some slight fruity esters.  There's also a definite roasted quality in the aftertaste, like burnt toast.  The pleasant chocolatey aroma doesn't really make it into the taste - the flavour balanance is definitely towards hops rather than malt.  

Mouthfeel - The beer has a medium body, with fairly high carbonation for the style.  One funny thing about porter is that you always expect the mouthfeel to be fuller than it actually is - I think it's because porter is closely related to stout, and even looks like stout sometimes.  But the malt bill tends to be lower, resulting in a lighter ale.

Aroma: 4/5
Appearance: 4.5/5
Flavor: 2.5/5 (I think the hop bitterness was a little too high and the burnt flavour a little too prominent)
Mouthfeel: 4/5

Overall score: 3.75/5.

Overall, it's a perfectly fine porter - my preference is for maltier ales rather than hoppier ones, so it's not among my favourites, but it's a good example of the style, and it left me wanting to try their other varieties.  If a buddy drags me to Cooperstown for the Baseball museum, I know exactly where I'm going to drag them to afterwards!

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