You probably know many people who want to get into the craft beer frenzy. They want to support Michigan beer, but every time you give them a sip of your pale ale or IPA, they make that face you used to make when you did shots at a crowded college party because someone dared you to do straight El Toro because no one could find any Patron and hell, it's basically the same stuff, right? And you have plenty of brain cells and I bet that nice person laughing at you will totally hold the hair out of your mouth in about an hour when El Toro starts to buck.
|Eventually, it will grab YOU by the horns.|
Yeah you know that bitter alcohol face.
The question is, how do you get your “I don't like hops” friends to enjoy a nice Michigan beer with you? Well your friends may not like El Toro, but I'm sure they like vanilla. And many of them probably like coffee, even if they have to doctor it up with so much sugar and cream that it's barely recognizeable as coffee anymore.
Lucky for your friend, many Michigan brewers have answered the call, and have taken to making some sweet porters for you and your friend to enjoy. On a winter day when the sun takes its leave all too soon and the post holiday depression is knocking at the door, nothing quite puts a positive spin on things than a Michigan porter.
Take Atwater Brewery's Vanilla Java Porter, for example. The beer pours a deep brown and in shadow looks as black as an imperial stout. Hold it up to the light, however, and you'll see a deep crimson bleeding from the bottom of the beer while a subtle gold shines from beneath the thin lacing. It smells sweet and to be perfectly honest I think the beer could use a bit of bittering to balance the sweet, which comes not only from the rich malt but also the thick vanilla and coffee layers. I say that, knowing that hop-unfriendly beer drinkers are shaking their heads fervently at this article.
The mouthfeel is not as thick as I expected, with the flavor imparted primarily from the nose. There is a hint of roasted malt backed by a strong vanilla and coffee flavor, with the emphasis most certainly on the sweet. It drinks easy due to the fact that it lacks the thick mouthfeel of many dark ales, perhaps lending itself again to the new-to-craft-beer market.
More adventurous or seasoned beer drinkers may do well to sample some of the other sweet porters Michigan has to offer in this segment, including Short's Cup A Joe. That said, I have personally used this as a gateway beer for several people who turn their nose at the very mention of bitter beer. To many, this may be the first Michigan beer not explicitly intended to mimic a macrobrewery flavor that they enjoy, and we all need that catalyst to get us trying new things.