Review Date 10/16/2007 Last Updated 2/2/2017
If you’ve ever “closed down” a bar, then you know that
the dreaded words “last call” can be as unwelcome to a beer drinker as any
on the planet. But when it comes to the craft beer brewing business in
general, could a last call of sorts be on the way? That analogy may be a bit
overdramatic, but there is trouble brewing ahead for the beer industry and
beer drinkers in general.
The main culprit? High oil prices. It may seem a no-brainer that as energy prices rise, so will the cost of brewing beer. After all, it takes a lot of energy to heat that brew kettle to a boil, to run a bottling line, to truck all those bottles of beer to market. But there’s more to it than that. Oil is increasing the price of barley, too, and leading to downright shortages. If you think we should be up in arms about an energy crisis, just wait until America has to face a beer crisis.
That’s because more acreage is being devoted to growing corn, some of which is being used to make alcohol to fuel cars with. Shame that, since we all know the real purpose of alcohol is to fuel wild Saturday night parties, not Chevy Suburbans. Be that as it may, small craft brewers are finding themselves in a bind.
And eventually, that means that the price of beer is going to go up, too. Remarkably, we as consumers have not really seen much of an increase in beer prices over the years. I recall paying about $5.99 for beers like Samuel Adams 20 years ago; today you can usually buy it for $6.49 or so. That may change soon, however, as we start to pay more for our craft beer. Beer like Breckenridge Vanilla Porter.
I picked up a sixer of Breckenridge Vanilla Porter for $7.99 the other day, not a bad price when you think about it. I had never tried this one before, but was eager to do so. I find that the combination of spicy vanilla and dark roasted malts can often make for a very good beer indeed.
Breckenridge makes their version with two row pale, chocolate, caramel, and black malts along with some roasted barley and Tettnang, Perle, Goulding and Chinook hops. Vanilla beans from Madagascar and Papua New Guinea provide the featured spice. The beer is about average in strength at 4.7% by volume.
Anyway, I was all excited about my Breckenridge Vanilla Porter. When I poured it, I immediately noticed that the beer wasn’t entirely opaque, and light easily passed through. Indeed, holding it up to the light reveals a dark brown rather than black color. A creamy tan head formed atop my pour, and a thin layer of Brussels lace coasted the sides of my glass. The nose reveals hints of fruit and spicy vanilla.
Thankfully, when I sipped the body was not as thin as I feared it might be. Still, it was a bit thinner than I would have liked. I did get some light notes of chocolate, a bit of coffee, and roasted barley up front. A hint of fruit and some rich vanilla also are easily discernible. The vanilla is nicely accentuated here, not overpowering to my taste, and it helps dry the beer in the finish.
I like this one. I do think it could use just a tad more body, but it’s still a very drinkable and flavorful beer. With the impressive grain bill that the brewery cites, one would think that there would be more body, but then they don’t tell you how much of that malt they use. I’ve had vanilla porters I liked better in the past (remember Gravity Brewing, all you beer geeks out there? Or Poor Henry’s Vanilla Porter? ), but this one is around, and those aren’t. Magic Hat does still produce Ravell Porter, a vanilla porter fermented with Ringwood yeast that I recall liking better than this one.
And I will buy Breckenridge Vanilla Porter again. Even if I have to pay a little more for it next time.
Update 2/12/2015: Found this beer on tap at Taco Mac tonight and just to prove my prophecy right, I bought it. Again. Tonight I paid $6 for a 20-ounce mug, not bas these days as beer prices go I guess. The beer was very nice indeed and the vanilla came through nicely, working in perfect harmony with the chocolaty maltiness. The nitrogen pour added a delightful smoothness but I still found the body lacking as I noted in the past. Still, the vanilla and chocolaty flavors together make this a beer worth coming back to. Which I certainly will. Again.
Update 2/2/2017: And I'm back! Some things are different this time around (Breckenridge Brewery is now owned by Anheuser-Busch Inbev) and some things are not (the Patriots had just won a Superbowl last time I drank this beer at Taco Mac, and were about to win another just after I enjoyed it here this time). The price has not changed either at $6 for a full mug pour, and since Breckeridge beers are featured as beer of the month I got a free glass with that. The beer is still its same smooth and chocolaty self, with perhaps a tad more body than i recall. The beer has an alcohol content of 5.4% by volume (that's higher than it used to be) with 16 IBUs.
Breckenridge says this about it:
Deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and Madagascar grows the perfect ingredient for an extraordinary Porter brewed in Colorado. Breckenridge Brewery’s Vanilla Porter. An ale that has all the chocolate and roasted nut flavor of a classic Porter, with an enigmatic surprise thrown in for good measure.
Tonight I again enjoyed on a nitro pour, and the beer is creamy and chocolaty with a hint of vanilla and coffee and smooth subtle roast in the finish. At least for now, I can tell you that any fears about AB dumbing this beer down have not come to pass. But don't worry. I'll be back again to keep an eye on it for you.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.