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Brewing Birds: The Duck Rabbit Porter

December 10, 2010

I have a theory about beer preference.  I’ve found that people who drink beer, specifically those that prefer a certain type, have a very specific way they enjoy their coffee as well, such that I can predict how you take your coffee by which beer you drink most often.  It’s imperfect of course, and tea drinkers are out of luck, but it stands to reason that coffee drinkers that take their drink black prefer a stronger flavored beer, a Pale Ale or even an IPA, while those that take cream and sugar prefer something milder, maybe even a little sweet, a Hefeweizen or a Wheat.  Between those extremes lie a myriad of options, but it’s a fun party game to try and I’ve been right far more times than I’ve been wrong.

I bring up this story because I’ve never known quite where to put Porters on my scale of beer preference. Maybe it’s because Porters have a long and strange history, with several different and widely disparate styles of dark beers going by the name “Porter” since the style was formalized in England the 19th Century (the name comes from the story that it was popular among transportation workers in London) and again in America nearly two centuries later during the craft brewery movement.  The only common thread between the two, and indeed the only characteristic that’s definitively Porter, seems to be the dark color, a result of using smoked malts which gives the style a slightly burnt flavor.  Beyond that, the style can vary widely.

Farmville, North Carolina’s Duck Rabbit Brewery claims to be the dark beer specialist.  I can’t argue with that, for no other reason than they simply don’t make a beer that you can see through.  Their logo, a copy of the German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s duckrabbit figure, an optical illusion that can appear as a duck or a rabbit depending on how you look at it, isn’t particularly ornithologically accurate (it’s a pretty weird lumpy-headed duck), but it’s a cool logo for a brewery and for a bird-related beer, well, as the kids say, it’s close enough for jazz.  Being a local brewery, this is a beer I’ve had some experience with, and while I’m not a huge fan of some of their offerings (the Milk Stout in particular is way too sweet for me), the Porter is my favorite of their selections, so it was an easy choice for my first in this series.

Given my last two beers, and the relatively lackluster initial pours, I poured this one a little aggressively.  I needn’t have worried, the head came up thick and consistent, a tan color and a full two fingers in height.  The beer itself was very dark, even when held up to the light and for all intents and purposes looked like a very robust drink, exactly how I remembered it.  The smoked hops were apparent from the first sip, and the taste is toasty more than anything, with hints of the coffee and dark chocolate you’d expect in a dark beer.  It’s actually extremely similar to the Oatmeal Stout from New Holland Brewery I tasted last time, and I mean that as a compliment as that was a beer I really enjoyed.  The hops are a little more prevalent in this recipe than that one however, giving it a little more bite, but for the most part it’s an extremely well-rounded and pleasant beer.

Not unlike a dark roast coffee with a little bit of milk.  You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

  1. December 10, 2010 11:41 am

    You can count me as a porter fan and a black coffee drinker. My porter of choice is usually the Yuengling porter, but this weekend I had the Fitzgerald porter and was mightily pleased with that. the beer / coffee connection never occurred to me before, but I will now keep a look out for it and may report back when I have some info!

    Carolyn H.

  2. December 10, 2010 12:37 pm

    This sounds like a good beer for philosophizing.

    As for the coffee-beer connection, I like my coffee with a bit of milk and either cream or sugar, and for beer I like a brown or dark ale, stout, or Hefeweizen. I’m not a fan of pale ales or lagers.

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