The Circle of Beer…

You may notice some cosmetic changes to the website happening, as we streamline and update the format and the look. We don’t plan to change much as far as the content and style go; that all seems to be working pretty well.

One piece I have been asked to do more frequently, though, is tasting notes and reviews. I guess there are some folks out there who respect my taste and opinions about beer and want to know what I’m drinking when I’m not drinking my own homebrew. So OK, I will try to take notes from time to time and post some reviews of recent interesting commercial beers I’ve tasted.

One person who has asked for these reviews is my friend Sarah, wife of webmaster Rick. And coincidentally, she dropped off a beer for me the other day that she had found in a store (not ours) while doing some errands. She and Rick shared 5/6 of a six-pack while waiting for me to get around to tasting my one bottle and giving my two cents. I’ve done one better and actually given them a clone recipe to brew it. Since today would have been Sarah’s late step-father Greg’s birthday, it seems especially appropriate to raise a glass to him, review the beer and publish a recipe to brew your own at home.

Coal Porter, brewed in Bar Harbor, Maine, by Atlantic Brewing Co.

This is a deep reddish-brown to almost black porter, with a thin but resilient tan head. It pours with the impression of thickness (which it really isn’t) and glows in the glass.

The nose reminds me of espresso beans (not necessarily brewed espresso, just the roasted beans), with hints of molasses and burnt sugar. There are some hop notes in the nose (a very English profile, to my senses) but the balance is towards roasted malt and sugars.

The first taste has traces of the same molasses, burnt sugar, perhaps toffee, and roasted malts. I detect a bitterness at the back of the tongue, but not much hop “flavor”. As the beer warms a little, there is more molasses and caramel, perhaps even a hint of praline/pecan. I like the balance between the roasted malt and the sweetness, it might well benefit by just a bit more mid-boil hop flavor.

This is not so much an American-style porter (like, say, Great Lakes Brewing’s Edmund Fitzgerald or the late-lamented Catamount Porter) but more of a mellow, sweet English-style brew, even approaching the sweetness and roastiness (if not the strength and full body) of the Taddy from Samuel Smith’s.

Overall impression: very drinkable sweet porter, not far from an English brown stout in terms of malt profile. If you like hoppy, aggressive American porters, this is probably not going to be your favorite. But if you like a more malt-oriented sweet porter, you will enjoy Coal Porter.


The Recipe:

5 gallons, all-grain


  • 8 lbs. 2-row pale malt
  • 1/2 lb. 60°L crystal
  • 1/4 lb. dark Munich malt
  • 1/4 lb. chocolate malt
  • 1/4 lb. black malt
  • 8 aau’s* Target (or Magnum) hop pellets
  • 5 aau’s Willamette (or Fuggles) hop pellets
  • English Ale yeast (Danstar Windsor dry yeast, White Labs London Ale yeast)
  • 1 cup amber DME (for priming)

OG: 1050

IBU’s: 37.5

Mash: 60 minutes in 13 quarts water at 152°F.

Sparge: 13 quarts water at 170°F.

Kettle: 60 minute boil, Target hops for 60, Willamette at knock-out.

Pitch yeast at 70°F.

Primary fermentation: 68 – 70°F for eight to ten days.

Secondary fermentation: cool (45 – 50°F) for three weeks.

Bottle condition cold for months (Atlantic claims to cellar theirs for six months before release).

What’s an “aau”? Hops used in a recipe are measure in basically three ways, depending on where you are in the process. The bitterness of a particular batch of hops is indicated as a “percent alpha acid”, or %aa. The higher the number, the more bitter the hop. The number of ounces of a hop used multiplied by its aa rating give the “alpha acid units” value, or aau. For example, 1/2 oz. of a 7% aa hop would give 3.5 aau’s. 2 oz. of a 4.5% aa hop would give 9 aau’s. When the hops are used in the boil, the aau’s are multipled by a utilization factor (ranging from .7 for dry-hops or hops added for less than 5 minutes of boiling; to 4.5 for hops in the boil 90 minutes or longer), a table of  which can be found in our Seven Barrel Brewery Brewers’ Handbook (p. 299). This gives you the approximate IBU (International Bitterness Units) rating. In this recipe, there are 8 aau’s for 60 minutes (factor of 4.25, or 34 ibu’s) plus 5 aau’s at KO (factor of .7, or 3.5 ibu’s), thus 37.5 IBU’s in total.

One Reply to “The Circle of Beer…”

  1. Thanks for the notes and recipe Scott, as well as your good thoughts for Greg. I’m sure he would have loved to take a brewing class with you.

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