A couple weeks ago, my friend Dan and I went out to the Ballast Point Brewery for the first time. A lot of our coworkers go on a regular basis, so we decided it was time to check it out. The trip was a major success and I was really impressed with all of the beer. By far, my favorite was a special Black Marlin Porter that was aged in bourbon barrels. The smell of the bourbon really came out and brought out a ton of flavors in the beer. On the way out of the brewery, I decided to pick up a bottle of their standard Black Marlin Porter which had been sitting in my fridge. Until last night.
First of all, let's learn about one of the most overlooked kinds of beer- the porter. The porter style was born in England in the 1700s and was a heavily popular style during the time. The name comes from its popularity among the transportation workers. Interestingly enough, before Guinness was known as Guinness Stout, it was known as Guinness Extra Stout Porter. Porters at the time Guinness was first produced were classified as being either an "X" or as being the stronger "XX." Originally, Guinness was of the "XX" variety until the name was officially changed to Guinness Extra Stout. So what's the difference between a Porter and a Stout? A Porter is historically not as "heavy" as a stout and usually slightly lighter in color. However, Stouts and Porters have been intertwined since they both became recognized types of beer and to this day, people debate whether there is really a difference between the two.
On to the Black Marlin Porter. While drinking this beer, I learned something very important firsthand: Beer isn't always better when it's ice cold. Certainly, some beers (like Coors Light and beers of this quality) are way better if you don't let them get warm. However, Black Marlin Porter is not one of those beers. When I took the first sip, I was a little underwhelmed by the flavor. However, I remembered reading on beeradvocate.com that for many beers, it's better to let the beer warm a little to really bring out the flavors and aromas. So I gave it a few minutes and tried again. Total difference. I enjoyed it so much more than the first sip. Not only that, but the smell was full and rich. The taste is full of roasted malts and coffee. There's also a little sweetness behind it that held up the flavor nicely and kept it from falling off into the bitterness of the coffee and dark chocolate flavors. This was a really solid Porter, and while I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the bourbon barrel aged variety, it is a really solid porter. I always kind of had a perception of porters and stouts as being very heavy beers; beers you had to really work through and take deep breaths in between sips. This didn't feel that way at all though. It was surprisingly easy to drink for it's heaviness. Just a solid solid beer.
Final Grade: A-