Retailer Beer Panel Review: Stouts and Porters

For our latest round of National Retailer Beer Panel reviews, we asked panelists to taste stouts and porters. These reviews include brief tasting notes and a rating.

Ranking system:

Five Stars (93-100) A top-flight beer. Superior in taste and character, providing an outstanding price/value relationship.
Four Stars (86-92) A very good beer at an excellent value. A beer for which customers will keep coming back.
Three Stars (80-85) An above-average beer at a reasonable price point, which many consumers will enjoy.

Five Stars

(97) Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter. An imperial coffee porter with vanilla. This beer is basically porter perfection. Pours a nice, dark, thick black with a beautiful tan head. The aroma hits you with nice roasted coffee and toasted malt, while in the background lingers a subtle vanilla. Taste basically mimics the nose: roasted coffee and smoky malt, plus the vanilla hangs around in the finish perfectly, not too sweet or cloying on the tongue. For such a big beer, the 10% ABV is hidden perfectly. This beer is a true beauty and a perfect end to any evening. 60 IBU’s.

(96) Oskar Blues “Ten FIDY” Russian Imperial Stout. Black/opaque appearance; 1.5-finger, frothy, dark brown, well-constructed lacing.10.5% ABV, 98 IBU’s. Roasted coffee notes in the aroma with a faint hint of chocolate-covered cherry. Tastes of malty goodness, well balanced with plenty of hoppy bitterness; alcohol well hidden; dangerously easy to drink. Huge texture in the mouthfeel; rich, silky, creamy; meal in a pint glass; a real mouthful. Excellent price-to-value ratio. Super balance. Layers of flavors. Just an outstanding beer. 10.5% ABV, 98 IBU’s.


(96) 100 Bell’s Expedition Stout. A Russian Imperial stout, pours black with a viscosity a motorhead could be proud of. Malty, 10.5% ABV, with very little to no hop notes, a very slight hint of chocolate, a pleasant velvety smooth feel, a slight bitterness right at the end.

(95) Founders Porter. Solid porter from start to finish. Pour is opaque black with a thick tan head. Flavors of rich chocolate malt are balanced with just the right amount of hops and a warming alcohol content. Finish is slightly sweet and lingering. 6.5% ABV, 45 IBU’s.

(93) Weyerbacher’s Sunday Morning Stout. A bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout with coffee added. Pours black with a light brown head. Strong aromas of coffee, bourbon and vanilla. Medium mouth feel. Chocolate, coffee and bourbon, not too boozy. 11.3% ABV.

Four Stars

(92) Terrapin Beer Company’s Wake-n-Bake. Oatmeal stout with coffee added. Pours black with a dark brown head. Coffee aromas dominate. Medium mouth feel. Sweet chocolate, but very coffee-forward. 9.4% ABV.

(91) Huge Arker Anderson Valley Brewing Imperial Stout. Aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels for six months. Pours dark brown with a thin brown head. This beer is big, boozy and full bodied. 13.5% ABV.

(91) Allagash Brewing St. Klippenstein. Bourbon barrel-aged stout. It is fermented with a Trappist yeast to give it a Belgian flair and then aged for three months in bourbon barrels. Pours dark brown with a medium brown head. Roasted malt and bourbon aromas. Full bodied, roasted malt-forward with a bourbon finish. 9% ABV.

(91) Brooklyn Black Ops. This year’s Black Ops stout comes in at 11.6 % ABV and I almost want to apologize for rating it a four-star, because every other year this is a five-star beer. Aged in bourbon barrels, it still pours a great black thick beautiful pour, still has great oak chocolate and malt. Beautiful mouth feel as if you are rewarding yourself with one of the finest, and still worth drinking.

(90) New Holland Dragon’s Milk. You can immediately smell the effect of bourbon-barrel aging in the aroma. The heavily roasted malts are highlighted by the smoke/caramel/bourbon essences that are picked up from the barrel aging. Thick, creamy and delicious! 10% ABV.

(89) New Holland “The Poet” Oatmeal Stout. Dark brown appearance; ¾-finger foamy head. The smell is less roasty/toasty; pleasing maple syrup notes. Good malt/hop balance in the taste; mild sweetness; long finish. More texture and creamy mouthfeel due to the oats influence. Well-made beer. Very good representation of an oatmeal stout. Good value. 5.2% ABV, 40 IBU’s.

(89) Longtrail Unearthed Stout. Pours black as a starless night. Leaves an inch of firm brown head. Smells of dark roast malt and a hint of smoke. First sip: slightly smoky and nice bitterness from deeply roasted malt. This American stout has a pleasant hop bitterness. The 7.9% ABV gives Unearthed a nice medium body and dry finish. 58 IBU’s.

(89) DC Brau Brewing Penn Quarter Porter. Pours medium brown with a thin head. Medium to light bodied with a smooth, light mouth feel. Light chocolate, almost sessionable at 5.5% ABV.

(88) Bell’s Java Stout. Aroma of fresh roasted black coffee and pronounced flavors of bitter chocolate dominate the first sip. Body is heavy and coats the palate from start to finish. The finish is rich and silky and leaves you wanting another taste! 7.5% ABV.

Three Stars

(83) Excel Brewing Southside Stout. Dark brown/black in color; light brown 1/2-finger lacing. Roasted coffee/caramel aromas. Lighter than expected malt character; mild bitterness; finishes very dry. Medium carbonation and quite lightweight on the palate for the style. Could almost be categorized as “beginner’s stout.” Would be a good introduction to the style. Not a stellar beer, but drinkable and decent price-to-value ratio. 6.5% ABV, 35 IBU’s.

(83) Breckenridge Vanilla Porter. Breckenridge Vanilla is a great introduction to porter-style brews. Pour is copper/brown with a thin, off-white head. Flavors of roasted nuts and a soft touch of vanilla make this porter very approachable. 5.4% ABV.

(83) Green Man. This porter pours dark creamy and the 40 IBU’s put it right in my sweet spot. Just a little malty and chocolaty, with a little effervescence that goes away quickly enough to leave a pleasant finish. Brewed as a traditional 6% ABV British-style porter, you can drink more than one.

If you’re a retail or off-premise professional who would like to learn more about participating in our panel, please contact Kyle Swartz at (203) 855-8499 ext. 2225 or


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