Porter vs. Schwarzbier, Round 2

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I’m confused.

Back in July, you might or might not remember that I was talking about the Heater Allen Schwarz and how it tasted almost exactly like a porter. This was mind-boggling at the time, as the two styles depend on entirely opposite kinds of yeasts to ferment them (lager for a schwarz, ale for a porter) and are quite different stylistically. Whereas a traditional schwarzbier starts with an initial hint of roastedness, it’s supposed to quickly fade and finish fairly clean, while a porter is far thicker, darker, packed with ample chocolate and coffee flavors and has a far more bitter and fuller finish. The Heater Allen was a beer that, had I not known it was supposed to be a schwarzbier, I would have guessed was a porter with a slightly funny aftertaste.

Alright, so confusion aside, I moved on with my life and reconciled my differences with that delicious beer by drinking a lot of it. “Isolated incident,” I tell myself. “It won’t ever happen again.”

Then along comes the Southern Oregon Porter. I take a sip of it. Something’s off. I take another sip. Then I realize: it tastes like a schwarzbier.

GAAHHH!!!

Alright, so yeah, there’s more coffee in the SOP than would typically be in a schwarzbier, but I found the roast to be less than the Heater Allen, the body to be more in line with a schwarz, and the lager finish to be far more prominent. And according to the brewer, this beer IS actually a lager, not an ale. The lager yeast was just fermented at ale temperatures, which means that it’s a schwarzbier trying to be a porter but not pulling it off, whereas Heater Allen’s beer was a porter brewed with a lager yeast but called a schwarzbier.

Now you’re confused, too? I think the only way to deal with this problem is to take a page out of the Heater Allen playbook and drink a whole lot of the Southern Oregon Porter until we can all come to terms with it. Crazy bastardized beer though it may be, it sure does taste good.

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