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The Weekly Beer Geek: Rascal Cherry Porter

Rascal Cherry Porter
North Peak Brewing Company
$2.29/Bottle (12 oz)
Grade: C+

The Beginning:
I choose beers for many reasons. Sometimes it’s seasonal- fruit and wheat beers are in heavier rotation through the warmer months, browns in the fall, stouts and porters in the winter. Sometimes I want to try out a new brewery. Sometimes I just feel guilty that I haven’t been doing enough pilsners or IPAs and should give them a shot. Then there’s this: I got it because it has a raccoon on the label, and my girlfriend likes raccoons. I have sold out.

The Brewer’s Pitch:
Rascal is a limited-availability beer, so it may be tough to find (unlike raccoons, which are to country living as rats are to New York). It’s “cherry packed,” carrying a dominant tart cherry profile in with its darker porter base. Sweeter notes of toasted caramel and mild dry hops round this out. I did get some pause- the last “cherry packed” beer I had from North Peak was overloaded with extremely sour cherries, but maybe this is more subtle.

The Beer:
Rascal pours a hazy muddy brown with a dull off-brown head. The nose is barely there, although the bottle itself was giving off cherry fumes like nobody’s business. Up front there’s not much cherry to speak of. Instead it’s a robust slightly coarse porter- charcoal bitterness laid over a deep plum and caramel sweetness packed in to a heavy thick body. The cherry rises from the earthier fruit haze in the back half. Although it never truly dominates the beer its sweet and tart flavor blend gives a sugary punch that is quickly in competition with a dry spicy hops cloud hitting the entire palate. A bite of sour cherry and a pucker of hops linger long after the final swallow is taken and make the entire palate tingle.

The Breakdown:
At the risk of sounding like a Goldilocks- while my previous sour cherry beer from North Peak was too hard, Rascal is too soft. The cherry notes are so keen on avoiding a full takeover of the beer that instead they barely show up at all. Through the first half it’s a teasing little hint of something special in a solid high-average porter. In the back half the hops just keep accelerating, and you end up with a hoppy porter that’s a little tart at the front end. If that’s your thing then more power to you but don’t expect something that will blow your socks off with creativity.

The Bottom Line:
Calling Raccoons “trash pandas” is an insult to pandas. They’re vicious little felons. One stole my watch once.

 

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