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Weekly Beer Review: Jake’s Vanilla Bean Porter

Jake’s Vanilla Bean Porter
Paw Paw Brewing Co.
$2.59/Bottle (12 oz)
Grade: C+

The Beginning:
Porters can be bitter and thin or intense and dark, but my favorite ones are pleasantly smooth and sweet, not so heavy or aggressive as a stout. Much the same can be said of dogs, really. I think it can be widely agreed on that “Jake” is a great name for a dog who is a very good boy- loyal, loving, maybe a little dumb but you don’t care. He probably wears a red bandanna around his neck. Let’s see if Jake the beer fits into the same mold as the image of Jake the dog.

The Brewer’s Pitch:
Paw Paw is a tiny brewery that I stumbled on by accident after a tasting at the St. Julian Winery. Now that they’re bottling their beers you can get your small-town fix at any of your finer liquor stores. I liked the atmosphere at the brewery because it was small and simple. Their food menu was “sandwiches you can make on a panini press” and some bagged chips, because you weren’t there to EAT. Likewise, they don’t go overboard with descriptions of their beer. Jake’s is smooth and sweet with chocolate notes and a light, delicate vanilla aftertaste. The end. Now drink up.

The Beer:
“Jake” may seem like a name for a Golden Retriever, but Jake’s is extremely dark with a creamy caramel head. The nose is bitter Baker’s chocolate with a hint of alcoholic vanilla tang. The beer is medium-bodied but rather coarse, with a strong taste of burnt malt and cocoa-heavy dark chocolate. The two of these dominate the palate through most of the beer, giving it an aggressive character that attacks the palate with flavor. The back end does bring some vanilla, faintly boozy-tasting and volatile, before giving way to a dark charred aftertaste.

The Breakdown:
At the end of the day this is just another Porter- much to my disappointment. It’s not overly bitter or coarse but it’s hardly the velvety chocolatey embrace I was promised. It has chocolate elements that are paired against rough over-charred malts, and the combination can’t smoothly coat the palate. The vanilla is there but underwhelming. It’s not particularly clever of a conclusion but this is a perfectly OK, average porter. It gets a C+ because I like Porters better than most average beers.

The Bottom Line:
The beer may only be OK but Jake’s a good boy isn’t he? Who’s a good boy, buddy? That’s right! You are! You are!

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