Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Imperial Porter

Sand Creek Brewing Co.
Black River Falls, WI

Style: Porter

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Woe is Nigel. As many of you loyal readers out there may recall, Nigel was incredibly jacked up for the first half of the baseball season, as his Brewers were rolling along, playing solid and exciting ball and jumping out to a 10 game lead in their division. Slowly but surely, Nigel’s team began to fade (read: collapse), damaged by an inexplicable inability to win on the road and some of the worst managing I’ve ever seen in my life (I used to like said manager, but that was before he decided to run a team with his head stuck firmly up his ass). Well, here we are in September and after gaining that huge lead, Nigel’s team is now officially kaput, struggling just to finish .500. What a pathetic display by a team loaded with young talent. Nigel and his Danish Princess are off to attend one final game this week, all while looking forward to next year when a new manager will utilize this talent and they may actually compete for something. Good riddance, Mr. Yost, and remember Beer Dorks: the Cubs still suck and will always find a way to choke … a century of losing is just plain laughable. Bring on football season.

So, how do Beer Dorks release their frustrations over the repeated failures of our favorite baseball teams? Why, we get shitfaced of course! And what better way for a loyal Brewers fan to celebrate yet another pathetic season in Beertown than by drinking a few Imperial Porters from Wisconsin’s very own Sand Creek Brewing Co. Honestly, there may be better ways, as I’ve never actually had this before, but I’ve heard good things so far about this hard-to-find selection from Sand Creek.

Thus far I’ve been both mildly impressed and a bit disappointed with Sand Creek. Sand Creek’s namesake brews typically range from blah (Groovy Brew, Golden Ale) to solid (Woody’s Wheat, Badger Porter) to excellent (Wild Ride IPA). However, Sand Creek contract brews a shit-ton of beer for other breweries, many of which are completely awful. While I do understand where Sand Creek is coming from (“we’ve got the space and the capabilities, you’ve got the money and the need, lets do business”), some of the brews they contract brew are so horrifically awful, it (probably unfairly) takes my opinion of them down a notch. My biggest beef has been with the BluCreek brews, which I honestly always believed were Sand Creek’s own creations. They’re not: they’re made for a Madison-based hippie brewery that tries to be funky at the expense of quality beer (BluCreek’s Zen IPA is one of the worst beers I’ve ever had in my life). While it’s not Sand Creek’s fault that BluCreek’s brews taste like hippopotamus anus, the name (Creek), packaging, and big label that says “Brewed by Sand Creek Brewing Company, Black River Falls, Wisconsin” would lead just about any Beer Dork to believe that these companies are one and the same. Perhaps this is just Nigel being petty, but I believe in the integrity of quality craft beer, so why tarnish your reputation as a fine craft brewer by producing copious quantities of shit for other breweries in exchange for a little extra jack?

Anyways, back to the Imperial Porter. This was released at the beginning of the summer, and hopefully signals the beginning of a trend for Sand Creek. The brewmasters at Sand Creek clearly have some skills, as their namesake beers are solid and Wild Ride was their flagship brew. Perhaps Imperial Porter will lead to further examples of “extreme beer”; I could see a short jump from this to a Russian imperial stout, and the quality of their Wild Ride IPA could easily lead to a nice imperial IPA. Given the quality of the beer I’m drinking right now, Sand Creek should certainly look into this. My only other imperial porter experience was with Flying Dog’s Gonzo, so Sand Creek would have to pull off a USA over USSR, 1980 Olympic hockey-type upset to top that. It doesn’t, but I’m very impressed.

Sand Creek’s Imperial Porter pours a deep, motor-oil looking black, with a surprising amount of brown, foamy head on the initial pour. This settles quickly, as one would expect for this style, leaving virtually no trace during the drink … it looks like you’re drinking Pennzoil, though if my car’s oil tastes like this, then Nigel is about to become a mechanic. The aroma is powerful and very distinctive: it’s nutty, baby … roasted nuts to be exact. Nigel may be aging himself, but it reminds me of my days as a wee tot, walking by that Buddy Squirrel place in the mall that always smelled so damn yummy. Hints of sweet and sugary malt—mainly chocolate—also resonate, as does a bit of hops. The taste is fantastic. Very complex, with smoky, roasted malt dominating, but also well-balanced with some sweet sugary molasses flavor and a beautiful use of hops (not overly hoppy, but just enough to temper the other flavors and give it a bit of zing). This is the perfect brew to drink on a cool autumn day in the Northwoods while sitting by the campfire: a smoky flavor to compliment the atmosphere, and a thick, high-ABV brew to help warm you up (not sure of the ABV is, but I’m gonna guess around 8 percent). While dark and powerful, this is a porter, not a stout, so it’s a bit lighter in body than you would expect by looking at it; it goes down smooth and easy, though the rich flavor and high ABV makes it a sipping brew. A strong, smoky aftertaste is probably the most unpleasant thing about this otherwise excellent brew, and I must say this isn’t for the faint of heart: if you don’t like dark, overly flavorful brews, this will likely not sit well, regardless of how damn fine it is.

There it is: Sand Creek Imperial Porter is a definite must-try for any Beer Dork who can locate it out there. My suggestion would be to find a quality beer retailer in Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, or the Twin Cities, as well as a select few in other areas (hello, John's Grocery), or make an otherwise pointless trip to Black River Falls. The experience is well worth the hassle, as this is far and away the premier brew to date from Sand Creek.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on September 29, 2007.
Agree with this review?

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

Beer Dorks News

Want to know how healthy the craft beer industry is? As always, look to Portland. Craft pioneer Bridgeport announces sudden closure, adding to a growing list of PDX casualties.
Did Anheuser-Busch Chicago offer their shit beer to Cody Parkey before his missed field goal? Because that may explain why he "accidentally" biffed it.
Chicago now has the most breweries of any city in the country. Other things Chicago has the most of: murders, mobsters, and Ditkas.
Trying to spin it positive, BA releases end of year graphic. Only 5% growth in the craft sector when nearly 1000 new breweries opened? That's a collapse waiting to happen.
R.I.P. Tallgrass... another casualty as the regional/national craft beer market continues to get squeezed.
Wait... Constellation Brands cut all of the Ballast Point and Funky Buddha sales staff? They merged it with their Corona/Modelo staff?? We're SHOCKED!!!
Pizza Beer founder crying about failure of company, blames everyone else. Reminder, the beer tasted like vomit. Try having better ideas or making better products so you're not a failure.
It's Bud Light so doesn't really matter, but we expect this beer to be sitting around for awhile.
Indiana brewery to open with controversial beer names to "get the conversation going". Translation: taking advantage of serious issues for free publicity.
Hundreds of amazing beers in Wisconsin and the Cubs took back the one everyone drinks just because it exists and people have heard of it. How fitting...