Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Great Northern Porter

Summit Brewing Company
St. Paul, MN

Style: Porter
ABV: 4.8%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

The porter is kind of an interesting beast. For decades back in the 1700s it was the most popular drink in the British Isles. People think of porter as a bowdlerized stout, but actually a stout is just a fat derivation of the porter. Even the mighty Guinness began life back in the late 18th century as a porter. Because of the British empire’s expansive reach, the porter style can still be found in some pretty unlikely places, like eastern Europe and the Caribbean. And of course porter made the trip across the Atlantic to colonial America where it enjoyed the same heightened popularity it did in England. It was George Washington’s favorite drink (he preferred the locally brewed stuff) and Thomas Jefferson brewed and sold it (his wife was an accomplished brewmistress).

We all know the story about why porter, along with countless other beer styles, nearly died out completely in the middle of the 20th century (World War II, Prohibition, consolidation, consumer sheeple-ism), but thanks once again to the American craft brewer the porter style is back and doing quite well. More than a few Midwestern breweries put out a porter, one of them being Summit, the veteran, employee-owned craft brewer in St. Paul, Minnesota, whose Great Northern Porter I’m reviewing for you tonight.

It pours with a massive, rocky tan head that is more than a little reminiscent of Summit’s more popular offering, Hefe Weizen. But while that beer is a cloudy gold, the Great Northern is a deep reddish brown, bordering on black; direct light makes it through, but only barely. The nose is yummy roasted toffee and chocolate all over the place, with a tiny note of pine or maybe citrus at the very fringe. Hops!

My first sensation upon sipping is that it’s pretty light on the body for a porter. The outset has some very slight bitterness up front that holds the malt in check for an instant, making it taste a tad bit watery. But the malt quickly catches up and takes over with deep chocolate notes, warming roastiness, and malty sweetness. This adds up to a long finish that goes so far as to elicit a few hints of coffee and vanilla at the far ends of the sip.

It takes a lot to make a porter stand out from its ilk, and Summit’s can’t quite manage the feat, but the Great Northern is a solid offering of this historic style and is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on February 12, 2008.
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