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Top 100 Beers of 2018

Top 100 Beers of 2018



by Nelson Crowle
Maple Barrel Aged Smoked Porter
pFriem Family Brewers

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Head Brewer Gavin Lord Talks Maple Barrel Aged Smoked Porter

Who was responsible for this beer’s recipe?
The pFriem Team!

What sets this beer apart from other examples within the style?
I think this beer is set apart by its subtlety. While all the sought after notes are present, no one element overpowers the others. Instead, it strikes a delicate balance between maple, oak, bourbon, chocolate, toffee, smoke, vanilla and warmth. Each plays a critical yet understated role. While some barrel-aged beers aim to hit you over the head with flavors and aromas, this one instead seeks to kiss you on the cheek.

What makes this beer truly world class?
Our team. While we’re always seeking the world’s best raw ingredients, barrels, equipment, theory and process, none of these things make beer. Our team of world-class brewers, packagers, and lab techs do. Over the years, they’ve each demonstrated a relentless commitment to quality and an irrepressible pursuit of improvement. Their hard work is on display here – and in every beer we offer.

What is your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, etc.)?
I love the way the Rauch malt has integrated itself over the course of barrel-aging. What we were looking for through its inclusion wasn’t smoke necessarily, but rather a nuanced savory note to balance the big, sweet flavors and aromas of maple and dark chocolate.

How popular is this beer among your faithful fans?
It’s been wonderfully well received. This beer offers a comforting combination of flavors that people can relate to, regardless of their familiarity with craft beer. As I write this, the temperature outside dips below freezing, the famous Gorge Winds howl, and the forecast promises snow. On a night like tonight, the comforting qualities of Maple Barrel Aged Smoked Porter are especially appealing.

Where does this beer’s name come from?
It’s named for the recipe and process, as it’s a lightly smoked porter aged in a maple syrup barrel.

Do you know a story – or have a personal story – that revolves around this beer?
This beer was inspired by a donut. I never had much of a sweet tooth, but occasionally my folks would take me to Roth’s IGA for a Tiger Tail, which is a maple bar with chocolate added. I found it greatly improved by two slices of bacon. While this isn’t a dessert beer by any means, we wanted to convey that balance of sweet and savory that I discovered as a kid.

Judge’s Second Opinion

Picture a cold snowy winter night at the log cabin. You’ve just brought in enough firewood for the night and started up a fire in the fireplace. You’re laying back in your chair just in front of the fire- place, and you need something decadent to sip from a snifter. Something complex yet superbly balanced. pFriem’s Maple Barrel Aged Smoked Porter is perfect. This is a really tough beer to make – it could be a big muddled mess if anything was out of balance. But pFriem pulled off the magic and snuck in lots of flavors that all play well together.

Did you know that barrels were used for pretty much everything 200+ years ago? If you wanted to send something (down the street, or around the world by ship), you’d load it up in a barrel. Nails, salt, oil, fish and, of course, wine and beer. Quebec, Canada has a storage facility with $100 million worth of maple syrup stockpiled. So getting ahold of used maple syrup barrels for this beer was a stroke of genius. Typically, a lot of the maple flavor (and all of its sweetness) disappear during beer fermentation, but pFriem figured out how to preserve the maple/vanilla/wood notes perfectly. If you are able to find this beer, buy several. Drink one and spend an hour enjoying it to check out how the flavors and aromas change as the beer warms up – the maple comes out more, and some black licorice shows up along with some slight leather notes like a freshly made belt. Save the other bottles for next week, next year, or several years from now. So here’s the trick:

Open and pour this pFriem beer into a snifter or tulip glass. Take a sip. Let this beer warm up, as it’s amazing how much the complexity changes over that hour. Take small sips – roll it around in your mouth, feel the viscosity and body, feel the carbonation, feel the umami and the hint of soy sauce. This amazing beer is about as close to heaven as you can get. – Nelson Crowle


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