IT’S A BIT surprising that Stone’s Smoked Porter isn’t a choking conflagration, given the brewery’s habit for aggrandizement. But for all their loftiness and willful arrogance the brewers at Stone are also true professionals with refined palates. This Porter is their second-oldest offering, moreover (est. 1996), built from an English template with peat-smoked Scottish malt; thus it lacks the meaty, blackened, or even cheesy saturation of many American efforts released after the millennium. And though the color is satisfyingly scorched, the body itself is lighter than many would have made it.
Yet it is indisputably a smoked beer, so oaky, slightly charcoaled, and indeed peaty qualities define both aroma and flavor. Roasted coffee and intensely dark cocoa can also be picked out, though the latter is in such small proportions as to not be overpowering. Hops (Magnum and Mt. Hood) aren’t very preset in the aroma, but enough of the former are used to rack up a solid and earthy 53 IBUs that counters the smoke and malts without fighting against them. Carbonation levels are not especially high (the head was minimal) and the finish is quite clean for all its early forcefulness. Bold enough to cleanse the palate of fat and dairy but restrained enough not to overpower pasta, pair it with mac & cheese for perfectly satiating comfort. (Alas, though every village has its idiot, few are so rewarding as Lexington’s. See below.)
And that is the theme with Stone’s Smoked Porter–balance. With its rejection of Rauchbier intensity, sourcing of milder English ingredients, restrained body, and sub-6% ABV (albeit barely), this is of very few beers in Stone’s profile that has serious crossover appeal. Who’d have thought it of a porter, much less a smoked one? But such is Stone’s alchemy.
Served: On tap (The Village Idiot, Lexington)