WHEN IS A PORTER not a porter? When it’s Tyranena’s Chief BlackHawk and might as well be stout. To be sure, the porter style is subject to wide interpretation on both sides of the Atlantic, but rarely are they so dark (i.e. just about black) and unilaterally defined by roasted malts.
The beer’s head is nicely tight and creamy, reminiscent of cappuccino in appearance and aroma. On the palate BlackHawk is unexpectedly dry—not quite light-bodied but neither chewy—with a little alcohol packaged amidst a dose of char in the midsection. Dark cocoa and black patent malt roast lead in the flavor, almost to the exclusion of anything beyond some small allusions to dark fruit sweetness. The finish is fairly crisp and the carbonation that had hung back discreetly comes forward in the aftertaste, abbreviating it slightly. A bit of hop bitterness emerges in the aftertaste but not enough to give the beer much complexity. Though BlackHawk’s 35 IBUs aren’t exactly mild, more hop flavor (earthy or leafy, not just bitterness) would have been welcome to broaden its purview from almost exclusively roasted barley. Or perhaps instead a stronger hand with crystal malts? So easily overused, in this case they would have given BlackHawk more depth and character. Tyranena allude to the porter’s origins as a session beer, so it’s understandable that they tried to keep this beer fairly dry and none too filling. Yet with so narrow and unforgiving a flavor spectrum BlackHawk would wear out its welcome long before last call.
Served: On tap (Clementi’s, Arlington Heights)