Saturday, November 08, 2003

Dominion Winter Brew 2003 - a review

John Pollack, the manager of The Old Vine (a wonderful wine, beer, and artisinal cheese shop in Baltimore) recently turned me onto a marvelous beer.

It's this year's (2003) Dominion Winter Brew.

The back label states: "This year's Winter Brew is a reproduction of the classic Polish porters. We used a traditonal lager yeast to ferment this high gravity beer. Our brewers used a combination of German malts and Polish hops to create this unique beer." The rest of the label continues on in Polish, I would suppose repeating this description.

At 5.8%, it's not the high gravity to which some of us have become accustomed, but the 'bite' of alcohol was obvious in this beer, not unpleasantly. It pours dark red/brown, with good legs, and an honest dark tan head. The aroma combines hints of licorice and woody spice with wafts of sweet chocolate. The flavor continues the chocolate theme but contributes roast coffee and malt sugar. There is alcohol present in flavor, almost like a shot of coffee liqueur. The finish is roasty and bitter, again with a warming alcoholic bite.

I drank this with lentil soup and a slice of dense German pumpernickel. Delicious ... even if that pairing did mash together elements of "old Europe" with "new Europe".

I might compare the beer to Baltika Porter, or to Utenos Porter from Lithuania, or to the late lamented Polish Okocim Porter, or, even closer in style, to the similarly discontinued Swedish Pripps Carnegie Porter, although not as strong as the Okocim's 8% and not as roasty and bitter as the Pripps. (By the way, those last two beers were discontinued by their respective breweries soon after being absorbed by Carlsberg. I sent an email to remonstrate but, of course, there was no response.) ... or to New Jersey's Perkuno Hammer and offerings from other US micros. As with IPA and porter, it's American micros that once more are coming to the rescue of an endangered breed of beer.

With my surname of Cizauskas, I might disagree with the designation "Polish Porter". For even with the use of Polish harvested Lublin hops, I would presume the modifier Baltic to be better and Lithuanian to be best. Labas!