Tasting Notes: 2 Tone Vanilla Porter from Starr Hill Brewery

StarrHill2TonePourFresh off a much needed vacation, we jump start the week by getting back into the Tasting Notes groove with a little help from 2 Tone Vanilla Porter from Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, Virginia).

Rocking a name that is “a nod to the British music genre that seamlessly combines brassy ska and punk rock”, 2 Tone Vanilla Porter is the latest release from Starr Hill Brewery’s Heavy Rotation Series – a rotating “playlist” that keeps “fresh styles of beer coming your way . . . four times a year.”  2 Tone is a 6% ABV Porter that has “special dark roasted malts unite robust flavors of espresso and bittersweet chocolate with sweet vanilla bean for waves of rich smoothness.”  As is the case with all Heavy Rotation offerings, 2 Tone Vanilla Porter is best enjoyed when paired with the brewery’s mix tape that highlights the songs that inspired the creation of the beer (click here to check it out Spotify).

2 Tone Vanilla Porter is available now in 12 oz. bottles that can be found exclusively in Starr Hill’s Winter Tour Variety Pack (available November 2018 – January 2019). You can find this limited release Variety Pack at select retailers located in Alabama, Virginia and throughout the rest of Starr Hill’s distribution footprint.

Now that the background information is out of the way, what do you say we fire up Spotify and see how well ska fits into a Tasting Notes session?

Tasting Notes for 2 Tone Vanilla Porter from Starr Hill Brewery

Appearance: A somewhat vigorous pour produces a nearly pitch-black Porter that is capped with almost two fingers of airy, khaki-colored foam.  When held to direct light, the stark blackness holds its grip but does allow a touch of cola-like dark brown to sneak through at the extreme edges.  The beer is completely opaque and does not offer any visual hints at the level of carbonation.  Head retention is decent, but those two fingers do eventually fall to a thin, creamy top cap that absolutely coats the glass with wide sweeping sheets of lace.

Aroma:  Roasted malts fill the air with a heavy presence of deeply roasted coffee and bittersweet chocolate that mimics the notes of a beautifully crafted Caffè Americano (an espresso that has been diluted with water).  These notes hint that there is a hefty but pleasant level of roasted bitterness ahead in the flavor, but they are still rounded off here with a soothing presence of toasted wheat, a grace of vanilla and just a slight dose of sweet milk chocolate.

Taste: The roasted malts continue to flex their dominance by presenting notes of dark roast coffee, toasted cereal grains, dark chocolate, and carefully charred wood.  This smooth wave of roasty, toasty bitterness is then nicely balanced by a sneaky undercurrent of vanilla, caramel and cocoa. The flavor profile is further rounded by a closing presence of slightly earthy and fruity hops and an incredibly gentle nuttiness (pecans and walnuts).

Mouthfeel:  Spot on medium in body with a moderate level of carbonation, this Porter is wonderfully dry and cleans up beautifully to result in a highly drinkable, gulp-worthy experience.  Mostly balanced, the beer definitely leans a bit toward the roasty and bitter side.  The 6% ABV is super light and really does not bring much in the way of heat.  The aftertaste is all bittersweet chocolate.

Final Thoughts:  If you are looking for a clean and crushable dark beer to help ease you into the colder months, look no further than 2 Tone Vanilla Porter.  Comforting and approachable, it has plenty of roasty goodness that will pair effortlessly with time spent seeking warmth while huddled around a fire.

The only gripe or concern we could possibly come up with is the decision to give vanilla a title role in the naming of this beer.  The vanilla seems to play more of a supporting role by artfully tempering the bitterness supplied by the roasted malts, but it never really pushes beyond an element of balance to stake its claim to either the flavor or aroma.  That said, this approach does not take anything at all away from the beer . . . in fact, quite the opposite happens. In a craft beer world where Porters and Stouts are regularly dominated by over-the-top, cloying additions of sweet adjuncts, 2 Tone uses a deft hand when it comes to the use of vanilla.  This results in a finished product that is a more beautiful representation of the style, but our only worry is that the designation of “Vanilla Porter” might lead some to believe it is missing something even though it is not.

All in all, 2 Tone Vanilla Porter is a breath of fresh air these days because it is a truly flavorful Porter that is not at all afraid to embrace malt sourced roast and bitterness. Instead of taking the easy way out by being dependent on a heavy dose of sweet vanilla, 2 Tone instead relies on craftsmanship, integrity and a certain level of respect for the style by going against the seductive influence of current trends . . . and – even though we too often enjoy a ridiculously sweet “Pastry Stout” from time to time – we dig the hell of this beer for giving us something different today.  Be sure to check out 2 Tone Vanilla Porter if you happen to cross paths with it this winter.  Prost!

 

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Starr Hill Brewery Hits the Road with Winter Tour Variety Pack

Winter-Tour_12-pack-bottles_webStarr Hill Brewery (Crozet, Virginia) has officially announced the release of its Winter Tour, a cold weather-themed mixed variety pack that contains 12 oz. bottles of Northern Lights IPA, Little Red RooStarr Coffee Cream Stout, 2 Tone Vanilla Porter and Snow Blind Doppelbock.

Recognizing that most of the Southeast has reached that point in the year when temperatures seem to free fall, Starr Hill Brewery has bundled up some comforting warmth in the form of its Winter Tour Variety Pack.  Meant to act as “the perfect accompaniment to a cozy fireside session” or a go-to option for the many holiday parties in our futures, this Seasonal mixed pack includes three 12 oz. bottles of each of the following cold weather brews (beer descriptions sourced from the brewery’s website):

  • Northern Lights IPA – A newly enhanced version of a classic American-style India Pale Ale, Northern Lights is characterized by its full-flavored bitterness and poignant citrus-floral aroma. A perfect blend of barley and hops makes this a very balanced IPA.  ABV – 6.2%  IBUs – 55
  • Little Red RooStarr Coffee Cream Stout – Little Red RooStarr Coffee Stout is a full-bodied milk stout brewed with coffee from our friends at Red Rooster Coffee Roasters in Floyd, VA. Malt sweetness, chocolate and caramel notes dominate the flavor, while roasted coffee notes add balance and round out the aroma.  ABV – 6%  IBUs – 19
  • 2 Tone Vanilla Porter – Special dark roasted malts unite robust flavors of espresso and bittersweet chocolate with sweet vanilla bean for waves of rich smoothness. 2 Tone’s name is a nod to the British music genre that seamlessly combines brassy ska and punk rock. **Quick Note: the brewery made you a mix tape to chart a musical history of ska. Click here to check it out.**  ABV – 6%  IBUs – 16
  • Snow Blind Doppelbock – Snow Blind Doppelbock is a full-bodied winter beer with a massive caramel aroma and lightly toasted malt flavor. Sweetness dominates the front of the palate while the beer finishes clean and crisp.  ABV – 7.7%  IBUs – 13

The Winter Tour is hitting distribution now and will be available through January 2019.  You can expect to find this Variety Pack of 12 oz. bottles at select craft beer retailers located in Alabama, Virginia and throughout the rest of Starr Hill’s distribution area.  Prost!

Starr Hill Brewery Provides a Look at its 2018 Lineup

StarrHillpourStarr Hill Brewery (Charlottesville, Virginia) sent out a press release today to officially announce its 2018 Product Calendar.

Just as we do with all brewery release calendars, we have posted Starr Hill Brewery’s full 2018 Product Calendar below so that you can go over it at your own leisure.  That said, this calendar is absolutely loaded with interesting content and we would be remiss if we did not go over a few of the highlights:

  • Starr Hill will launch Front Row Golden Ale in early 2018 as the brewery’s newest Year-Round offering.  At 4.9% ABV, “this light and refreshing beer is the perfect balance of Honey malt and Cascade hops for a smooth body and clean finish.” Front Row will initially launch on draft, “followed by six-pack [of 12 oz.] bottles, this spring with a Golden Ticket Giveaway contest” – a promotion that gives fans a chance to “enter to win concert tickets and an exclusive Front Row Tour Pack of prizes.”
  • In March 2018, the brewery will introduce its new BoomBox 8-pack of 16 oz. cans.  This mixed pack will feature Front Row Golden Ale and Northern Lights IPA (four 16 oz. cans of each), “a link to free music content, and will be available year-round.”
  • Looking Glass IPA will arrive in February as the brewery’s new Spring Seasonal.  “Loaded with notes of juicy pineapple, mango and passion fruit, this IPA packs big hop aroma and flavor with minimal bitterness.”  Looking Glass IPA will replace Reviver Red IPA in the seasonal lineup, but The Hook Grapefruit Session IPA (summer), Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale (fall) and Snow Blind Doppelbock (winter) will all return in 2018.
  • The Heavy Rotation Series, “an ongoing playlist of new beer and music”, returns in 2018 “with something fresh available in 6-packs and on draft every three months.” Next year’s lineup will include 2-Tone Vanilla Porter (January), Amber Ale (March), Hibiscus Lager (June), Festie Oktoberfest Lager (September) and Dark Starr Dry Irish Stout (December).
  • Starr Hill’s All Access Series will go draft-only in 2018.  This series will feature “old favorites and new recipes developed at the Pilot Brewery & Side Stage in Roanoke.”  Releases include Denali Double IPA (January), Berliner Weisse (March), NE-Style IPA (May), a non-IPA style Roanoke Pilot Brew (July), an IPA style Roanoke Pilot Brew (September) and Little Red Roostarr (November).

Alright, that should be everything that we wanted to cover, but there is still plenty of goodness left for you to discover on the calendar below.  Give it a good look so that you are properly prepared for another great year of beer with Starr Hill in 2018.  Prost!

Starr-Hill-Products-Calendar_2018-PR