October 26, 2016.
Company Brewing. Riverwest, Wisconsin.
It’s rainy and cold and all I want is to light a fire on the hearth, binge watch season two of Poldark, and drink a growler of Company Brewing’s Re-Porter.
Complex, with layers of chocolate, chili pepper, coffee, and subtle, earthy hops, Re-porter is both sessionable enough to feed long conversations and yet robust enough to ward off frost-bite or sustain you if your pantry is empty during a blizzard.
A Rye Porter infused with caco nibs, coffee, chiles, cinnamon, and vanilla, Re-Porter is fun to drink because it is intricate enough that I can spend ten minutes sipping a pint while I consider how the chilies combine with the big malty notes to remind me of chili-chocolate bars, or how the cinnamon intertwines with the spicy finish typical of Rye beers, or how the rye adds a round mouthfeel to the finish which combines with the vanilla and the nitro to totally balance the spice and cinnamon.
Yet, while this porter undeniably works on an organoleptic or flavor level, creating a sessionable winter-warmer that’s complex enough to keep it lively enough for at least two pints, I am also piqued by how Company Brewing’s head brewer, George Bregar, seems to have played with ingredients to build a beer that’s representative of the neighborhood surrounding his brewery. Like Riverwest itself, Re-Porter is an eclectic mix of past and present, blue-collar, art, and classic Milwaukee craftsmanship.
Let me explain what I mean by that.
Porter has humble beginnings three centuries ago as a beer for working-class Londoners, a historical tidbit that winkingly acknowledges the working-class nature of the Riverwest neighborhood which surrounds Company Brewing . But, as anyone familiar with the neighborhood will tell you, Riverwest is also among the most diverse areas in Milwaukee. This too is reflected in the beer through the recipe itself. Porter itself is an English style, while Rye has roots as a German grain; chili peppers and caco are both native to the Americas, as is vanilla; meanwhile, the use of nitrogen to serve beer has been associated with Guinness since the 1950s. To what extent the beer is intended as representation of Riverwest as a place is anyone’s guess, but it’s undeniable that Bregar’s porter successfully combines a diverse set of flavors as well as Riverwest mixes diverse people.
The other thing I liked about this beer is that Bregar finds a way to embrace the best of the ever-popular adjunct-heavy Imperial Stout, while brewing a beer that’s more approachable for it’s lighter body and more sessionable ABV. And I’m all for 11% ABV Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts jam-packed with badassery, especially in the winter, but the style can be overwhelming and too-intoxicating. Enter Porter, Stout’s mellowed, older brother. Maybe he isn’t as trendy, as big, or as loud as Stout, and yeah, his heyday seems long-gone, but Porter has a lot to offer.
Ultimately Bregar elevates the humble Porter style and makes it relevant in a world where it seems like adjunct-heavy imperial stouts are king.