It started innocently enough. Going through the BJCP style sheet, musing over the handful of styles that remain to be attempted at Brauerij Dee's Heuvel, I realized that I couldn't ever remember brewing a porter. And what a wonderful style! With a wide breadth of interpretation, it's one of those beers that encourages the brewer to throw open the shutters on their individuality and take it in any direction - historical accuracy or reinterpretation, boldly wild and strong or easily quaffable and session-friendly - a quality of improvisation that nearly always draws me in.
It's that same quality of improvisation that also nearly always gets me in trouble. For reasons that I don't quite remember, I not only decided to bring the volume of grist to the style's breaking point, but also severely underestimated my brewhouse efficiency - in other words, I wanted to brew something strong and I was having a bout of low self-esteem in the brewing department. That was problem number one - an OG tipping the scales at 1.110.
Somewhere in the nexus between historical accuracy, my love of beers like Allagash's Curieux, and fantasizing over this picture of Firestone Walker's union system, I figured this would be a perfectly suitable time to begin experimenting with oak. Lacking the ability to brew 55 gallons at a time or the proper kitchen space for a fine French cask, I settled for the next best thing and let the beer age on them for about 5 months.
I still don't remember where the third part came in to play. Maybe it's the Three Philosophers thing. Maybe it was a case of the mad scientist blues. Maybe I was just lamenting the lack of anything Very Superior or Extra Old lying around the house. Whatever the reason, a small mason jar of my mother-in-law's extraordinary brandied cherries found their way into the primary fermenter. The result, six months later, is the glowing red satanic beast you see above. Here's the recipe. It starts off with the aroma of bourbon and vanilla, molasses and brown sugar, pouring with the same reverse foaming head you'd see in a nice Guinness. The taste is all wicked bitterness and dark chocolate, cushioned only slightly by its creaminess and hint of residual cherry sweetness, and it leaves the palate with a buttery, port-like finish. It tastes, in essence, like anything but a porter, but still perfect for welcoming autumn's cold licks of evening wind and slanted shadows. Welcome, September.