25 Beers of Christmas: #13

Port Old Viscosity

Imperial Stout

10.0% ABV

Port Brewing - San Marcos, CA

Lucky number 13, and unbelievably the mid-point in our 25 Beers of Christmas countdown, is a beer I truly love, and am very excited to evangelize for tonight.  Port Brewing’s Old Viscosity, a rich, oak-aged imperial stout, is what I believe to be THE best year-round imperial stout on the market (though for now, that market is limited.)  This will be the last imperial stout on the countdown that isn’t a special/seasonal release.  When I lived in Chicago, this was a brew I went back to over and over (and over) again, equally due to its quality and to the fact that it was always available and always priced around $7.99 a bomber. 

The first thing I’ll say is that, despite only being aged on oak, Old Viscosity pours like a long-barrel-aged beer.  It is deep black, thick but not quite oily (despite the name) and has this gorgeous chocolate brown head atop which fades ever so slowly.  The nose is baking chocolate, vanilla, sweet molasses, toffee, and brown sugar, with a whiff of alcohol esters (apple, pear, spice.)  The flavor profile is about the same, with a touch of roasted coffee in the mix.  Some hop bitterness balances out the sweetness up front, but this is all in incredible harmony.  The beer is rich, but only moderately heavy, with medium carbonation, and goes down oh so smooth.

Despite my standard instructions, I pour this beer somewhat cold (40 degrees) and take it in as it evolves and warms.  When I first started drinking this beer, I didn’t know any better than to pour a big imperial stout into a frosted glass, and my fondness of those memories allows me to break the rules a bit here.  Of course, please, for the love of God, leave the frosted glass out of it, and go with a snifter or a large red wine glass, something you can cup in your hand to warm the liquid inside.

I’ll briefly repeat my food pairings, since this is not our first rodeo with imperial stout.  It will take some serious chocolate richness to match up well.  Triple layer chocolate cake, chocolate truffles, rich fudge, chocolate lava cake, etc. Any of those items with an element of a dark, rich fruit, like raspberry. And of course I often like to just drink these on their own, as a dessert (and who says you can’t have dessert any time of day?)

Port Brewing is unfortunately only available in a few markets: California (these and Lost Abbey beers are made in the same brewery in San Marcos), Illinois (Chicago metro), Massachusetts (Boston metro), Colorado, Arizona, Georgia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington state.  The good news is that where Port is available, Old Viscosity should be on the shelf year-round, and at the previously mentioned low retail price.

In addition to Old Viscosity, Port Brewing has several other stars in its lineup.  Older Viscosity is the base beer aged in bourbon barrels, and is an annual limited release worth seeking out.  Santa’s Little Helper is another imperial stout with a larger emphasis on coffee and cocoa notes, and its barrel aged version is also fantastic.  I have also enjoyed their brown ale, Board Meeting, and their Anniversary Ale, a double IPA.

Tomorrow we’ll embark on the second half of our journey.  I hope you’ve been enjoying these entries, and the beers discussed, as much as I have!

JAB – 12/13/15