When St. Petersburg’s Pinellas Ale Works held its grand opening in May 2016, it featured a baltic porter treated with vanilla and coffee that proved to be a crowd favorite. The response was so positive that the brewery made another batch of Bean Porter that October and tossed it into 22-ounce bottles for sale in the brewery’s tasting room at 1962 First Ave. S.
Fast-forward and that beer is still for sale. A year in the bottle has worked wonders, rounding out the base beer’s roastiness and allowing the vanilla and coffee to merge into a smooth, natural balance that wasn’t quite there when the beer was first released.
While seeking out unsold stock of a bottle release from more than a year ago is generally questionable, that’s exactly what you should be doing in the case of Bean Porter. It’s a fantastic execution of a well-worn concept (coffee/vanilla/some sort of dark beer base) from a brewery that’s produced a couple of well-off-the-radar releases in recent memory, including a phenomenal and medal-winning Russian imperial stout called 1888.
The base beer is a smooth and strong porter (7.5 percent alcohol by volume) that’s aged at lager temperatures with whole vanilla and coffee beans. It’s not viscous and sweet in the way that we’ve come to expect from boldly flavored stout and porter bottle releases; it’s medium-bodied and a relatively mild brew, given its strength and prominent vanilla and coffee notes. It’s great for cold weather, but you could drink this after warm weather arrives just as easily.
That this beer is still available more than a year after its original release says nothing about its quality. Rather, it just means that not enough people have had a chance to try it for themselves. For a $9 bomber in the brewery tasting room or around $10 on the shelves of various area beer shops — I spotted it in the cooler at the Old Northeast Rally in St. Petersburg — it’s one you shouldn’t miss.
— Justin Grant
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