July 30, 2013

Southern Tier Plum Noir

Brewed By: Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, New York
Purchased: 22oz bottle bought at West Lakeview Liquors in Chicago, IL; 2013
Style/ABV: Imperial Porter, 8.0%
Reported IBUs: ?

I love plums...I love beer...I love beer with plums. This beer seemed like a logical purchase, and will be yet another plum beer in my repertoire. Yay me. About Southern Tier.
Southern Tier Brewing Company is based out of Lakewood, New York. The brewery was founded in 2002 by Phineas DeMink and Allen "Skip" Yahn. Using equipment purchased from the old Saddleback Brewing Co., the company began production with the vision of reviving traditional small batch brewing to the region. By 2003, the brewery was distributing their small batch ales, and by 2005 their sales covered New York and Pennsylvania. Before the brewery had any seasonal beers, it produced a Pilsner, Mild Ale, and IPA. Due to popularity, in 2009 a 20,000 square foot facility was built to allow for the brewing of large-scale beers. Since then, Southern Tier has continued to expand, and continued to invest in better equipment to keep up with the increasing demand for their beer. You can read more about Southern Tier's history on their history page.
The bottle of this beer has all sorts of good info on it, and reflects Southern Tier's new bottle art designs. This beer lists a myriad of ingredients: 2-row malt, caramel malt, barley flakes, chocolate malt, debittered black malt, pureed plums, and chinook & willamette hops. Punching in at 8.0%, this is a big beer. If you roll over to the Plum Noir page, you get much of the same info. This beer is brewed with Prunus cocomilia plums, which are an Italian plum that has a dark color and flesh. The pureed plums are added during fermentation to provide sugar and residual flavors. 
Southern Tier Plum Noir

This beer is like...a Stout. I guess I wasn't sure what to expect. This beer pours into a dark black/purple body in low light, and kicks up one or two fingers of super thick, bready head. The head is a dark tan/wheat bread color. In bright light the beer is still surprisingly dark, and the head has settled into a pinky's worth of dark tan, bready coating. There's lacing from where the head used to be, and some light legs.

As with the aroma, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it's not this. This beer plays the Stout/Porter thing straight, if you like your Stout/Porter dressed up as a Bock. I'm getting a LOT of coffee on this. I'm also getting big bread, toast, and toffee...maybe some Bock-esque melanoidins. There's some bready grain on the nose as well. As the beer sits, stagnant, you go without fruit. When I swirl the beer in the glass, I kick up some raisins and plums.

This is surprisingly light and void on the palate...it's very clean, and almost reminds me of a Doppelbock or Dunkler Bock. You get grain and coffee up front, with some hints of roast and huge toast in the middle. The back end finishes with toast, toffee, and coffee. Hints of raisin/plum/molasses sweetness linger throughout, and the alcohol is completely hidden.

Seriously, this really reminds me of a dark, chocolaty Bock. The mouthfeel is medium-light, veering towards creamy, with airy carbonation. The whole thing finishes super clean, and there's just a hint of bitter towards the back. No flavor really jumps out at you, at least not at first. Once your palate adjusts the beer turns into a refined and mature beer. The 8.0% is absolutely undetectable making this beer both highly drinkable and deceptive and dangerous. The palate depth is actually really nice for a Porter, and there's some nuance to this. Far too often I associate complexity with aggressive flavors, but I think this beer has something going for it. You get a blast of caramel sweetness followed by grain, coffee, and sweet bread/toast up front; that rolls into more toast, bread, coffee creamer, and sweet toffee/caramel; the back end is trailing toast, a hint of roast, more coffee, and fade to light dryness and slight sticky.

Rating: Average (3.5/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Strong Average on this...this is by no means a bad beer. It's actually quite refined and quite enjoyable, and it's a nice change of pace for Southern Tier. Compared to something like their Creme Butterscotch Rape Brulee, this is a welcomed change of pace and is very drinkable at 8.0%. There's a wonderful toffee sweetness at work in this beer, and tons of nice toasted notes. The plums don't really assert themselves...at least not as plums...and this beer is very clean and reminds me of a Bock. That's not a bad thing at all. And this was priced fairly at around 10 bucks a bomber. I would pair this with dry chocolate cake, coffee-braised meats, or a pulled pork sandwich. I give this a lukewarm recommendation if you like Southern Tier, plums, or Strong Porters chocolaty Bocks.  

Random Thought: I'm actually deviating from my own recommendation and pairing this beer with some cheesy mashed potatoes with green beans. Ideally I'd go the chocolate cake route, but it's only Monday...I haven't jumped that shark just yet.

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