Posted by: Michael | 31 October 2012

Brew Review #9: Żywiec Porter

Looking at previous posts, I see I started the last one with “after a lengthy hiatus.” I suppose I’ve got myself beat there tonight – it’s been a little over 3 years since I last posted a brew review. I’ve certainly been busy since then: I finished one academic program and moved on to the next (receiving the dubious title of “Master” in the process), I got married (so now there’s a Mrs. Brew Reviewer), and I moved 5 hours north to the other end of Indiana (hello, South Bend!). In any case, this is the first of what I hope to be something of a reboot of the Brew Review series.

Tonight finds me drinking Żywiec Porter, a product of Poland that I stumbled across while on an anniversary trip (yes, Mrs. Brew Reviewer happily accompanied me on a beer run while celebrating our anniversary. I know. I’m lucky). They also brew a bock and beers labeled on their site as “Jasne Pełne” and “Niskoalkoholowe.” Good luck asking for those if you don’t speak Polish (nothing against the language, of course. Poland produced this guy, and this guy, and that’s a win). You get bonus value for money tonight, too, as it wasn’t easy to figure out how to get the Polish Z and L into this post (until I remembered copy and paste. Of course).

On to glassware and bottle shots. I’m enjoying this beer out of a standard, straight-side pint glass, in celebration of the Fighting Irish 8-0 season thus far. The bottle itself is fairly typical for European beers – brewery name with a few peasants frolicking around, presumably after a few porters themselves. We’re told the beer is “faithful to tradition…recipe since 1881,” although the year 1856 also appears on the label. Apparently it took a few years to get the porter recipe figured out. The back tells us it’s a product of Grupa Żywiec S.A. of Poland and imported by Amtec International of Brooklyn. Finally, the beer measures 9.5% alcohol by volume.

In my head, I call this “Zweek Porter.” I’m sure I’m wrong. Sorry, Poland.

Quickly skimming Wikipedia Extensive research tells me that the porter style appeared in 18th-century London, where it was favored by porters (get it?). I’ve learned also that a style known as “Baltic porter” exists, although this bottle doesn’t say which category this beer fits into. I suppose I could find out if I got in touch with the brewery, but as I don’t speak a lick of Polish and don’t expect them to correspond in my language, that’s a mystery for another day.

Here’s what the beer looked like upon first pour. Since the palatial Brew Review laboratory has moved since the last post, you now get to enjoy my hideous 1940’s cinder block industrial chic background:

“And our hearts forever / Love thee Notre Dame!”

The head is about three-fourths of an inch, although it didn’t last long. It shrank relatively quickly, to what you see in this photo with just a touch of lacing:

But what’s it smell like? For those of you already acquainted with porter, there aren’t any surprises here. That typical roasted, nutty scent is here in full force. Nothing particularly jumped out at me, but then again nothing turned me off, either. If, after a long day staring at my incredibly boring to normal people super valuable research in the library, I pulled up to a bar and asked for “porter,” this is exactly what I’d expect for my $3.50. Throw a little – just a little – smokiness into the palate.

The scent doesn’t change much once it hits the palate.  This beer has a great roasted flavor to it, which would be just about perfect this time of year sitting around a fire with family and friends (it would stand up to a fairly stout cigar, too). The mouthfeel is just a tad watery for my taste – I like a little more body myself. I think that falls into the category of personal preference, so it doesn’t lose anything in my book.

For the time being, I’m ditching a rating system. My A+ might be a C- to you, and the same the other way around. At the end of this post I’ve included a link to the Beer Advocate reviews of the beer (which include mine), but that shouldn’t be taken as Gospel truth by any means. For now and for the next few reviews, anyway, I’ll try to give a more subjective opinion – whether I’m crazy for a beer, like it, can deal with it, or wouldn’t recommend it – along those lines. The Zywiec Porter gets an optimistic “meh” from me – this isn’t a bad beer by far, but should I ever go to Poland I suspect I’ll find something better there. It’s a good representative of the porter category and, as such, would be a good introduction for someone not familiar with them.

If you find this beer, it won’t set you back too much. I found it for $1.99 for a 16.9 oz / 500 mL bottle at Sahara Mart in Bloomington, IN (a store definitely worth the drive if you’re within an hour or so).

Don’t forget – alcohol is meant to be enjoyed, but it can hurt you and those around you. Drink responsibly – buzzed driving is drunk driving, too. Enjoy your fine brews in moderation, and don’t be afraid to know when it’s time to stop or call for a driver. There’s no shame in handing your keys to someone else. As they say over at Beer Advocate – Respect Beer!

Review on Beer Advocate

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