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Thirsty Thursday: Boulder Beer Company’s Shake Chocolate Porter

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Photo By Ed Miller

Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.

Earlier this month, I went on an adventure to the Yuengling brewery for a family member’s birthday and, after once again taking the tour, we were treated to samples of the new, limited edition Hershey’s Chocolate Porter, a collaboration that just oozes Pennsylvania.  It was delicious and just the smell alone, that rich scent of melted Hershey’s chocolate, was worth the trip. While it wasn’t a next-level beer for me, it’s one I wish would become available in bottles because I’d like more in the future – though it did catapult me into a chocolate porter kick.  Finding a chocolate porter at the beer store proved to be challenging, because most have roasted malt flavor that presents notes of coffee or espresso and that’s a major turn off for me when it comes to dark beers. And then, I just stumbled over Boulder Beer Company’s Shake Chocolate Porter.

I’m familiar with Boulder Beer Company for one beer and one beer alone: Hazed & Infused.  Several years ago, that was a staple beer in my rotation and while I haven’t had it recently, it brings back fond memories of my early-to-mid 20s.  Boulder Beer touts itself as “Colorado’s First Craft Brewery” and was started in 1979 by two professors at the University of Colorado with a one-barrel brewing system.  Immediately, the brewery began to get noticed for its rich, robust, flavorful beers, in a world that was dominated by light yellow lagers. Within five years, the brewery relocated to its current spot and upgraded to a 50-barrel system.  Today, Boulder Beer can hang its hat on a ton of industry awards, while continuing to strive to make innovative brews.

There are seven beers in Boulder Beer’s year-round arsenal, including Shake, and close to a dozen more seasonal and limited release efforts, like Bump ‘n’ Rind, a watermelon kolsch that caught my eye, and then there’s The Dude Series – a run of four complex beers that are barrel-aged.

Shake is no slouch when it comes to chocolate porters.  It’s previously won silver at the U.S. Open Beer Championship and gold at the World Beer Cup, both in the chocolate beer category.  It’s a 5.9 percent ABV, 39 IBU, effort that features a variety of malts along with Mt. Hood, Willamette, Nugget hops and Cacao Nibs.  The company boasts that Shake has sweet aromatics and a rich flavor of chocolate, caramel and coffee – I’m really hoping that last one is fairly minimal here, as long as the chocolate can either mask or overpower the coffee notes.  It comes in a six-pack of bottles and cans as well as 22-ounce bottles and on draft, including nitro.

The label of Shake is pretty simplistic and is somewhat of a throwback to the old days of milkshake joints, with a real 1950s type of feel to it.  There’s a brown theme with a big, old chocolate milkshake front and center, while the background features a jukebox and a scene straight out of Arnold’s from Happy Days.  And the best part is Boulder Beer explains on the label exactly what to expect, which you probably know by now that I appreciate.

“Velvety smooth with subtle coffee-like notes, this porter serves a devilishly delicious dark chocolate finish.”

When I cracked this can open, I was expecting an abundantly chocolate smell but didn’t quite get as much as I would’ve hoped.  There was certainly a light chocolate aroma but I noticed just as much of the malt and caramel smell as I did from the defining flavor of this beer.  I guess I was just spoiled by the previous Hershey’s effort from Yuengling. I did think that Shake poured quite beautifully, with a fierce dark black color and a tan head that was just the right amount for a porter, which might very well explain why I was thoroughly impressed with the carbonation here.

There was a medium-bodied mouthfeel to this beer and it was smooth, like really smooth.  While my palate for porters is still more on the novice side, I did notice the chocolate flavor, which reminded me more of powdered chocolate than anything.  The hints of coffee from the roasted malt came through, especially on the front-end of the sips, and I noticed the chocolate at the end. Would I have liked for a smidge more chocolate flavor, maybe?  But I thought all-in-all, each flavor worked well to compliment the other, with the caramel taste kind of creeping in at times.

This particular six-pack cost me $11, which is a great price for this much of a solid beer – it gets an extra little bump in the score for affordability.  When I looked it up on BeerAdvocate, I saw that Shake has an average score of 4.03, based on more than 1,900 ratings.  I’m not too far off from that, though I think I would go just a little lower, with a score of 7.7 out of 10.  It has a few little flaws but the most important part is the flavor and given how smooth it is and how well each of those three flavors, the roasted malt, caramel and chocolate, blend together, Shake is tasty.  I don’t think I’d have more than one or two at a time, however, which is the case with most porters. I will say, it’s a pretty good beer for subduing my craving for a chocolate porter.

Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.