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Thirsty Thursday: Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter

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.

For almost two centuries, Yuengling has been a staple in the Philadelphia area, to the point that asking for a lager at any bar will get you the company’s signature beer.  Yuengling has almost a dozen beers in their repertoire, though Yuengling Lager has always stolen the spotlight – until late last year when the Pennsylvania-based brewery unveiled a partnership with another prominent Pennsylvania brand, Hershey’s, to create Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter.  First brewed as a draught-only offering with limited distribution, I actually made the hour and a half expedition with family to take the brewery tour and get my hands on a sample.  When it was announced last month that the chocolate effort was coming back this year, in bottles for mass distribution, I knew I had to review it but tracking it down still wasn’t easy.

Shout out to my Mom, who prefers light beers but went on the brewery adventure and absolutely loved Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter, for finding me a six-pack.

Holding the title of “America’s Oldest Brewery,” D.G. Yuengling and Son Brewery was founded in Pottsville, Pennsylvania in 1829 by German immigrant David Gottlieb Yuengling.  The original location, known as Eagle Brewing, was chosen in part because of the water availability, thanks to the nearby Schuylkill River.  But, in 1831, the brewery burned down and forced the company to relocate.  Yuengling has survived Prohibition and the ebbs and flows of the beer landscape to grow into, technically, the country’s top craft brewery, pumping out close to three million barrels each year.

Yuengling’s year-round efforts include the cult-classic Yuengling Black and Tan as well as Yuengling Golden Pilsner and the newest full-time beer, Yuengling Flight, at just 95 calories.  The only seasonal effort prior to the new porter was Yuengling Oktoberfest but we have a feeling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter will now become a staple of the brewery’s release calendar.  A fresh take on a traditional dark brewed porter recipe, this 4.7 percent ABV, 180-calorie limited release is the first collaboration between the two, marrying the aroma and flavor of America’s most recognizable chocolate with malts, smoothness and full-bodied flavor.

The label looks very similar to Yuengling’s other efforts, building on that brand identity, though this bottle has a distinct “21+ to enjoy” logo on it.  There’s no listing of the ABV and no brief summary, which is definitely a bummer but to be expected.  To state the obvious, this isn’t a beer looking to be snobby or eye-catching, it’s just brewed for taste.

So, let’s get right down to what’s inside this 12-ounce bottle.  I twisted the cap and practically shoved it up my nose.  Since the last time I had it, whenever someone brought it up I declared that it was the best aroma to a beer I’ve ever had.  It still is, and that’s no small claim either.  It just oozes with the smell of fresh Hershey’s chocolate and, as someone who’s been to Herhseypark and taken the company’s factory tour ride countless times, it mimicked that hot off the press aroma.  With it in a bottle this time, I thought it lost just a little of its pungency, though that distinct milky chocolate smell was still there, along with just a tiny trace of the malts – there’s not a ton of “beer” smell.

The smell might not have been quite as strong but the taste was more so and I think it’s due to the fact that the chocolate had a chance to sit in the bottle, a much smaller container, for a while.  On that first sip, many expect a burst of chocolate, almost like a milkshake.  I know at least one person who expressed that problem when saying they were slightly disappointed.  The chocolate is, for lack of a better term, woven in nicely, offering that flavor on top of the profile of Yuengling’s classic dark porter, which hits with a slight hop flavor and then malt on the back-end.  There’s no denying it’s a medium-bodied, dark beer so if you tend to stay away from the style, the sheer fact of the Hershey’s crossover probably won’t be enough for you to like it.

The pour was picture-perfect, as you can see from the photo above, but it was fleeting.  By the time I posted it to my Instagram, the three fingers of chocolatey-looking head had dissipated and I was left with a black and brown beer.  It lasted for the majority of the glass, kind of tailing off at the end with minimal lacing, so it had all the makings of a Yuengling effort.  I thought the drinkability was pretty solid but not the best and that’s how it typically goes with porters.  I had two in one sitting and jokingly referred to it as the adult version of Halloween candy.

For the most part, I love this beer and hope to grab another six-pack soon.  It has some issues, like with the faint aroma in the bottled version, the lack of an explanatory label and the petering carbonation at the end but it’s a well done collaboration from a brewery you wouldn’t expect it from. I could drink it all winter, to be honest.

I wasn’t quite sure what I’d learn from the BeerAdvocate ratings for this one.  Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter received a very good score of 88 from the website, while the average score is currently a 3.92 based on 150 ratings.  I expect the ratings to go up significantly since this beer will be available, while supplies last, until the middle of February. And people are itching to get their hands on it. I had the score in my mind for this beer just based on having it last year, which is an 8.4 out of 10 and it was confirmed upon half a glass.  Some people, who look down on cheaper beer, might think I’m crazy giving a limited release, mass-produced effort such a high score but this beer checks off most of the boxes and rarely stumbles.  It’s a great beer for when winter starts to set in.

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