This week’s edition of BeerEast brings you a look at two local standard porters, with the Brimmer Porter facing off against the winter seasonal Minamishinshu Porter.
Brimmer Porter (ブリマー・ポーター)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Thick oily-black, nice lacing, appealing pour overall
Aroma – Very nice deep chocolate roast smell, slight coffee as well
Flavor – Not much initially, creamy and smooth, then slight burnt chocolate bitter on the finish, overall flavor is thinner than aroma suggests, much more chocolate impact as it warms up
It’s been a while since we covered a Brimmer brew, and the last one a couple of years ago lamented the diminishing presence of Brimmer in the beer scene. I don’t particularly think that they make the most awesome beers, but they are usually at least slightly above average, and they had managed to generate a fair amount of attention since their relatively recent inception. They did some work on their brewing facilities, and although they appear to be back at full capacity it hasn’t led to any increased output. I suppose the shuttering of the Brimmer Beer Box in Aoyama impacted their visibility quite a bit, and even though they’ve opened up a replacement pseudo-taproom in Kuji their general presence in the beer scene is now almost negligible. You don’t see their bottles much anymore, and even on tap they just aren’t around much. With that somewhat downcast commentary, let’s see what their regular-lineup Porter has to offer.
The Brimmer Porter starts out quite mediocre, with perhaps the strong roast aroma setting expectations a bit too high. The texture and flavors are quite thin at first, and while there is some dark roast there it’s hardly perceptible until the finish. As it warms up though, not only the chocolate aspects but also the bitter aspects become stronger, giving it the flavor that it needs. The poor start and thin texture ultimately doom this beer, though, and it never becomes anything more than a serviceable porter. That’s a bit of a shame, as the aroma on this beer is very nice and it has potential if they could coax some stronger flavors out of it and fatten it up a bit.
Distribution-wise it’s also a bit hard to track down recently – I found mine at Tanakaya (for a decent price of 491 yen), but of late I only see Brimmer beers there and at Izuya. I used to see them at Deguchiya but they don’t carry them anymore, and they are very intermittent at Liquors Hasegawa, although I believe they will still stock them from time to time. It’s not a world-beater so you won’t be missing much if you give it a pass, and I wouldn’t say it’s worth the effort required to find this beer in Tokyo.
Minamishinshu Porter (南信州ビール・ポーター)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Standard cola-black, relatively foamy at first but settles quickly
Aroma – Fairly mild, a bit of plum and caramel
Flavor – Initially a little bit of a strange sourness, then some plum on the finish with a slight hint of roast
If you’ve been following our Minamishinshu reviews, you’ll have noted that we’re usually not super impressed with them. We did like their WOWOW Akane Barley Wine, and though that at least their fruit beers and dunkelweizen were OK, but for the most part Minamishinshu occupy that space where they’re not terrible but we wouldn’t expect anything truly great from them. Mediocrity defined, if you will. It’s unlikely that their winter seasonal Porter (available January-February every year) will do anything to convince us otherwise, but let’s see what it has to offer.
The Minamishinshu Porter is also quite mediocre and thin, with more of a focus (if you can call it that, given how light the beer is) on the dark fruit aspects of a dark beer rather than on the roast chocolate characteristics. There’s a slight sensation of plum, and an even slighter sensation of dry roast chocolate, but overall this is a very bland porter. It also has a bit of that soapy sourness right smack in the middle that makes this a little unpleasant to drink, so definitely this one gets a thumbs down.
If you are interested in trying this beer despite its unenthusiastic reception here at BeerEast, I picked up my bottle at Shinshu Osake-mura for 514 yen. As a devoted Nagano alcohol purveyor they’re always your best bet for Minamishinshu beers, as they don’t normally get too wide distribution (although Tanakaya will generally carry their seasonals).
So unfortunately today’s local porter tasting was somewhat of a bust, with neither the Brimmer Porter and the Minamishinshu Porter being anywhere close to excellent. The Brimmer definitely was better and showed more promise, but even though it’s a clear winner today it wouldn’t stand a chance against a better local porter like the Baird Kurofune Porter. I suppose the standard porter isn’t so popular compared to the stout, even if stylistically nobody could really define the difference precisely, but if you’re looking for a good local example of a porter this isn’t it. Like I said, go with the Kurofune, but hopefully we can find some others around here that can at least give it a run for its money.