Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hill Farmstead - Twilight of the Idols Porter Review

Brewery: Hill Farmstead (VT)
Style: Porter
ABV: 7.2%
Grade: A

Most craft breweries these days like to toy with the boundaries of beer, adding all sorts of oddities to their brews to, literally, "spice them up." Some breweries have made a name for themselves entirely through these spiced, flavored and fruited brews. Hill Farmstead, however, has earned a cult-like reputation mostly for its simple-but-excellent versions of basic styles: IPAs, saisons, and sours. Something so relatively innocent (these days), as a porter brewed with coffee, cinnamon and vanilla is almost extravagant next to many of the other Shaun Hill creation's I've tried. As their winter seasonal, though, one has to expect something rich and indulgent.

The aroma of Twilight of the Idols (Hill's beers have such fantastic names) is dominated by coffee and cinnamon — spicy and rich, like the aroma wafting out of some amazing breakfast bakery cafe. The first comparison that springs to mind is Founder's Breakfast Stout, but that beer contains no cinnamon, and the cinnamon here brings a much-appreciated complexity to balance the coffee that would otherwise dominate. The flavor is much of the same, perhaps lacking the warm spice of the "awesome breakfast cafe"(?) aroma, but with a pleasant marriage of the three enhancements here: cinnamon, coffee, and vanilla. The first two, again, dominating. Despite their (probably) similar base recipes, Twilight of the Idols doesn't quite have the chocolaty full-ness of Hill Farmstead's Everett porter, though both are certainly intense, rich beers.

If Twilight of the Idols suffers from one flaw, it is that is perhaps too indulgent. With Everett, a plain old porter, the richness brings out the complexity of the malts — the chocolate nuances that sweeten the roast and dark character. Here, the mouthfeel tends to feel simply... rich. The flavors are more obvious, and while they are wonderful flavors, Twilight of the Idols seems to almost become more straightforward in taste due to the complexity of its recipe. Still, these are extremely minor as quibbles go. Very few winter beers rate high on the drinkability scale, and this earns its richness with clear, strong flavors. And as a coffee beer, this is one of the best — and thanks to the spices beneath, still one of the most complex. The cinnamon, in particular, turns out to be the perfect compliment. Twilight of the Idols might not be a revelation as a beer, but as an indulgent desert, it's fantastic.

Availability: Winter release. 500 ml bottle.

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