Review: Southern Tier Plum Noir Imperial Porter

Review of Southern Tier Plum Noir Imperial Porter from Southern Tier Brewing in Lakewood, NY.

Beer Type: Porter  ABV: 8%  Tried from bottle.

Their Description: “Plums are a diverse group of species, somewhere between 19 and 40 depending on who you ask. We’re only concerned with what we consider the best to brew with, Prunus Cocomilia. The Italian Plum has beautiful dark skin color and the flesh is perfect for fermentation. We add pureed plums directly to the fermenter where they will add another fermentable component, their residual sugar. The beer will be dry and have a sweetness derived mainly from the type of malts we use. A bit of plum flavor will still be present, and it will have a slightly less roasty character than our imperial stouts have had. Hints of plum, hints of coffee from the roasted malt and a thick head.”

The Reality: The second half of their description where they actually talk about what the beer tastes like is very accurate (the first half reads like a love letter to Italian plums). The scent that comes off of it actually has a really strong dark fruit character, which made me think this beer would be unbalanced toward the plum. However, upon tasting it the opposite is true. It has very traditional roasted coffee-type porter flavors with only a faint plum note in the background, just like they said it would. The nice thing is the plum gives the finish a nice smooth roundness and the aftertaste has a mild tartness. If you didn’t know this was a “plum porter”, you might just think it’s a porter with with an interesting palate.

Final Verdict: Overall I found this beer to be well-balanced and decently complex, but actually thought the plum might have been underutilized a touch, although that’s preferable to the alternative of being heavy-handed and having it dominate. The 8% ABV is well hidden, and it drinks very smooth. I think porter lovers would enjoy this beer, as it’s only a mild twist on tradition. Also, I’ve been thinking, if Little Jack Horner could stick his thumb in a Christmas pie and pull out a Plum Noir, rather than a standard plum, he probably would have had more friends and not been the weird kid in the corner molesting pies and fancying himself for doing so.