I'm usually not a big fan of dark beers - I love IPAs, pilsners, and lagers. But on a recent trip to Yankee Spirits in Sturbridge, one of the largest package stores in New England with a selection of literally thousands of beers, Lynnafred (who is a big fan of dark beer) spotted Atwater Brewery's Vanilla Java Porter and asked if I was up to a bit of a challenge. I have to admit that the idea of a beer brewed with vanilla and coffee sounded kind of appealing, so we bought a sixpack to try with some friends.
Vanilla is the dominant element of this brew, and it's evident from the second you crack the tube. It's got a strong nose of vanilla and caramel, with just a hint of coffee coming through. It pours out with good body, though a little thinner than most other porters. The thin head dissipates quickly with very little lacing.
The flavor closely echos the aroma: strong on the vanilla, less so with the coffee, and backnotes of caramel and chocolate. It's a little on the sweet side as well, with a pleasant malty toasty finish.
Lynnafred and I both enjoyed this brew, as did the people we shared it with, who commented about how smooth and creamy it was. Two people actually told me that good enough "to be a dessert."