THROWDOWN!! Coffee Porter Style

I had the idea to do this throwdown, because coffee porters are getting a lot of attention lately on the various posts, and I had the Rogue that I had picked up previously, so I got the Pipeline and was going to do a two coffee Porter throwdown.  I happened to mention this to Rick my beer guy over at Brewforia in Boise and he threw in the Meantime with my purchase.  I love it when a business man gets it.  He didn’t have to do it, but he did, and I appreciate it more than he can imagine.  He has made a loyal customer out of me.  So much so that he is moving his store to a more central location in the valley which is less convenient for me, but no matter, I will continue to go out of my way to patronize his establishment.  Thanks Rick!

So my two coffee porter throwdown has changed to a three coffee porter throwdown.  It worked great.  Let us start with a description of the breweries.  The Rogue Brewery is located in Newport Oregon at the mouth of the Rogue River where it flows into the Pacific Ocean.  A picturesque spot to be sure.  I have heard that they have also opened a brewery in Portland as well.  Rogue makes some awesome beers, so I was excited to try their take on a coffee porter.

The Pipeline Porter is made by Kona Brewing Company whose flagship brewery is still on the big island at Kailua-Kona.  They also have breweries in Portland, Oregon, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  It is a challenge for them to brew their unique beers in three very distinct locations, but it helps to keep their carbon footprint as a company low, and gives us good beers at a reasonable price.  Their rigorous Quality Control measures help to ensure each brewery is producing beer to their exacting specifications.

Finally, Meantime Brewing is out of Greenwich area of London, England.  They are located on the banks of the Thames River, and look to the river for inspiration.  Ships used to sail to the four corners of the earth heavily laden with Porter and IPAs , and those same ships would come back laden with goods that inspired their coffee and chocolate beers.

OK, so on with the THROWDOWN!! ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLLLLLLEEEE?  (Boxing Ring Announcer Voice Implied)…

Lets start with the pour!  I have another picture!

The Rogue wins for the largest head retention! It kept a one finger head throughout in the fluted glass.  The Meantime had almost no head at all when poured, and the Pipeline had a small head that quickly dissipated.  When held to the light the Meantime was actually clear, which was a little surprising to me given its color.  It was a pretty brown with hints of orange shining throughout.  The Pipeline was translucent brown with amber highlights on the edge of the glass, and the Rogue was dark brown with no light getting through.

The nose on these three brews were all very distinct.  I’m going to switch the order here, and go by the order in which they were drank.  First the Meantime was very strong on the coffee, with a malty complexity that had a little bit of a sour scent on the back side.  In some ways it smelled more coffee like than beer like.  The Pipeline was the most nondescript of the three.  I find I have trouble smelling malt, so if a beer has a malty nose it smells a little flat to me.  As this beer warmed up the kona coffee scent came out, and perhaps a little flowery scent that was very nice.  The Rogue lived up to its name and lead with Hops!  Its like they said “fu@k it” we are going big!  There was coffee, and a lot of malty complexity to balance it all out.  Very bold on the nose.

The flavor!!  It is amazing that all three of these brews had such a distinct flavor.  Each one is truly an individual expression of the brewer’s interpretation of a coffee beer.  Let me start by saying I liked them all, and will buy them all again.  I will also let you know that of the two reviewers we couldn’t have differed more in our rankings, so it is all palate dependent.

The Meantime was bay far the most coffee flavored of the bunch.  Big coffee on the nose and kind of a slick mouthfeel, and a great coffee flavor.  They used Faitrade Araba Bourbon beans from Rwanda’s Abuhuzamugambi Bakawa Co-operative, and let me tell you Rwanda grows some great beans.  Toasted nuts and caramel on the flavor along with vanilla, and a touch of malt on the backside.  This is a 6.0 ABV beer and there was no real effect from the alcohol on the flavor.  That could be good or bad, but for me this hit the mark totally.  It was a great brew, and one I went out the next day and purchased to have again.  It is almost $5 for an 11.2 oz bottle, so it was definitely good in my book.

The Pipeline was much more subtle with their use of the coffee by comparison.  It was a malty brew that hit the palate sweet with the malt and then followed by the Kona coffee, and rounded out on the back side with hops and a tinge of orangy spice.  A very good brew in its own right.  One word of advice, it wasn’t very cold when I started my tasting, but this beer needs to warm up!  It is very different the warmer it gets.  I’d say around 60 degrees is optimal.  When it hits that temp the coffee flavor comes out like a blossoming flower and it is an absolutely delicious and creamy beer experience.  A very good beer, and the kona coffee is distinct and very flavorful when it warms to the right temp.

Finally the Rogue!  Avast ye mateys!  We’re leadin’ with the Hops!  OK, no more pirate talk, but it was a very different experience compared to the others.  Hoppy, with a very slight coffee flavor in the middle with a malty complexity on the backside that rounded it out into what tasted more like a black IPA than a coffee porter.  I was a little disappointed just because I was hoping both the coffee and the chocolate of the mocha would have more impact on the flavor.  Again warmth is the key.  Let it warm up and the coffee and chocolate come out, but it never really became a central part of the flavor.  It was more like a hoppy porter or a mild black IPA to my way of thinking.

So the rankings went like this:


Meantime–Delicious coffee goodness and exactly what I was hoping for in a coffee porter.

Pipeline–Let it warm up and it will give you a great coffee porter beer experience, and the Kona beans are very distinct and make great beer.

Rogue–A good beer in its own right, but very bold and in your face with the Hops and Porter flavors.


Rogue–He loved the Spice and the interesting complexity of the brew.

Meantime–He really dug the coffee up front approach of this brew.

Pipeline–He couldn’t appreciate this one.  He said it was bland and nondescript.

Finally, this was great fun!  I encourage all of you to go out and purchase these brews and enjoy them to their fullest!


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12 Comments on “THROWDOWN!! Coffee Porter Style”

  1. January 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm #

    Nice throwdown Don! Of the 3, I’ve only had the Kona and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was well balanced and very smooth. Sounds like the Meantime is something I’d like as well – not too sure about the Rogue though.

    • Don
      January 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

      I loved the Pipeline, but in my estimation the Meantime was Stellar. The key with the Pipeline like I said is to let it warm up almost to room temperature. It is very different, and much better when warmed. You probably wouldn’t like the Rogue. I like it as a beer, but I’m not sure I would pick it out if I was in the mood for a coffee beer. The coffee and Chocolate get lost in the flavor profile, but tasty nonetheless.

  2. Jim
    January 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Many of the Rogue beers have a similar taste to me – those guys love their hops!

    I could do my own throwdown now, Don, thanks to your talking about coffee stouts in the run up to yours. it really made me crave them. I’ve recently has Wolaver’s, Mikkeller, another Noweigan that escapes me, and Southern Tier. I too was struck by the differences. Some were artsy, some were like Starbucks and some were like Maxwell House. And all were better warm. I think it’s a vanilla thing.

    • Don
      January 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

      Strangely enough I drank the Meantime fairly cold, and it was great that way. The others need to warm up.

  3. January 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    I think Jim’s right with the vanilla thing, that beers w/ vanilla taste better a little warmer. Ever since he mentioned that, I’ve paid attention to that idea and I think he’s right.

    I still have my Southern Tier Ja-Vah and my Java Head from Troegs to try from the coffee department. Great beers for winter, aren’t they?

    • Don
      January 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

      I’ve been enjoying them, but I have a bunch of aging IPAs I need to work through, so I am on yet another tasting mission!

  4. January 21, 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    Meantime is a great brewery. Their normal porter great and I’ve never been disappointed by them. Nice job on this post, I love to do comparative ones as well.

    • Don
      January 21, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

      Thanks Mike. It was a little bit of a labor of love. It was a lot of fun, but it is by far the longest post I’ve ever written let alone posted. Kind of breaks the mold for our blog, but when you do multiple reviews it just takes the space. I’d love to get more of the Meantime Brews. I actually ran out the day after this throwdown and bought their last one so I could just have it to drink and enjoy. I’ll be looking for these guys in the future.

  5. January 21, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    Nice Job Don! I love doing the group compares, side by side. It really helps develop a profile to a style and you really see which ones taste better then others. When you taste them together you can really start to pin point what you like and dislike about the style or the group of beers. That is why I started doing the Beer Brawls last year, which Jim got to sit in on a couple months back. My next Brawl will be coming out this weekend – Wild ales and next week we’ll be recording a challenge brawl. We each come to the table with our 2 favorite session beers (< 5.5 abv)

    Hope to see more Don!

    • Don
      January 21, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

      Thanks Peter. I really enjoyed doing it too. Not to mention it was really fun to compare the beers side by side like that all at once. I’m sure I’ll do more of these, and possibly some with Whiskey too.

  6. January 22, 2010 at 2:34 am #

    I’d love to read some Whiskey throwdowns Don. Whole new area for me!

    • Don
      January 22, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

      Well Scott, since you would love to read them, I’ll do them! It’s a rough job but someone should do it, doncha think? No, Whiskey Flights could be a fun way to compare and contrast flavors of various whiskeys. I’m sure I’ll do a couple this year.

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