Samuel Adams Holiday Porter

Review Date 11/5/2004   Last Updated   11/11/2013   By John Staradumsky

Every year, Jim Koch andthe Boston Beer Company give American beer lovers a Christmas present. It comes in the form of a twelve-pack sampler of beers that retail for around $12. At a dollar a brew, that’s a real bargain. It’s called Samuel Adams Winter Classics, and it includes two bottles each of six different beers. For example, this year the sampler includes two bottles each of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Sam Adams Light, Old Fezziwig, Winter Lager, Cranberry Lambic, and a new beer for 2004, Samuel Adams Holiday Porter.

This is not the first porter Samuel Adams has brewed. For many years, the company offered an excellent Honey Porter. This is not that beer. Instead, this is a special holiday porter, one a bit stronger in both alcohol and flavor. It’s a wonderful beer, I think, full of rich deep flavor perfect for the holidays.

Boston Beer calls this a London porter, though it’s more intense than a few of my favorite examples of that style, Fuller’s London Porter or Geary’s London Porter . And those are wonderful beers indeed. But let’s let Boston Beer talk for a minute:

Samuel Adams Holiday Porter is a full-flavored porter inspired by the famous drink of London’s Victorian era luggage porters. Brewed with generous portions of caramel, Munich, and Chocolate malt, this hearty porter finishes with traditional English and East Kent Goldings.

Even the bottle is exceptionally festive, making this beer a worthy companion to Winter Lager, Cranberry Lambic, and Old Fezziwig. It features a jovial looking fellow delivering a keg of ale to a tavern, amidst the glowing Victorian city lights and a gently falling snow.

Samuel Adams Holiday Porter pours to a jet black color with a thick creamy head formation and a deep chocolaty nose. A fine layer of tan-colored Brussels lace clings to the glass as the liquid descends. The palate is rich and very roasty with notes of espresso, licorice, and deep dark chocolate flavors.

A touch of fruit is apparent too. In many respects, this calls to mind an Imperial Stout in its flavor intensity, though the body is rather thinner than that style requires. In the finish, the wonderful roastiness intensifies into a roasted bitterness that balances nicely. Almost as chocolaty as Chocolate Bock
, this is a real winner and a truly inspiring holiday brew. I’ll be buying another 12-pack just to get two more bottles of it. Samuel Adams Holiday Porter is that good.

Update: November 12, 2013: Well, it used to be that good anyway. Here it is November of 2013, and I am hunting down the 2013 version of the Samuel Adams Winter Classics Sampler (this year called Winter Favorites). No Holiday Porter this year, though there are other great beers to compensate (Old Fezziwig amongst them). Never worry, I have a bottle of Holiday Porter from last year's sampler in the beer fridge. Still tasty, delightfully roasty, but less chocolaty and thinner in body than in the past. I have aged this one before, but I can easily see the light passing through, not so common n past years. Good, but a star off for not being the beer I remember it to be.

And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.

*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.