Drake’s Brewing Co. in San Leandro, Calif. Draws inspiration for their name from Sir Francis Drake, more specifically from his privateering persona.
Much of the history lesson aside, albeit interesting, Francis Drake was and is ultimately viewed through two categorical lenses. The first being one that characterizes him as a trailblazing explorer and accomplished leader. The second being one that illustrates him as an opportunistic pirate and brutal aggressor against humankind. Now assuming—and very much hoping—that the brewery’s namesake was inspired from the former and not the latter, the approach they have taken to the beer it produces is clear. Since 1989, Drake’s Brewing Co. has strived to create beer that is autonomous, purposeful, and unique.
Speaking to that uniqueness is today’s review of its Black Robusto Porter, or otherwise known as a robust porter. This particular style is what could be considered a middle ground between a brown porter and a stout, and in the case of Drake’s I would say this variant is more Russian than American or English. Standard interpretations would yield a roasty aroma supported by varied levels of hops, dark and rich coloring, a full body comprised of strong malt and generally sweet flavors that finish with a balanced bitterness. All things considered, the roasty character and flavor complexity is what defines this brew as a hit or miss. Fortunately in the case of the Robusto Porter, Drake’s got it right.
The beer pours a very dark brown with thin amber edges and is topped by a two-finger peanut butter colored head. The retention is less than expected for such a viscous brew, however the resulting collar maintains a uniform lacing from brim to stem. The aromas are very interesting as both the roasted malt & char are on equal footing with the selected hops, and all of this is supported by sweet dark fruit and earthiness. The body of this robust porter is quite full with an almost delayed carbonation.
Upon the initial sip, the formidable attenuation sits heavily on the tongue and coats the mouth. As the beer makes its way across the tongue, the liveliness goes in to high gear and results in an effervescent and crisp finale. The flavors that Drake’s has produced in its Black Robusto are malt-centric and predominately heavily roasted. The hops impart a notable herbal presence that approaches an anise and green tea profile. As the beer begins to warm, the sweetness begins to markedly increase and traces of earth and cocoa are detected. The finish of the beer is moderately dry with a slight alcohol heat, and the ratio of bitter to sweet is about 2:1.