Thanks to Elise Meyer who graciously donated this beer to the blog. Tasted following my first class of my last term at Augustana. This is the first Big Sky I've tasted/rated. Sorry for the dated label, it was the only one I could find.
Appearance: Extremely well sustained tan mocha head with a textured dense foam. The lacing dryly clings to the glass as the head slowly dissipates into a 1 fingers worth measure. The color is an robustly brown black color with no transparency.
Aroma: Aroma is predominantly vanilla and a couple other synthetic off components. There are hints of coffee but more so as chocolate and roasted malt. I also pick up mild hints of graininess and yeast. A little oakiness and molasses.
Taste: Reveals less vanilla than the aroma, but it still remains in the forefront of the flavor. Chocolate is a present character again in the taste with complements of the molasses and many other strange grain and wood tannins. Lightly roasted malt rounds out the beer but still with a yeasty component that continues to be deterring. The beer begins sweet and chocolaty and then gradually transitions into a yeasty roasted bitterness from remaining yeast particulates and hop resins. Finally there finishes a souring flavor with the dry element from alcohol. Generally this beer is very phenolic. The aftertaste leaves a smokey burnt flavor to the palate.
Mouthfeel: Smooth and big bodied and overall pretty creamy The carbonation is light but densely populated within the liquid making it a highly contributive factor to the soft texture to the mouth. The beer ends on a dry note from the alcohol and resins. Warming.
Overall Impression: There is a lot going on in this beer but some flavors come through more prominently than others, particularly the phenolic vanilla flavor which is only amplified in the aroma. The chocolate element is nice and sweet and also more apparent than coffee which therefore makes me wonder why it is called a coffee porter? Perhaps coffee was used and only donated a souring flavor to the finish, and not what the brewer had intended? Nevertheless I enjoy how the flavor develops as the beer drains from the glass, and the palate adjusts. Give it a chance. But not six chances.