Port Jeff Brewing's Favorite Four Party Pours is a four-part series leading to the brewery's fourth-anniversary event on Saturday, October 17.
The birthday bash will feature more than 20 beers of Port Jeff's (most pouring from its tasting room's boat-shaped bar). We asked Mike Philbrick, owner and brewmaster, and Matt Gundrum, head brewer, to discuss their four favorites from the lineup.
Mike Philbrick: Early in my affinity for beer I was drawn to Yuengling Porter, Mackeson Stout, and Sierra Nevada Porter. In all of them I enjoyed their roast attribute while still remaining lighter in body, so I constructed a porter recipe to mimic these beers. Our recipe today is very similar to the one I used as a homebrewer, which was the first in my catalog where someone told me it could easily pass as a commercially made beer. It's also a recipe that remains very personal to me: My youngest son who turned four years old this week has the middle name of Porter.
We brew Port Jeff Porter with locally sourced honey, which I believe gives it a distinct profile. I started to make it with store-bought honey as a homebrewer but I didn't like the burnt taste it left in the beer. About six years ago I met John Condzella as he was selling produce grown on his family farm at a local farmers' market. He was also selling some great local honey and it turned out to be a perfect fit in the porter. So I started going regularly to buy it. A lot of it.
One day when I was making another huge purchase from John he asked me what the heck I was doing with so much honey. When I told him I was adding it to a homebrew he told me of his intentions to start growing hops. That sparked our friendship and today, John sources many of our local ingredients. We also share a birthday!
During the first year we were open, Porter quickly made its way into secondary-flagship status behind our Schooner Pale Ale. Up until the past year we sold almost as much of it as our Schooner. Now that we sell Party Boat IPA in cans that has taken the front seat in sales but we still have more Porter tap handles at our accounts than any other beer. I think we're probably known best for our Porter in the craft-beer community.
Porter is the first beer we ever made, the first beer we ever bottled, and the first beer we aged in a bourbon barrel. It's been with us for the whole journey, just like an old friend. And you know old friends would never miss a party.
Photo: Niko Krommydas