Purchased at Curtis Park Market in Sacramento ($4.99/22 oz. bottle) and poured into pint glasses.
An aggressively hopped English-style porter from San Francisco-based Speakeasy, Payback pours a pure, shiny black with a graham cracker-colored head that pours thick but recedes swiftly. The nose is a rich and glorious swirl of milk chocolate syrup, coffee candy, roasted nuts, and milk thistle. Fortunately, the first swallow follows through on those aromas, but the amplified hop profile gives the beer a pine bitterness to offset the coffee bitterness, and the entire beer is harmonized by the rich chocolate malt. Despite its higher-than-average alcohol content, Payback has a light mouthfeel, and offers flavors that are both accessible and complex, with a pleasantly lingering bitterness on the palette. This a best-of-both-worlds beer, satisfying for both hopheads as well as aficionados of dark and velvety flavors, and the overall effect is similar to a more dessert-like Black IPA.
Daniel Barnes and Darcey Self-Barnes have been blogging about craft beer at His & Hers Beer Notes since January 2012. Darcey is a freelance designer and illustrator, and Daniel is a film critic for the Sacramento News and Review and a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.