Eel River Brewing, one of the only completely organic breweries I am aware of, historically has an equal hit-to-miss ratio, with their beers... either they are refreshingly clean and crisp or they miss the mark by a mile. With both trepidation and excitement I opened their Eel River Organic Porter.
Although I'm maintaining my original review below, I gave this beer another shot in a 12oz. bottle purchased at the brewery, and there was clearly a contamination or storage issue with the original bottle I drank. Eel River Organic porter had a very light nose, slightly roasted, with coffee and a little but of grass coming through. The porter opened light as well, with a crisp caramel middle, light coffee, and an extremely clean finish. This was more like a brown ale than a porter, but it was certainly not exhibiting any of the terribleness I experienced in the original bottle.
What a fantastic mess the Eel River Porter was. Poured dark black with orange highlights into the glass, the thin but sudsy head suggested a thickness not followed through by the nose, which was almost pure pine with the slightest hints of malts.
The first taste revealed an over-exaggerated hops front that faded to a sour apple middle. If the front left nothing to be desired, the linger made it worst, suggesting hints of smoke and tobacco without ever bringing them forward.
This beer drank too crisp and clean to be a porter, way too sour to be enjoyable as a beer, and had malt notes that promised a complexity and interest the beer just couldn't deliver on. Pass.
The redeeming factor of this tasting is it was followed by my first home-brew boil, a Sierra Nevada Porter clone. My beer mentor shared several beers he recently brewed during the process (English Strong Ale and a random hopped ale he calls Hop Freak) that made my first brew so much more enjoyable.