When you see the cartoonish letters “D-U-N-K-I-N” scrawled across a beer label, it’s easy to be skeptical. This new, limited-release porter thankfully opts to use Dunkin’s coffee, not donuts, as the focal point, with Harpoon calling the beer a “tribute to all the days Dunkin' has helped us fire up the brew kettle.” The brewery’s track record with both its Leviathan Baltic Porter and 100 Barrel El Triunfo Coffee Porter is strong, giving fans of the style reason to be optimistic for this collaboration.
The label wins points immediately, with a design that mimics the signature white Dunkin’ coffee cup, complete with orange and cerise lettering. Once poured, the porter’s opaque brown color rests beneath a lengthy foam collar, with notably fast-rising carbonation.
A beer’s nose can sometimes trick the palate, and the Dunkin’ Coffee Porter is a great example: The sweet, grainy nose makes the drinker think the porter will lean toward a dessert-style richness. (Hint: it doesn’t.) As the beer warms a bit, the more expected bitter chocolate and roasted coffee aromas become more prominent, as does a hint of wintry clove and some orange notes from the hops.
Harpoon has done justice to the coffee porter, and in the process created a dream of a fall pairing beer.”
There’s a lot going on here. Dunkin’ Coffee Porter leads with chocolate, nut and roasty flavors, but the coffee’s bitterness gives the beer a long, yet dry finish. There’s some grain, a hint of spice and a lot of classic roasted coffee, all in a beer that’s fairly light-bodied for the porter style. The balance ends up more bitter than sweet, and there’s mild but notable warmth from the 6.0% ABV.
Harpoon has done justice to the coffee porter, and in the process created a dream of a fall pairing beer. Barbecue, chocolate or peanut butter desserts, beef stew and chili would all be ideal food partners. In a market full of gimmick beers and co-branding, it’s refreshing to see Harpoon respect the simple coffee that powers the city around it, with a classic yet complex version of this style.