Darktober 4: Duck-Rabbit Porter

Brewer: The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery
Location: Farmville, North Carolina
Type: American Porter
ABV: 5.7%

Zipping down the I-95 corridor a little ways from our last beer stop, we find ourselves in the quaint (read: so-small-you-might-miss-it) town of Farmville, North Carolina, home of The Duck-Rabbit, a microbrewery that’s been working its dark magic since 2004.

It’s an interesting little factoid about why the name and why the optical illusion for the logo. Prior to becoming a professional brewer, founder Paul Philippon was a philosophy professor. The philosophical nature of a similar duck-rabbit diagram from a favorite text continued to speak to him, even after he left that world. And so he decided to use the concept of the perspective of The Duck-Rabbit as a way to link his former and new lives.

Beyond the philosophical bent of the question, however: Why Duck-Rabbit? Because they’re “The Dark Beer Specialist,” of course. At least according to their label. Indeed, the lightest of their regularly produced beers is an amber ale. Beyond that, it’s all brown ales, porters, and stouts.

Definitely my kind of brewery.

I’ve previously had their milk stout in a bottle, and I had a chaser of their porter on tap with a beer flight I did at a North Carolina brewpub. I remember this porter was one of the standouts of that flight, so when I found a bottle of it this far north, I decided to give it a better opportunity to impress me.

The initial pour reminded me far less of a beer and more of a cola: swiftly forming head with a five-second soda pop fizzle that disappeared before I could even carry the glass and bottle over for their close-up. This is an incredibly carbonated beer, more so than I was expecting. Gives it a lightweight, burbling mouth feel and leaves you (or me, at least) feeling a little…well, let’s just say I could have given Barney on The Simpsons a run for his money after drinking this beer.

This porter carries with it the delightful coffee undercurrent I love about dark brews, plus there’s a scent of subtle sweetness each time you raise the glass for a drink.

The taste, itself, however, hits you in a way reminiscent of passing your tongue over the contacts of a nine-volt battery: electric jolt with a jarring metallic aftertaste. It’s not a terrible sensation, but it’s definitely much different from the fresh, mellow beer I had on tap the first time I tried this one.

I don’t think I’ve ever found a beer that tasted better from the bottle than from the tap (although I’ve had a a nice bottle-aged brew or two that could definitely put up a solid fight for the title), but I have definitely found beers that simply do not bottle well at all. This might be one of them. That’s fine with me though: Just means it will be one of those rare treats for when I’m lucky enough to find it on tap. Emphasis on rare, indeed, since Duck-Rabbit is only distributed in North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, Georgia, parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania (why they skipped Maryland in this sweep is a mystery to me…must have something to do with our lame state liquor laws…)

Next Round’s On Me…

So for my birthday this year, my cousin of culinary cunning gave me the gift of beer…with a twist. She gave me a beer making kit. Tricksy little cousin, luring me into the scary world of kitchen stuff.

Actually, it was almost as if she’d read my geek-warped mind. See, all summer long, I’d been reading about Wil Wheaton’s adventures in beer-making and thinking that it sounded like something that I wouldn’t mind trying. However, my life being what it is, I was going in about 50 bajorillion (yeah, I did just write that…what’s it to you?) different directions, and none of them led me toward researching my own kit.

Enter my awesome cousin and her frightening mind-reading abilities (more frightening for her, I’m sure, since it was the detritus of my brain she was stuck sifting through). Not only was it my very own kit, but it was chocolate maple porter. Could that sound any tastier? My heart might bleed stout, but porters are a strong second in my list of preferred beers, and this particular flavor combination not only sounds perfect, it’s also recently received the Wheaton Seal of Awesome.

It took me a little while to gather the required utensils that I was missing (and a little bit longer to gather enough courage to finally just dive right in and hold on tight), but today was the day, denizens. Today was Beer Making Day at the lair.

And so we begin...

The instructions claimed that making your own beer was as simple as making oatmeal. Wil Wheaton swears it’s true, too, and I know I can trust him. Why? Because he was in Starfleet, and they never lie (well, you know, except when they’re pulling tricks in their shuttles and end up killing one of their team…then they might lie a little…but never about beer).

Beer Oatmeal: Part of a Balanced Binge Breakfast

Is it really that simple? Yes. Kind of. A very time-consuming, super-fragrant, slow cooking oatmeal that you can’t eat once you’re finished. But that, if you didn’t uck-fay it up-ay while making it, will taste awesome when you finally get to drink it.

A dark brew takes form...

Once you’re finished with all the stirring and boiling and simmering and thermometering and pouring and straining and cooling…well, then you reach the fermentering, which requires a funnel, a strainer, a jug, and a steady hand. I had most of those things…enough to get the dark brew into the jug, pitch the yeast, shake it all up and then rig the fermenter:

I'm only going to ask you se7en times, Detective...what's in the box?

This is my brew’s new home for the next two weeks while the yeast works its magic with my brew. See? I built it a little home and everything, to keep it cool and dark:

Built to code...

Once the two weeks are up, then comes the bottling, followed by two more weeks of cool, dark waiting before I can fridge up my beer and taste the spoils of my brewing victory. This also means that I have a month to come up with a name and maybe even design a label.

Stay tuned, denizens…soon There Will Be Beer.