"I Love That Dirty Water"

Brewery and Country of Origin: Cambridge Brewing Company of 1 Kendall Square, #100, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA

Date Reviewed: 5-07-13

Flowing and meandering through 80 miles of Eastern Massachusetts, The Charles River has played a major role in the area's history, especially around the City of Boston, which surrounds the river along with neighbor Cambridge. Just like the Boston Marathon, the river begins in Hopkinton at its source, Echo Lake, flows through 23 different communities in the area, and ends in Boston at the Boston Harbor which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The river, which was originally called Quinobequin by natives, is currently named after King Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Today, the Charles River is one of only four remaining examples of places and whose name was changed from its native name to Charles for Charles I. Overall, the river flows slowly and decreases in elevation in proportion to its relatively short length. This makes recreational activities, like canoeing, kayaking, sculling, and sailing, very accessible in the summertime. Though swimming is allowed in most parts of the river, it is generally not considered a regular activity, as the river has a long history of being heavily polluted. Widescale state and federal efforts like the $3.8 billion Deer Island Water Treatment Plant have drastically improved the condition of the river and the Boston Harbor, both of which are now considered safe for swimming, but the general public opinion has not changed since. Oysters have been placed in the river as a natural way to filter the water. Fishing has been re-emerging as river quality has risen. Outside of recreational activity, sports on the river are popular, especially at the annual Head of the Charles Regatta, the largest two day regatta in the world. Every October, over 9,000 athletes compete in 61 rowing, sculling, and crew events watched by more than 300,000 spectators over a 3.2 mile course. In 2007, the river hosted the Charles River Masters Swim Race, the first sanctioned swimming event on the river in more than fifty years. The river is also frequented by the city's famous Duck Boat Tours which offer panoramic views of the city from the Charles River Basin, next to the Esplanade, where the signature Fourth of July Boston Pops Concerts take place (at the Hatch Shell theater).

The Esplanade is popular among runners and cyclists who traverse well established loops on pedestrian walkways linked by the bridges which cross the river. There is about 18.5 miles of bike paths along the easternmost part of the river, connected by the Charles' crossings. It is common for runners and cyclists to use the bridges as a way to gauge distances. One of the more famous bridges of the Charles is the Massachusetts Ave (Harvard) Bridge, which connects Back Bay with Cambridge (immediately MIT's campus). At 2,165 feet in length, it is the longest crossing of the Charles, and it is definitely the only bridge also measured in Smoots. Back in October of 1958, as part of his pledging for the MIT chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha, Oliver Smoot was told to lay down on the bridge and have his frat brothers measure the entire length in "smoots". At 67 inches exactly, it isn't a standard measurement, but it is immortalized by a memorial on the Cambridge side of the bridge. Users of Google Earth and Google Maps can also get distances between things in smoots. The bridge is marked along the sidewalk indicating how many smoots a person is from the Boston end of the bridge. The markings come ususally every ten smoots, but some interesting numbers are included, like 69 and 182.2 (halfway). Every year, pledges are required to repaint the markings, which have become popular among locals and tourists. In fact, when the bridge was being renovated in 1980, the police asked the construction company to keep the markings as they helped people locate where car accidents occured on the bridge. The contractors did one better as they inserted the scores (lines) in the sidewalks at every 5' 7", rather than the typical 6".

Another famous crossing is the 1767.5 foot long Longfellow Bridge, which carries both the Route 3 as well as the T Red Line subway. The bridge is famous for its views of the city, its distinctive "salt and pepper shaker" decorative architecture, and being featured in just about every movie which supposedly takes place in Boston. Connecting downtown with Kendall Square in Cambridge, the bridge is located only a few blocks from the Cambridge Brewing Company, which has honored the famous Charles with their Charles River Porter. This is a dark perennial brew which is always offered at the brewpub's facility.
Date Sampled: 4-27-13 At: Legal Harborside, Third Floor, 270 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210, USA
Beer Style: American Porter
Alcohol by Volume: 6.00%
Serving Type: Keg, 16 oz Weizen Glass
Rating: 3.43


Cambridge Brewing's perennial offering pours somewhat smoothly with a moderate amount of carbonation action, giving this brew a fairly thin, quarter inch foam head with a low retention rate, a medium high density, and a slightly creamy texture. This is a clean, clear, and filtered beer with no visible sediment, producing a faint shine in bright light with a deep reddish brown color. This beer shows moderate amounts of lacing.


This beer has a slightly below average strength aroma with a mostly dark roasted malt flavor, emphasizing dark roasted coffee and bold dark chocolate malts. This beer's aroma does not give off any fruity notes, hoppy bitterness, or alcoholic tinge. This beer's dark malt is bittersweet overall, coinciding with the general flavor of the malts used.


This is a medium full bodied beer with a high weight, a high viscosity and a lower level of carbonation. This combination makes this beer pretty smooth and silky, but thick and with substance. This beer is definitely a sipping beer, best in colder temperatures. This is not a refreshing beer, and it finishes with a pretty dry finish. This beer has a thin syrupy smooth texture.


The flavor profile of this beer is dominated with dark coffee espresso malts with some dark roasted chocolate, both of which are bittersweet and fairly balanced overall. This beer has a good amount of sweeter notes toward the beginning, turning bitter at the close which lingers in a mostly dark malt bitter aftertaste. There are no fruity notes and there is no alcohol in the flavor. There is a small amount of trailing hops and a slightly nutty note in the middle of the profile.

Our Take

If you're an avid follower of our nonsensical beer reviews, you'll know that we've already done a review of the cask version of this porter. To be honest, we loved that beer, but only because it was crafted using quite a strong base offering. This porter, though not has balanced or extraordinary, is a very good brew. It is still fairly well balanced offering bold dark roasted malty flavors offset with a bittersweet and nutty mixture overall followed with some light, crisp hops. This is definitely a must try if you find yourself visiting one of America's most decorated brewpubs, especially if you're into darker maltier beers. If not, they have plenty of hoppy brews which should do the trick. But for those of you strolling the Charles looking for a good place to grab a real pint, you've just read about one of our suggestions.