"Venice For Your Feet"

Brewery and Country of Origin: Harpoon Brewery of 306 Northern Avenue, Seaport District, Boston, MA 02210, USA

Date Reviewed: 1-16-14

Located in the southwestern tip of Germany, the Black Forest is a region noted for its mountains, expansive forest, and folk tradition. Covering a rectangular tract of land about the same size as Delaware, this heavily wooded part of the country is full of rivers and streams that flow within the continental divide, separating the drainage basins of the Atlantic Ocean, and the Black Sea. One of these rivers is the Dreisam, which starts in the agricultural town of Kirchzarten and serves as a tributary to the Elz, which eventually flows into the famous Rhine. This 18 mile long river also serves as the water supply for the Black Forest's largest city, Freiburg, home to the famous Freiburg Bachle. Bach means stream in German, and the "le" suffix indicates a diminutive characteristic. The Freiburg Bachle are a system of in-street runnels which ran down the middle of the streets as the city's primary water supply. Estimated to be originally constructed in the 12th century for firefighting and delivering fresh to the city, the Bachle were used extensively by the Freiburgers in every day life until the late 1800s, when water mains, fire hydrants, and other modern water systems were beginning to become commonplace in Europe. They were (and still are) cleaned regularly and anyone seen polluting them in any way was severely penalized, even during the Medieval period. Over the centuries, the Bachle helped save cathedrals, stores, homes, and entire city blocks, even after water pipes weren't working (for example, during the British raid Operation Tiger Fish during WWII, when the underground water network was destroyed by bombers). In response to various traffic related accidents, the city moved the Bachle to the sides of streets in 1852, and some were replaced with pipes or covered with metal plates to much local opposition. About 100 years later, debate among Freiberg sprang up about their future. Various accidents involving both vehicles and pedestrians continuously threatened the fate of the urban streams, until the city center of Freiburg was officially made a pedestrian/tram zone in 1973. Because the city's population regarded the miniature stone rivers as a landmark and an appealing unique amenity, major work was done to improve and restore them. Previously closed and covered Bachle were reopened and the whole system was cleaned, coinciding with new legislation that mandated proper maintenance of them (like sidewalks, property owners were charged with maintaining the segments in front of their building). Today, they are among Freiburg's most famous attractions. Kids play with toy ducks and boats in the current, and the presence of certain water life is testament to the water's high quality. And though they've been around for almost 900 years, people still end up falling in them, sometimes suing the city. It is of local superstition that if one falls or accidentally steps into one, they'll end up marrying a Freiburger. Like the Bachle, this imperial porter from Harpoon's Beer Hall is a thing of beauty. This porter is only known to a small group of people, who know it as an employee homebrew from within the corridors of brewing. But when it's discovered, you realize what you've been missing. And unless you carelessly climb up the fermentation tanks, you can't fall into this beer, but the Black Forest's nearly 10% ABV can also hurt you. Still, you'll find that if you slow down to take in its quirks and appreciate its existence, this porter, like the tiny streams of Freiburg, is something you'll really enjoy.
Date Sampled: 11-14-13 At: Harpoon Beer Hall, Harpoon Brewery, 306 Northern Avenue, Seaport District, Boston, MA 02210, USA
Beer Style: American Imperial Porter
Alcohol by Volume: 9.80%
Serving Type: Brewery Keg, 16 oz Snifter Glass
Rating: 3.43


Harpoon's limited run beer pours smoothly with a moderately low amount of carbonation action that generates a three quarters inch tall foam head with a medium high density, an average retention, and a tan color. This beer has a dark, opaque appearance and a deep red color with no shine or glow even in bright light. There is no visible sediment in this beer, which is possibly occluded by the dark color. This beer shows some effervescent settling, as well as a moderately high amount of lacing on the glass.


This porter has a deep roasted sweet and bitter wood like aroma with some slightly smoky undertones and a good amount of earthy nuttiness and coffee mocha. This beer contains mostly dark and bold roasted malt with a fair amount of caramel sweetness and some biscuity cookie like notes. The aroma finishes with a good amount of citrusy hops. This beer's aroma is medium in strength overall and contains no fruity or alcoholic notes, despite an elevated ABV. There is no cherry hint in the aroma.


This is a medium full bodied brew with a good deal of weight, an above average viscosity, and a medium low level of carbonation content. The finish contains some alcohol induced warming, and offers no refreshment albeit with a subtle crisp and slightly dry, but mostly dull finish. This is definitely a sipping beer which is not easy to drink quickly. Smooth overall, with no added texture from a low level of carbonation, or any possible sediment.


The flavor is full of roasted smoky dark malt with a good amount bitter dark chocolate and sweetness from a toffee or cookie like secondary. The taste also contains a fair bit of coffee and a big earthy tone with some apparent nuttiness. There is no real cherry flavor, and the only fruity notes come from a hint of citrusy, yet dull hops. This beer's aftertaste contains a good amount of roasted bitter malt with some dryness and an average linger.

Our Take

This is a robust beer which will easily satiate the cravings of any malty porter fanatic. Originally crafted as an employee homebrew contest submission, this chocolately beer is labeled as a cherry infused beverage, which one really can't tell without knowing. Still, this hearty brew has plenty of substance and flavor to offer, and while it is not widely available, it's definitely a must try for any dark beer enthusiast if they happen to stop by Harpoon's Beer Hall. Overall, this is a hefty sipping beer with a relatively high amount of alcohol content which would probably score better if the word "cherry" wasn't used in its name. This sweeter beer goes great with desserts and mellow cheeses, and we'd imagine it'd be great with one of Harpoon's spent grain pretzels as well.