Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine and select auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Payback Porter - Speakeasy Ales & Lagers

Not Rated.
Payback PorterPayback Porter

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

84 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 84
Hads: 258
Avg: 3.92
pDev: 16.84%
Wants: 18
Gots: 40 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
American Porter |  7.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Murchmac on 12-21-2009

American hops provide a smooth distraction for Payback Porter’s robust strength, which is concealed within the shadows of dark imported malts. Brewed with English chocolate malts and rolled oats, this Robust Porter pours a deep chocolate brown and is rich in roasted malt aromas and coffee flavors. With notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, and sweet, toasted maltiness, Payback finishes with a creamy mouthfeel.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 84 | Hads: 258
Photo of JizackFH
3.83/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had on-tap at Sunswick 35/35 in Astoria, NY on 2/14/12.

Review taken from notes.

This beer pours a really dark brown color. There is about a finger of tan head resting on top. The head has good retention, and there is some nice lace left behind on the glass. The nose has a good amount of roasted malt. There are some nice aromas of chocolate, coffee, and toffee. Also, I am getting just a little bit of hop presence. The taste pretty much follows the nose. It starts off with a good dose of roasted malt. There are flavors of chocolate and coffee that follow. There are also a little bit of dark fruit flavors, as well as some toffee, and some mild earthy hop flavor. the finish leaves some lingering roasted malt, coffee, and chocolate behind on the palate. This has a medium body and good carbonation. It goes down easy and has a nice slimy smooth feel to it. There is some initial sweetness and a good amount of roasted malt bitterness. Also, there is some earthy hop presence. This has good drinkability. It goes down good, and the flavor is nice. Overall, I think it is a good beer and a nice example of a porter. I enjoyed this one, and I recommend checking it out. It's worth trying. I'd drink it again.

 1,214 characters

Photo of flexabull
3.95/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep and dark brown color with a pretty nice off white head, decent lacing too.

Aromas are of chocolate, light coffee, and earth hops.

Taste is of chocolate, coffee beans, cocoa, and heavily roasted grains and malts. Finish is crisp and dry with earthy hop bitterness. Fairly hoppy for a porter.

Mouthfeel is crisp, with decent body, the carbonation is a bit sharp though and could be toned down a notch.

Overall this is a nice robust and hoppy porter. Would happily drink this one again. 

 502 characters

Photo of Philousa
2.78/5  rDev -29.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Sits black with half a finger tan head in the glass. Chocolate, sweet caramel, a little hop aroma. Sweet chocolate flavor fades to bitter chocolate, burnt grain, some tart, bitter flavors on the back end. Mouthfeel is middling, but it felt a bit under carbonated.

This is a big meh for me. I'm not much for the uber malty beers in the first place, but this really just didn't stand out to me. Some hop characteristics or maybe a yeast that produces better carbonation would really help this beer. Not sure if I'd get this one again.

 533 characters

Photo of biegaman
4.12/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Payback Porter might appear on first glance black, but it's actually more of deep brown - opaque, to be sure - but closer to a black tea than a black coffee, as the colourful mahogany trim around its edges would attest. A great big head blossomed from the pour but modestly trimmed itself back to the point where its only found along the perimeter.

The aroma has plenty of bittersweet character, its roasted malts practically doubling for milk chocolate and coffee, but it also has an underlying fruity component, a black cherry-like note, and a zesty, somewhat pine-y hoppiness that could easily be overlooked given all the roastiness. It certainly grabs the nostrils' attention quickly and keeps them entertained.

And the taste is no less captivating. It has the flavour and texture of chocolate milk, albeit with a coffee-ish roast character and some lingering hops. Almost like a palindrome, if we rearrange the flavour to read "milk chocolate" it'd be equally accurate. Indeed, this has a bit of lactose sweetness and plenty of gooey, sweetened chocolate. This thing drinks as though it were 5% (not 7.5%) and offers a flavour profile that is robust without being over the top.

The roast malts are dry and lightly sooty, where as the hops have a definitive West-coast zestiness. The finish is interesting as it combines dry, roasty, bitter and near-spicy elements. A very low carbonation allows for such a smooth, unwrinkled profile that showcases biscuity-like maltiness, green and very minty hops as well as a toffee-like lingering aftertaste.

As for as I'm concerned, Speakeasy's reputation has been dealt a shorthand; sure, they may not be the most creative or iconic brewery in and around the Bay Area - an area of rich history replete with quality microbreweries - but they do produce a solid lineup of core brands that offer quality, flavour and character on par with any other Californian outlet.

 1,917 characters

Photo of DavoleBomb
3.83/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Brought back from my recent trip to SF. Poured into a pint glass.

4.0 A: Black color. Two fingers of pillowy light brown head with average retention and a good bit of lacing.

3.5 S: Roasty with moderate coffee and chocolate component. Biscuity overall with light caramel sweetness. Smells pretty good other than a faint "industrial" aroma, that may or may not stem from the hops, which are mainly earthy and barely citrusy.

4.0 T: The taste is like the nose, but with different proportions. Equally roasty and sweet. Roasted coffee flavors offset by sweet dark caramel. Mild bitterness with earthy hop flavor. Again there's the industrial component. Not sure what it actually is. No hints of booze at all.

3.5 M: Lighter medium to medium body. Carbonation is a bit more aggressive than I'd like. Reasonably creamy and smooth overall.

4.0 D: A couple categories were borderline next step up. If not for strange "industrial vibe" this brew gives off, it would be a very tasty one. Still, not a bad beer and I would drink it again.

 1,033 characters

Photo of UCLABrewN84
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours an almost opaque dark crimson brown color with a 1 inch khaki head that fades to a very thin cap. Random blotches of lacing form around the glass on the drink down. Smells mainly of dark roasted malts with some minor coffee and chocolate aromas. Taste is of dark roasted malt, cocoa powder, and roasted coffee. There is an acidic citrus twang on the palate after each sip. Medium bodied with a crisp and smooth mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good porter with a nice taste and mouthfeel. Also my first beer from Speakeasy which is weird since I go to SF a lot and drink other brews from the area (RR, Anchor) often.

 626 characters

Photo of kojevergas
4.1/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle into an An Brainblasta goblet in the Porterhouse Central, Dublin. Reviewed from notes. Note that I'm a sucker for porters and stouts.

A: Two finger tan head of lovely cream and thickness. Black colour.

Sm: Cream, caramel, coffee alcohol. Delightfully complex.

T: Cream open shifts to coffee and caramel build with roasted barley and malt body. Cream is present on the finish as well. Well built and balanced. Complex but bold and innovative. I quite like it.

Mf: Nicely coarse for the style, but not quite dry enough.

Dr: Hides its ABV well, but far from worth the price, at least in Dublin. Surely the price would be better stateside, and I hope to try more brews from this brewery in the future.

 728 characters

Photo of azdback
4.07/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to dgb3 for this extra. Poured into my custom etched dead man's hand pint glass. Very dark in color. I would say dark brown and not black. A bit of light gets through at the edges. Huge cocoa colored head that started out at about three fingers. Very frothy and sticky. Lace is sticky as well, for now.

The smell is fantastic Deep rich, roasted malts that come as chocolate covered coffee beans. A bit of tart. Almost the nose of a well crafted stout, but not quite.

The taste is about like the smell. Dark roasted flavors, coffee beans, just a hint of chocolate and defiantly tart taste. A lot more Porter here that the smell gave off. Kind of like a light Stout (okay that is kinda what a Porter is).

The mouth is a bit dry and hollow but I can't complain for it being a Porter and not as the nose led me, a Stout. It is why the style, in my opinion is a stepping stone to the Stouts that so many of us love.

Over all I enjoyed this extra from dgb3. The appearance and smell was the best part of this but I can't complain about any of this one. Recommended!!

 1,072 characters

Photo of funkymuppet
3.88/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

For me, this was pretty close to being very good - there's a gret burnt taste into the beer, and I don't find anything overpowering - a little on the sweet side for my taste, but a great porter, and something verging on a stout almost if it was a bit smoother. I made an competition-winning oatmeal stout recently, and the taste is very similar to this - just the stout had more body from the oats I think. Would get more of this.

 430 characters

Photo of metter98
3.95/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer is very dark amber (near black) in color and has a light amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger high tan head the faded away and left some lacing in the center of the glass along with a ring of bubbles around the edge.
S: There are aromas of roasted malts in the nose.
T: The taste is similar to the smell and has flavors of roasted malts and coffee. There is a light amount of bitterness in the finish.
M: It feels light- to medium-bodied on the palate and has a low to moderate amount of carbonation. There are some hints of dryness in the finish.
D: The beer is very easy to drink and hides its alcohol well.

 639 characters

Photo of bigfnjoe
4.02/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass

A- pours jet black with a thick, two finger brown head. The lacing is minimal, which is a little disappointing

S- really strong smelling chocolate with subtle hints of coffee in there. Getting a slight hoppy character as well

T- tons of roasted malt, almost to the point where it's burnt. Pretty bitter coffee flavor too.

M- pretty thick, but not enough to choke you. Thank god

D- it's a little too bitter, and maybe not balanced enough IMO. I'd like a lot more chocolate flavors out of this one. Regardless, it's a solid porter, but it's a little strong for a porter at 7.5%

 620 characters

Photo of negroobserver
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

UPDATE- 2/3/11

I just bought a bottle, my original review below was a beer from tap.

This time, I noticed strong smoky chocolate notes in the smell and taste of the beer. Great stuff.



First time I've tried this and I was very happy with it. I was enjoying the beer with food, so I am a little reluctant to rate it too highly. The beer has a nice dark color (almost black) with very little light penetrating the glass. I could smell the barley and the dark malt. The taste is also very malty and a bit sweet. It has a rich body with chocolate undertones. I would totally drink this again and would love to have another right now.


 667 characters

Photo of Ghenna
4.12/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Super hard pour yields a half inch cola colored head atop a typical dark porter.

Really nice coffee/roasted malt/dark chocolte smell on the nose. Not at all acrid.

Very mellow flavor- excellent for a porter. Roasty, but lacking any real harshness or tanins. Milk chocolate, dark malt, no hint of alcohol at all. Super nice.

Medium in terms of MF, which lends itself to drinkability. Really nice example of what a regular porter/stout should be.

 449 characters

Photo of smakawhat
3.91/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2009 aged Hunter's Porter poured on tap resembling a nice tan head with a simple dark walnut body. Very nice head that remains throughout with minimal lace.

The bouquet on this is very muted and closed however. THere is a faint malt and some very faint burnt char notes but not much else to speak of.

Luckily upon tasting the beer opens up. Great malt softness in mid palate with a giant big milk chocolate finish. Elements of soft toffee and great velvet feel. Great tasting on tap brew!

 490 characters

Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.95/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Charred pecan brown that appears to be opaque when backlit with the overcast morning sky outside my front window. The upper third of the glass is filled with a chunky dollop of pale caramel colored foam that looks good in all ways that matter. Lovely lace too.

American hops and dark malts are a wonderful combination. Actually, American hops and *anything* are a wonderful combination. Each sniff delivers lots of chocolate, roasted barley and citrus zest. Good things are expected on taste bud submersion.

Despite being slightly thinner than it ought to be, Payback Porter is tasty beer if you like fruity-hoppy American porters. The ABV would have been easy to estimate even though no alcohol per se is appreciated in the flavor profile. Hopefully, warming will bring a little more depth and complexity, although this isn't a style that succeeds or fails on that particular litmus test.

Specific flavors include bittersweet chocolate, roasted coffee beans, dark caramel, citrus (primarily grapefruit) zest and pine. In other words, pretty much what was expected. A moderate sweetness is easily exceeded by a crisp, finishing nip of bitterness. The taste score is a tweener (the higher was chosen), but the drinkability score is rock-solid.

More size, more lush creaminess and harder working carbonation would have improved this offering in the mouthfeel department. Despite a barely audible 'pffft' on crown cracking, the beer was far from flat, but it still could have been more expansive.

In my experience, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers brews beer that ranges from pretty good to solidly good. Payback Porter is much closer to the latter. What the hell, I would have no trouble at all laying out the cash for another bomber if the opportunity presents itself.

 1,764 characters

Photo of GarthDanielson
4.08/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bomber into a pint glass. The beer pours a nice jet black color with a thin, light brown head. Good, heavy smells of malt, caramel, and just the slightest bit of coffee. Initial flavors of coffee and sweet caramel or molasses, flowing on a rounded, full body. There is an extremely smooth finish, with the slightest aftertaste of malt. This is an insanely easy beer to drink. Well done!

 405 characters

Photo of Xul
3.95/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours dark brown with some deep ruby highlights when held up to the light, capped by two fingers of foamy, mocha colored head. Retention is good as the head recedes slowly, leaving moderate lacing down the glass.

S: Rich coffee up front followed by bittersweet chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla and caramel. Very robust aroma that isn't overly complex but hits the right spots for a good porter.

T: Opens up with coffee and roasted malts, before moving into some semisweet chocolate on the mid-palate. An acrid character comes in just after the chocolate that's just a bit too strong, before leading to a finish with some faint dark fruits, caramel, and roasted malts.

M: Medium to full bodied with low to moderate, velvty carbonation.

D: If not for the acrid bitterness, this would be a great, sessionable porter. Still good, but doesn't quite reach its full potential.

 878 characters

Photo of OakedCanuck
3.63/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle into pint glass. Extra from dgb3, thanks!

This beer poured a light black to very dark brown with visible edging. Very nice fluffy medium khaki head with minimal lacing. It smelled a roasty with some smoke and burnt malt. The taste was roasted coffee and chocolate, some of the smoke and fairly bitter. The hops are most noticeable on the back end. The mouthfeel was medium and kinda thin. This porter is decent, not the best but a good offering and easy to drink.

 476 characters

Photo of drabmuh
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Duvel tulip. Beer is brown to black and mostly clear at the corners with a decent head and some lacing.

Aroma is smoky, pretty smoky but after the smoke there is a nice Brett c character to the whole thing, almost a citrusy sourness to it. Pretty awesome if you ask me.

Beer is light and I don't know if this was infected but the funk character coming from the Brett is playing well with the smokiness of it. I like this beer, not at all what I expected.

 470 characters

Photo of willjschmidt
4.2/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap at Rosamunde in SF.

A: Pours a near jet black with tan head.

S: Roasted malt, bitter chocolate.

T: This is a very good porter. Excellent roasted flavors, malt and chocolate. Bitter baking chocolate along with a hint of espresso. All the flavors meld and mesh very well together.

M: Medium bodied.

D: A very good and very drinkable porter. I would have this again for sure.

 385 characters

Photo of kbuff13
2.96/5  rDev -24.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured out of a 22 oz. bomber. Poured a very dark brown almost black. Very little head that quickly faded and not much lacing. Very heavily roasted flavor. A little bit too bitter for my taste. Not a bad beer overall but I don't this I would go out of my way to buy it again.

 275 characters

Photo of afksports
3.82/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had this on tap at Standings in August exactly one beer before I had my first ever Bourbon County Brand Stout (also on-tap). Needless to say, this wasn't my most memorable beer of the evening. However, I do remember a drunken train ride home.

This struck me at first as average for a well-done porter. That is to say, if you're used to drinking American craft, this isn't going to stand out. If you're used to drinking Bud, it'll blow your mind.

In appearance it's dark brown, with a tan head. Relatively bubbly. It smells of burnt malts, chocolate, coffee. Sweet. The taste follows the nose, and manages to keep some hops involved in the sweetness. Too bad the mouthfeel isn't as big as you'd hope with the malts and carbonation that's present. Drinkable, but maybe not my first choice porter.

 797 characters

Photo of mactrail
4.08/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Inky dark ale with rich roasted flavors.

Not quite black color in the glass with reddish on the edges. Hops are tasty without being excessive. Dark roasted malts with nutty flavors and a touch of bitterness, like Brazil nuts. Fruitcake richness yet only a touch of sweetness. The stronger alcohol content goes nicely with the robust flavors.

Well-balanced flavorful porter. Hard to find fault. My favorite Speakeasy beer to date.

 432 characters

Photo of seand
3.56/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a very dark brown, near black, with a huge foamy tan head. A fair amount retains fairly well and leave lots of lacing.

S: Roasted malt with coffee and brown sugar notes, as well as a touch of booze.

T: Malty but not all that sweet; it has a bit of a black liquorice flavor going on. Somewhat bitter towards the end, finishes quite dry.

M: Light to medium body, much lighter than I expected. Fairly low carbonation, leading to an overall effect that's a little watery.

D: The light body and lack of intense sweetness or bitterness tend towards drinkable, but the flavor and ABV hold it back from being sessionable.

 626 characters

Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.85/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Picked this up on Haight St after the barleywine festival.

Pours out a sturdy dark brown onto the desert playa. Seems to have ample carbonation and head. Was worried about freshness, but a vibrant coffee, hops and chocolate aroma still bursted from this one.

Taste, man, total porter/cascadian dark ale hybrid I guess. Very hoppy, a little more thin on the mouthfeel from the malt perspective, of some porters. Being that I drank this about 4 months after purchase, I was worried about the hopping. Man, it was still huge. Price at $6 for a 22 was more than I wanted to pay, and the beer is probably challenging to those outside of its niche, but I would definitely have it again. Not sure how it differs from their blacktop iba though. Both good.

 749 characters

Payback Porter from Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
88 out of 100 based on 84 ratings.