Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

Steelhead Scotch Porter | Mad River Brewing Company

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
very good
229 Reviews
Steelhead Scotch PorterSteelhead Scotch Porter

Brewed by:
Mad River Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: English Porter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
This traditionally styled Porter has complex malt characteristics balanced with a mild hop profile. Scottish smoked and peated malts lend added complexity and a mild smokey flavor.

Added by kbub6f on 01-23-2001

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 229 | Ratings: 329
Photo of Fatehunter
3.8/5  rDev -3.1%

Pours a finger of light tan head on a dark brown body. The aroma is roasted malt and a little chocolate. The taste incredible. Roasted malt, chocolate move to a smoky and woody finish. Only a hint of bitterness. Smooth and soft texture. Excellent flavor profile.

 262 characters

Photo of Dope
4.06/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Bottle just says "steelhead porter", no sign of "scotch" but there's no other porters listed so I'm assuming this to be the same beer.

A: Pours a nice solid brown with a dense, fluffy sort of light brown head. Head fades slowly, leaving great spiderwebs of lacing behind. Quite good retention too.

S: Nice mild roasted malt with a little chocolate and char. A hint of caramel to sweeten it up in fact. Touch of smoke?

T: Nice smooth roasted malt. Again with the chocolate, quite mild with a little char up front. Then turns quite sweet, a nice chocolate syrup flavor into the middle and finish. Smooth and mellow. Pure chocolate between sips. Surprisingly nice.

M: Smooth and medium bodied. Very drinkable.

O: A nice porter. Chocolatey for sure. Very mellow flavors and smooth drinking. Goes down very easy. A great example of a simple english porter.

 857 characters

Photo of illidurit
3.36/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce stubby bottle poured into a pint glass. Pours a dark black-chestnut color with a dense cap of tan head. Aroma is light on the smoke, I get mostly chocolate and toffee. There's a light sourness, hard to put my finger on exactly. Almost like a slight rottenness, but it's too faint to be repulsive. When cold, the flavor and body are actually quite nice. The low temperature adds a viscosity that is rapidly lost with warming. The flavor is dark chocolatey with a whisper of smoke, but the body fails to support this as the beer warms. Very unroasty, strictly porterish. There's no mistaking this for a stout. Negligible bitterness. I've been rather sensitive to astringency lately and thankfully this beer has almost none. I guess it's really not bad for a Mad River beer.

 780 characters

Photo of bubseymour
4.31/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I had a Steelhead Porter (not Scotch Porter) at 6.5 ABV but I didn't see the Porter on this board, so I went with the closest option for review purposes.

Appearance - this was a perfect pour with black color, 3 finger compact bubbled head looking superb in the pint glass

Smell - really nice complex scents with a smokey, chocolatey hoppy presence.

Taste - A wonderful flavorful porter, with really complext and balanced flavors. Nice chocolaty and malty flavors balaced with a slight smokey and slightly hop crispness.

Mouthfeel - Decent but slighty watery for the higher ABV

Overall - this is a superb porter that I really enjoyed and will seek out to buy again. Easy to drink yet quite flavorful...a great combo.

 721 characters

Photo of argock
3.96/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from 12oz brown bottle into a clear pint glass. No freshness date.

A: Deep brown-black with deep tan at the edges. The medium-tan head is attractive with a rising dough character. The lace is haphazard and starts at 2/3 down the glass.

S: A little light with dark chocolate, roasted and burnt malt, and woody barrel aromas present.

T: Definitely a porter with roasted malt, burnt malt, bitter chocolate, and a slight but noticeable smoke note that is enhancing without being overbearing. Sweeter than you'd imagine -- pretty delicious and would go well with sweet onion and barbeque.

M: Chewy and full-bodied with light carbonation and a real porter feel.

D: A really drinkable porter with a light smoke and non-peat note that enhances. Great feel that make sit hard to put down.

 792 characters

Photo of rawfish
3.5/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours black with some brown highlights when held to the light. Capped with a dense three finger high mocha head that subsides slowly leaving small trails of lace.

Smells awfully sweet on the forefront, caramelized and crystal malt blended with coffee. Peat and a smokiness become evident on the back end, pleasant aroma.

Smoky flavor sums it up nicely, very powerful mix of peat and campfire ash, doesn't come off as bright but rather a dank earthy smoke flavor. Sweetness is less than on the nose but that suits me just fine, more deep roasted malts and burnt and toasted grains. Coffee and chocolate flavors aren't really felt here replaced with more of a soft molasses and nutty flavor. Aftertaste is a bit harsh, as some nice medicinal and herbal hop flavors begin to settle in with the drying bitterness there is another rush of smoke and acidity accompanying it which leads to an off flavored mess in the finish.

Rather creamy mouthfeel across the palate, average porter body with stinging carbonation. After the drink there is acidity along with a slick sweetness.

I guess this should be characterized more as a smoked porter than a scotch porter, there is the peat notes which come with the style but the smokiness and acidity in the aftertaste here just take over the whole brew and it's all I can remember. Pleasant in the beginning but I'd take this pill with some food next time.

 1,395 characters

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

Review from BeerAdvocate magazine Vol. II Issue VII:

Scotch Porter? Yeah, that's what you get when you blend an English Porter (dark and robust) with a Scotch Ale (sweet and caramelly), and then decide to add some Scottish peated malt (intensely smoky) and German rauch malt (smooth and smoky) to further confuse palates around the world. That said, some of the most confused beers tend to be the tastiest.

Pours a dark, rich, opaque brown with a brief cascading carbonation effect that produces a thick, creamy, beige head, which sticks to the glass and retains a healthy looking lace. Brown breads, freshly malted milk, and a soft smoky and roasty malt aroma. Full, even, thick body with a smooth mouthfeel and prickly carbonation around the edges that helps lifts things a bit. Sweet upfront--not overwhelming though--with caramel candy, carob and buttered brown bread. A bit robust and roasty, with some mild coffee notes too. Throughout the experience there's a slight tangy smoke character, hint of char and a smoothed out peat that's laid down on the foundation. Hop character is moderate, with some spice, leaf, and slight citric snap that rides off the carbonation. Finishes with a semi-bourbonesque quality (less the heat), followed by dry lingering grain, carob and a soft peat linger.

Last time we tried this beer was back in 2003. Although things seem to have been refined, that's not necessarily a bad thing, as the beer remains unique, complex and fun on the taste buds. If you're a fan of Porters, Scotch Ales, bourbons, or any combo of the three ... you need to buy and try this beer.

 1,604 characters

Photo of cokes
3.8/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark, dark brown. Treated with ruby too, all around the edges. The head is compacted, groping, and tan.
Hops dominate the aroma. No mistaking where this is from. Piney grapefruits. But mostly pine. Smoky backing.
Begins sweet and roasty with caramel injected coffee. Lingers here for a moment or two. Lightly earthy, smoky twinges. But, really, this showcases the hops. Pine boxes and breakfast juice. All grapefruity and foresty. Lightly resinous, but lacks the sticking properties. As it warms, the earthy hues replicate. Like boggy toffee. But still, the hopping dominates.
This weighs in around medium, but seems to thin where it should fatten.
All told, its a good, unbalanced, west-coast-styled porter. But when "Scotch" is placed on the label, I expect it to come to fruition. And it doesn't really here.

 817 characters

Photo of jsh420
2.3/5  rDev -41.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

pours dark brown with tons of floaties - 1 finger head that left some spotted lacing

smells like a brown - roasted and caramel malts

taste - wow there is an off flavor in this - and it is very medicinal which i think might be the hops???

mouthfeel is thin and i mean watery thin plus the kicker its over carbonated

overall - a complete mess but glad i only grabbed a single

 378 characters

Photo of wedge
4.25/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Opaque, deep rusty brown with a creamy, two-finger head. Pleasant roasted malt aroma with a smoky edge...chocolate dominant and a hint of fruitiness. More roasted malts in the flavor but very well balanced...malted milk, peat, earth, and smoke with a pleasant sweetness throughout. Smooth, easy drinking mouthfeel, a little chewy, but medium bodied.

Very enjoyable all around and obviously a high quality beer.

 413 characters

Photo of beergoot
3.53/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Nice brown body with a thick, chunky faint tan head; sticky lacing. Dark malt and cocoa in the smell. Bitter chocolate and sugary sweetness make up the bulk of the taste; some sweet caramel and a soothing, light bitterness builds up at the end of the taste. Medium-light in body; clean with a lightly sugary finish.

A fair porter that delivers on the basics. Nothing over-the-top, and no real wow-factor, but very enjoyable overall.

 433 characters

Photo of alexgash
4.38/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark, blackish, and cloudy with sediment. Medium-big, fluffy, brown head.
Peaty, smoky aromas; charred cedar logs, a touch of dark coffee, all underlaid by sweet, roasty malts.
Tastes much like it smells. Smoky elements stand out (yum), with whiskey and fruit also coming through. Roasty-sweet throughout with bitter dark chocolate into the finish. Finish is bitter (but not terribly) and earthy, with some lingering fruity malt. Big bodied; somewhat creamy feel. Delicious.

 476 characters

Photo of ADZA
3.83/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Love a hybrid brew and keen for this one which pours the darkest brown non see through hue with a creamy two finger head and subtle clingy lacing,the smell is peated smokey malts,dark chocolate and roasted caramel,the mouthfeel is medium bodied with above moderate carbonation and on taste it starts off like a scotch ale and finishes like a porter with tastes first up of smokey peated malts,a touch of whiskey,roasted caramel,a dash of coffee liqueur and finished with a dark chocolate bittersweetness and overall it's definitely half scotch ale and half porter which works and I for one enjoyed it and buy again without doubt cheers.

 636 characters

Photo of Brent
4.3/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I bought this as a single and the bottle only notes that it is a porter (albiet with the label showing a Scottish tartan design under the word "porter," perhaps that should have been my clue?). Even without knowledge that this was sort of a hybred, I was struck by the interesting, smokey nature of the malt and an undercurrent of unsweetened cocoa powder. None of the cardboard mustyness that all too often plagues porter malts. Very nicely done.

 447 characters

Photo of PorterLambic
4.32/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Nearly black with hints of orange at the thinnest edges. Big tan head when poured straight down th midlle of a pint glass (dumb) but some waterfalling for a few seconds. Head rops to a clumpy foam after a few minutes.
Smells of roasted malt, coffee, peat, wood (not oak), light smoke, caramel and maybe vanilla though very faint.
Taste is all of the above with some alcohol.
Warming throughout the mouth and upper throat. Smooth, light effervescence, light side of medium body, slightly watery finish. The mouthfeel was the only weak spot in this brew, otherwise it was excellent.

 580 characters

Photo of sulldaddy
3.61/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I pour this chilled sample into my pint glass. Gotta love the label with salmon flying around.
The brew pours extremely dark brown almost black. No light gets through my glass. A tan head foams up easily to about 1cm. The head fades rather quickly to a thin suface layer.
Aroma is very rich and malty, some bourbony scents and faint hints of smoke too. I dont pick up any hops.
First sip reveals sharpo carbonation and a medium bodie brew. The flavor is malty sweet caramel and chocolate up front with a little oaky, earthy, bourbon in the middle. FInish is a little empty with not too much flavor. There is a very mild caramel flavor left in my mouth but very faint.
No hops on the flavor in my opinion. This is a nice brew but I wish it was a little thicker and had a stronger finish. Good flavors to drink on a cold winter's nite just not very strong.

 861 characters

Photo of merlin48
3.88/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark chestnut body with a small tan head. Good retention and some patchy lacing on the glass. Aroma of milk chocolate and a hint of smoke. Medium body with subdued medium carbonation. Taste is chocolate malt, hints of burnt coffee, vanilla, and a note of fruity hops. No smokiness in the flavor. A decent American porter.

 329 characters

Photo of tgbljb
3.5/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured a deep reddish brown color with moderate tannish chunky head. Nice lacing noted. Smell is of roasted malt and dark fruit. Taste starts off roasty and coffee-like, but a strong dryness begins to show through. Finish is on the very dry side, and is a bit too strong because it completely overpowers any malt taste. An OK beer, but not one that I will revisit.

 364 characters

Photo of Todd
4.18/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz short brown bottle. No freshness date.

Hmm ... a "Scotch Porter." Let's see what we've got here:

A meaty looking beer. Brown, but it's so dark it's nearly black, topped with a creamy coffee coloured head with unfiltered chunks dancing beneath it. A sticky and awesome level of head retention this beer has. Citric, smokey, woody with aromas of freshly milled malt.

Hell yeah! Big, smooth, chewy, malty mouthfeel. Initial flavours range from coffee, caramel, toffee, molasses, distinct and standout-ish peat/smoke character, plenty of dry chocolate, wood, earth and notes of black currant and purple grapes. This complex burst on the palate is immediately followed by a bitter splash of sharp citrus, a moderate amount of hop spice, salt, leaf flavours and notes of grass that cut through the hearty malts, providing balance and all of that stuff. Smoke remains after the hop fire, and lingers into, through and after the finish with notes of grain that dry the palate to the bone. Smoke gets amplified as the beer warms.

Boo-yah! I'd rename this beer to "Smoked Porter," but that's just me. Regardless, this is a very interesting beer, and I like their approach at brewing a more traditional Porter (whatever that means these days). Oddly complex. Tasty. Intriguing. I want more.

 1,296 characters

Photo of 57md
3.91/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours brown in color with little head. Nose is definitely roasty, but it is not super impressive. This a a solid classic porter - roasted malt upfront with a bitter malt finish. This is a respectable effort and the yield is a solid session porter even if the abv is a bit high for those purposes.

For me, it is certainly a positive bonus that this offering is proudly union made by brothers and sisters in the IAM.

 415 characters

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

This appeals to me...a Scotch Porter...sounds good as I don't think I've had one before. That probably equates to adding a little peat-smoked malt to liven things up. This one pours out to a hazy very deep mahogany, forming a modest dark tan head with fair retention and decent lacing. I was expecting a gusher, as there was a huge gust of gunsmoke upon opening, but no such harm followed. The aroma is exactly what I would think of as a Scotch Porter....the porter characteristics are there with milk chocolate, heavily roasted grains and a semi-baltic character with some faint figs and dates, mixed with the heavy amber and syrupy malts of a Scotch Ale and a twing of smoke. This all adds up to "Nice...". The carbonation is moderate. The mouthfeel is a little spritzy for the style with a medium body..it smells heavier than the body actually is, but retains an oily sheen. The taste begins with some grassy hops followed by bittersweet chocolate, vanilla, black walnut, and a touch of soap. There is a very brief glimpse of fusels in the middle, but they quickly retreat and don't get worse with warming. There is too much hops in the finish, akin to a Stone Smoked Porter or more appropriately, a Sierra Nevada. This is good, but quickly wears on the palate, hampering it's drinkability. As a matter of fact, this is very close to a Stone Smoke Porter in all qualities. The finish is of wood and black walnut. No perceptable off-flavors not already mentoned. The yeast character tastes either like California Common or Munton & Fison (It's heavily cemented in the bottom of the bottle)

This is a very good brew, but perhaps a little too much for me tonight. As a single, this would be much better. The hops just don't *feel* right. I normally could drink "good" porters all-night long, but I'd be hard pressed to do it with this one. Despite this, it's still a very good brew, just minimally sessionable.

 1,913 characters

Photo of dsa7783
4.35/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: A hefty pour yielded a pitch-black, ebony hue with a creamy and frothy tan head...
Smell: Thick aroma of dark-chocolates and strong lattes...
Taste: Robust, creamy flavor... Roasted malts, mocha, espresso... Rich chocolate... I like this stuff...
Creamy, rich, thick mouthfeel...
Easily drinkable too...
Great stuff...

 330 characters

Photo of CaptDavyJones
4.05/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured a really dark brown color from a 12 oz bottle. Almost pitch black once it is in the glass, and a lot of visible sediment floating around the edges till it finally settles.
One finger tan head that dissipates very quickly.
Aroma is high on chocolate, malt (more like chocolate malt balls) with hints of roasted coffee.
Taste upfront is slightly sweet, with the sweetness slowly consumed by a hint of bitterness in the finish. Surprisingly inspite of the bitterness, the finish is a nice lingering sweetness.
This is a very delicious porter. Medium bodied and easy to drink.
Definitely worth a try.

 608 characters

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

The beer poured black with ruby highlights. The head was brown and fell slowly. It laced the glass.

The aroma was chocolate with caramel in the background. Also in the aroma was some fruitiness.

The flavor was chocolate and coffee with hop bitterness in the background. Also present was a complex smokiness that enhances the flavor.

The finish was dry coffee and chocolate. The body was medium.

12 ounce bottle. I would not particularly stick this in the smoked beer style, more of a porter.

 503 characters

Photo of flexabull
4.33/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I think this is an excellent porter. Not really at all like a normal american porter more like a british style porter This isn't overly dark in color... more of a lighter brown color. The main flavor is much more malty than hoppy and It has a smokey like finish to it that is quite subtle and nice.

 298 characters

Steelhead Scotch Porter from Mad River Brewing Company
3.92 out of 5 based on 329 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer FestĀ® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!