Payback Porter | Speakeasy Ales & Lagers

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Payback PorterPayback Porter

Brewed by:
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
California, United States

Style: American Porter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by Murchmac on 12-21-2009

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Reviews: 91 | Ratings: 282
Photo of oberon
3.98/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a deep chocolate brown with huby highlights,a creamy one finger tan colored head atop that never really left.Sweeter chcolate notes along with almost a cookie dough element to it,not overly roasted in the nose.Slightly sharp in the mouth,not overly annoying but it's noticable.A nice mix of sweet and roast on the palate,starts out with some chocolate and molasses then melds into a roasty dryer finish that lingers.A solid porter from a brewery that I miss,I can't get their stuff here in NC.

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

A: Poured from the bomber into a pint glass. Body is black with a big (2-finger) chocolate-brown head. Good thick rings of lace left behind.

S: Not a terribly strong nose: some chocolate malt and roasted barley malt.

T: Follows the nose, more or less: good chocolate malt sweetness, some roasty flavors (roasted barley, hint of coffee). Not as "burnt" as is often the case with porters; this one's more on the sweeter side. Also some dark chocolate/cacao. Finishes with some decent roasty bitterness, however, providing nice balance. Lingering roastiness on the palate. The 7.5% ABV isn't really noticed at all.

M: Medium in heft, good carbonation.

O: Good stuff. I haven't been overly impressed with the Speakeasy beers I've had so far, but this is good for the style. Reminds me of a Black IPA a little.

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Photo of jimilayne
3.04/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a bottle into a chalice glass.

Beautiful chocolate appearance with a big thick cola head.

Major popcorn butter in the nose with some caramel mixed in. Very unique.

Tastes of melted butter with hints of coffee. Very rich. The buttery taste starts to wear on you about halfway through.

Nice touch of carbonation gives a very subtle bite but its very oily.

Interesting. Never really had anything like this. While reviewing this beer I've just been informed that the popcorn butter quality is considered a flaw. I love Speakeasy beers but won't go back to this one.

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Photo of Lawl3ss
4.09/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Chilled 22 oz. bomber into a shaker pint. No decipherable bottling date.

Look- Opaque ruby brown, two fingers of whipped hot cocoa-colored foam. Decent retention, good lacing.

Smell- Bold, very bold. Fresh-ground French roast and hot chocolate, vanilla, sarsaparilla, dark bitter coffeelike acidic twang. Plenty of dark malt without overdoing the dry, acidic patent feel. Fairly sweet, makes me think of whipped cream or marshmallows.

Taste- Roasty, oat-y, bootstrap molasses, some charred bread crust. Bitter, almost funky tinge towards the end. Light sweetness. Reminds me of Tootsie rolls and baker's chocolate at the same time. Definitely some wet-kilned malt here. Light, mellow finish that steps through black coffee, graham cracker, baked Alaska, and whipped cream. Aftertaste is of cappuccino foam. Overall, light flavor for the style, but very well balanced and tasty. ABV well hidden.

Mouthfeel- Medium-full body, moderate carbonation comes out on the sip. Smooth on the swallow. Drinks like iced coffee with a decent dose of half&half. Quite drinkable.

Overall- Pretty good. Lighter that I usually like, but they do an extremely good job of keeping the sweetness in check. Bitterness is spot-on and comes off like dark roast coffee or dark chocolate. Definitely worth trying.

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

22 oz bomber pours a near-opaque dark brown with decent head and lacing. Aroma is cocoa and smokey malt. Taste is coffee, dark chocolate and sweet molasses. Bit of a harsh alcohol burn on the finish. Overall I wouldn't qualify this beer as world class - but certainly something I would have again.

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

Served in a plastic cup at the brewery.

A: Great head. Mocha, pitted, frothy. Black dark even in direct light.

S: Strong coffee. Roasted malts. Perfect porter.

T: Nice porter! Perfectly balanced between sweetish vanillaish malt roasted meaty bitterish. Clean finish. Some hops.

M: Present but not oppressive.

O: I applaud the effort. Well-made and tasty. Recommended. Great example of the style.

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Photo of BucannonXC5
3.55/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 22-oz. bomber into a pint glass. Just about a finger of head. Color was black with hints of brown. Minimal lacing on the top. Some sporadic film on the sides of the glass.

Smelled of a mixture of smoky fire, coffee and dark chocolate. Nothing too special, nothing too surprising.

Initial taste was smoky fire and charcoal. That outweighed the coffee and dark chocolate by a long way. Usually not a fan of smoky charcoal type beers, but this wasn’t too bad. Really nice finish.

Full body. Creamy texture. Average carbonation. Long, smooth finish.

Nothing too great about this beer, but it was decent for the smoky style. I’d probably try it again.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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%

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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.


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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Payback Porter from Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
3.92 out of 5 based on 282 ratings.
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