Portsmouth Kate The Great | Portsmouth Brewery

491 Reviews
Portsmouth Kate The GreatPortsmouth Kate The Great

Brewed by:
Portsmouth Brewery
New Hampshire, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.00%

Availability: Spring

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by bewareOFpenguin on 04-07-2005

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

For Trade:
User Reviews
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Reviews: 491 | Ratings: 926
Photo of rodbeermunch
3.63/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Comes in super pitch black with a mixture of that beige and cherry cola colored head on top. Aroma was lots of earthy, soy, tobacco like notes.

Plenty of dark fruit notes, more raisin and soy, kind of sweet. Does have a mouthfeel that absorbs the alcohol quite nicely.

I really never understood why this one was so loved. Its pretty basic stuff, just had a low bottle count, special release kind of thing furthering the hype of a decent beer along Dark Lord lines.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3.65/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured a jet black with ok carbonation and a dirty white head

S: Some funk, wood, dark fruits, tobacco

T: Has aome light funk, dark fruits like fig and raisins, wood, tobacco, vanilla

M: Has sordove a diminsihng feel on the mouth like the beer just feel flat on its face after initial taste

D: Very good

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Photo of 31Sam13
3.66/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A wonderful experience. When the beer is released it is like a whole different atmosphere; it makes people happy. I agree with the taste analyses by many of you, however, after drinking a fair amount of the stuff (or being lucky enough to) I must say that it has lost it's charm. It's not as otherworldly as some would have you believe. It hits its high notes, but its not the perfect beer, as rated here.

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Photo of badbeer
3.68/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black with a beige head, decent retention and lacing. Some milk chocolate, cream, roast, sweet caramel, and a little coffee in the aroma. Sweet caramel, cream, milk chocolate and dark chocolate, some vanilla, and a touch of roastiness. Heavier than medium bodied with low carbonation, very smooth. An amazing beer, I need more of this. Thanks to Adam and Cole for the sample.

Update: Had this multiple times now. Smell has had some burnt plastic in every subsequent bottle. Taste has that as well, but not as much. A pretty smooth beer, but just not that big of a fan. Give me a Smuttynose IRS, please. More detailed notes to come eventually.

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Photo of digita7693
3.71/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Very interested in finally trying the somewhat elusive Kate the Great.

A about what youd expect from an IS, dark as night, with maybe a finger of brownish tan head that disappears rather quickly. I'm really impressed with the ISs that can retain a bit more head and even have some lacing.

S the smell is quite wonderful. Dark chocolate, some coffee, dark fruits (raisins) and some malty sweetness

T follows the nose a bit. some chocolate with a splash of coffee, raisiny sweetness, very sweet, not what I was expecting and a bit too sweet for me.

D almost sickeningly sweet and too little carbonation, half of a bottle was more than enough.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.73/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pitch black with a little bit of cherry cola and tan looking head to it. Lots of soy sauce type aroma with this one, but it pulls through to still remain enjoyable, thanks to the additional chocolate and what seems to be tobacco.

Lots of plum in the taste, more soy, raisin, dark belgian sugar taste. Very sweet tasting, not dry at all. Didn't really pick up on any coffee at all in this one. It does hide the alcohol quite nicely.

The chocolate/cocoa doesn't stand out in a massive way, very underwhelming presence, the sugar and soy sauce feel really have too much presence to be considered one of the super elite imperial stouts out there.

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Photo of tarheels86
3.74/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

651mL 2010 Ed thanks to jblauvs. Pours clear deep maroon not black or ink. Bubbly, aerated, weak head. No real thick creamy foam. Nose is tawny, oaky, spiced graham cracker, moderate dark chocolate and cocoa. Taste is earthy, silky, tangy, mild tart acid, mild soil and dirty earth. Finish is sharper and tangy. Seventh bitter. Not overly sweet. Mostly dry. With warning the decanting the nose opens up to show rich dessert complexities: more cinnamon sliced graham cracker, vanilla, moderate bourbon expression, spicy vanilla. Really nice aroma. In taste, very oily with mild brown sugar. Dirty soil and hints of iron metallic off character separate this from the worlds best imperial stouts. 5/27/2012 8/3/7/4/15=3.7

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Photo of miketd
3.83/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours black as night with an ok brown head. Aroma is roasted malts, chocolate, vanilla and toffee. Roast coffee like flavor...slightly bitter. Medium full body and creamy. Highly drinkable and good brew for sure. Would be interested in trying this at the brew pub one day.

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Photo of egajdzis
3.85/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured an opaque brownish red / black color with a thin, light tan head, that left light lacing on the glass. Aroma of roasted malts, light vanilla bean, nuts, chocolate, and smoke. Taste of more dark, roasted malts, light dried fruits, smoked malts, and a bit alcohol in the finish.

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Photo of corby112
3.87/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2009 vintage shared earlier this evening with shadowane.

Pours pitch black and completely opaque without even the slghtest hint of lighter color when held to a light and a frothy one finger dark beige head that quickly settles into a lasting ring. Sporadic spots of lacing left behind.

Nice roasted malt aroma with lots of silky chocolate, toffee and oatmeal. Slightly smokey with a prominent barrel character. Subtle coffee bean and nut with some bittersweet dark chocolate and vinous dark fruit. Strong red wine presence but it doesn't overpower the other elements.

Medium bodied with a good balance of roasted malt, vinous dark fruit, sweet barrel character and dry oak. I'm not picking up any off flavors or signs of oxidization/infection. Soft carbonation up front with a heavy barrel character giving off hints of vinous dark fruit, especially grape, dark cherry and plum. Lots of red wine flavor with subtle earthy wood and
vanilla. Underneath, there is some smokey, roasted malt with hints of chocolate, roasted coffee, toffee and oatmeal. The mouthfeel becomes more chewy/viscous as it warms but it's a bit to heavy on the barrel character. A bit too sweet and could use more of a prominent malt presence. The ABV is well masked with only some slight heat making this pretty quaffable. There's more alcohol flavor than burn with a decent amount of warmth in the chest.

Overall, I was pretty happy with this one but feel that it is a bit overhyped. A good beer but not even the best stout I've had today and I've only had two. This is supposedly the off batch so I would like to try other vintages to compare. If only it was easier to get.

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Photo of AgentZero
3.88/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to jrallen34 for sharing this one.

A - Very very dark, but you can see the brown in this one. Brown on the edge, with a small tan head that dissipated slowly.

S - Nice roastly malts, lots of coffee and some molasses. Hints of cocoa and vanilla.

T - Tastes better than it smells. Oak, vanilla chocolate, and great coffee taste on the end keeps this from growing boring through the taste. Can get some barrel age sense from this, but it's not the huge flavor on this. It's very good, but think it might be overrated due to the rarity.

M - Low carbonation, but full bodied, agrees with this style.

D - Very drinkable for a big stout, thought it was higher alcohol, but 9.5% does it justice. Can sip or chug and and enjoy this nicely.

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Photo of KeefD
3.9/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Finally cracked my 09 and shared with Sparklepants and TheCaptain073. They also cracked open their recently arrived bottle of '10, so we did a side by side. What a difference between these two beers! My review score is for the '10, because it was an imperial stout, not a whacky sour ale that was the 09.

We had the '10 first, poured a dark brown color (expecting it to be darker for some reason) and nearly black in the glass, no head or lacing. I could actually see light coming through the edges when held to the light. Nice roasty, chocolaty aroma coming off this one, with only a hint of dark fruit. Taste mirrored the nose. Dark and roasty, velvety chocolate and enough roast to keep things interesting. Also a decent amount of bittering hops kept this extremely balanced and easy to drink. Full bodied, medium carbonation. All and all, a real winner, but not the best RIS I've ever had. This wishes it deserved the A+ gets.

The 09, on the other hand was a complete disaster. This vintage did not affect my review scores. The thing smelled sour and plastic-like upon first opening of the cap. As the beer warmed up, more stout-like characters started to come out, but this was sour, oddball, almost red-wine like beer that was just a complete disaster. It made me wonder if Kate turns this sour every year? Weird, wild stuff, man. If you have Kate, drink it now. If you still have an 09, trade that thing away to some unsuspecting person. You'll be glad you did.

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Photo of Arbitrator
3.92/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 vintage shared by Jeff (ipa247). Thanks man.


Re-review of a 2010 bottle shared by chswimmer. Thanks Ted.

A: Pours a pitch, opaque black with a pinky's worth of mocha-colored head. Good retention leaves a few clumps of lacing down the glass, and the bubbles collapse into a thin collar around the brew.

S: Dark fruit (fig, and lots of grape), dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and oak. Quite nice. Actually, it's superlative; this is phenomenally pleasant on the nose.

T: Follows the nose very well, with fig and a slightly artificial grape candy sweetness that I couldn't figure out (I was later told this is made on port-soaked oak chips?). Tannic. Caramel, dark chocolate, and a lesser presence of roasted coffee.

M: Medium bodied; it's not particularly thick or viscous, which is nice, but it's not full in flavor, either. No alcohol burn, but it is a little warm on the way down.

D: Decent. The dark fruit base is not something I normally enjoy, but Kate manages to incorporate it without strong tartness. A good blend. Would have again.

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Photo of Treebs
3.92/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2012 vintage split three ways. Served in a FW tulip.

A: Pours a dark black color with dark brown edges. A light tan head forms on the pour and recedes to a thin ring. No real lace, just some small splotches.

S: Dark fruity port with some oak. Light roasted coffee bean and some toasted malts. Minimal chocolate.

T: The oak has a much bigger presence than in the nose and the port quickly follows suit. Dark chocolate and roasted wiht some caramelize sugar and raisins.

M: Silky and oily, but a touch thin for a 12% RIS. Medium carbonation as well.

O: This was a nice beer, but definitely not worth everything it commands. I'm glad I got to share this guy and find out what all the fuss is about, but I certainly wont be looking to acquire it again in the future.

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Photo of alcstradamus
3.93/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Update for 2010 vintage. Dropped my taste score down to a 3.5. I just don't find the flavor profile to be all that noteworthy. The flavors from the port oak spirals just add an odd sensation.

2009 Vintage, thanks to John for the great trade.

Pours black in color with a finger and a half of head in my tulip glass. Nice lacing left behind.

The smell starts off with toasted malts, lots of earthy hoppiness and some dirt, alcohol heat, dark fruits, some wood even though I'm not sure how much this touches any barrels, faint hints of marshmallow. Pretty nice.

Hmm...wow, the taste is unique to say the least. Didn't really get the huge blast of roast and fruit that I was expecting based on the nose. Instead, this is a much more balanced and complex blend of many different flavors. There is an odd tartness/sourness present that I can't pinpoint. I say "odd" not necessarily in a bad way, just merely pointing out the uniqueness. The dark fruits and earthiness are present, as well as a boatload of bitter dark chocolate. Every sip I take gives my tongue a weird stinging sensation, probably from the sour notes.

Mouthfeel is full bodied and seemed extremely creamy on the first sip which would be perfect, however my tongue started to numb about halfway through due to the flavor profile and it started to feel a bit thinner. Doesn't feel overly carbonated, but perhaps some carbonation sting also contributed to that palate fatigue.

Drinkability on this one is a tough call. It really didn't have the type of flavor to really excite me...however, due to the uniqueness of it I continued to reach for the glass and take sip after sip. I guess maybe I was searching for something more, something I was missing...but nonetheless the glass started to disappear quickly. I definitely understand how someone would love this beer, and also how someone would hate it.

My overall thoughts on this beer are that it is a good imperial stout, not quite jumping the border to great. Perhaps more fitting to throw it in the class with the Berserkers and Siberian Nights of the world rather than the top dogs. I hope more people can get the chance to try it and come to their own conclusions.

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Photo of PDXHops
3.94/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An enormous thank you to Spleeb for this bomber, shared with Ryan011235 in oversized snifters. Never be afraid to propose a trade for a wale, kids; some good dude just might take you up on the offer!

Kate pours a few shades shy of black with abundant mahogany highlights that make up for the lack of pure darkness. Not much in the way of a head to admire, but periodic gentle swirls coax the tan skim. Lacing is sacrificed in the effort; scattered streaks and splotches are it. Any likenesses to a pedestrian beer get tossed out the window at this point, though.

The port seems to manifest itself in the nose as lush berry notes more than the wine itself. As it warms, these notes become increasingly and pleasingly pronounced. Richly roasted and toasted malt profile with a dusting of cocoa. I'm not sure a dash of burnt malt wouldn't kick it up another notch, but it smells quite nice as is.

The port seems to be more of a factor in the flavor profile, lending a load of concentrated raspberry, strawberry and blackberry and a certain warmth. This berry combo matches up nicely with deep dark chocolate. Somewhat vinous, but not really tangy. 12%?? I gotta say, it went down with ease. Moderate carbonation with a smooth feel and a lengthy, coating, satisfying finish.

Overall impression: I'm not sure I'd swing for the fences again from a tradebait standpoint to get another bottle, but I sure wouldn't mind having another as a cellar experiment. Good stuff.

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Photo of j12601
3.94/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle of the 2010 via a trade on here, that I took to one of Paul’s tastings. Pours a deep black with a thin tan head. Lots of roast on the nose, char, and big fat roast. Quite sweet, much sweeter than expected. Roast, char, plums and caramel. Long roast on the finish, lots of char and roast. Overall fairly good, but definitely not the mind blowing experience it’s made out to be. Just a solid well made imperial stout.

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Photo of woosterbill
3.94/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Review #600! 2009 bottle into a snifter. Gigantic thanks to Jason for opening this up and hosting the tasting.

A: A straight pour results in a deep black body that lights up with flecks of orange when held up to bright illumination. Atop lies half an inch of smooth, creamy, off-white foam that quickly recedes into a steady ring. Not as intense as I'd expected; pretty standard, really.

S: Fascinating. Coffee, chocolate (more milk than dark), molasses, rum, port, and straight roasted malt. Hugely complex, and hugely inviting. Wow.

T: Very, very sweet. Port, caramel, toffee, and finally just a bit of coffee. Sticky sweet finish with a hint of alcohol (not too much for 12%, but still noticeable). It's not bad at all, but damn it if I didn't expect more considering its reputation and, more immediately, its wonderful aroma. The sweetness really takes over, without any real balance coming from roast, oak, hops, or anything else. It's good, but I wouldn't call it great.

M: Full, viscous, and sticky, with some light carbonation. Absolutely decadent.

O: I really enjoyed drinking this one, but have to admit that it was a bit of a letdown. The lack of balance might have been excusable if the complexity of the nose had carried through into the flavor, but all the nuance got lost in the cloying sweetness. I can't imagine trying to drink a whole bottle, but I'd really like to try other vintages. On the plus side, it did pair extremely well with my wife's delicious Grand Marnier brownies!


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Photo of ditmier
3.95/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

1500th Rating, this 2010 bottle is thanks to the S tag team of JohnGalt1 and SAS - very much obliged!!...Pours kinda thin and almost black with a small tan head...aroma is full of rich roast and bitter cocoa, light plum...flavour is carob and cocoa, lightly tart all over the palate, caramel and vanilla add some depth, coffee peeks thru as well...really tasty and glad to try this legendary brew...

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Photo of donkeyrunner
3.97/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

I love Portsmouth's minimalist bottles. Black with brown edges. Dark tan bubbles cling to the glass sides. Some sort of oil slick lookin' thing substitutes retention.

Aroma is dark, sweet malt with roasty edges. Figs and and raisins stand out. Taste is licorice, dark chocolate and heavy, heavy burnt caramel sweet malt. Dark roast malt like dark Sumatran coffee. Thick and sludgy in my mouth. I've used dark in this review twice and could have done so a lot more. I didn't know that this was aged in port barrels until later and in retrospect I could see that. Not so obvious that it stood out though.

Not so good that I'd wait in line for hours in the cold but good enough that I'm glad some one else did.

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Photo of MPLS
3.97/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I have not logged into this site in over 2 months. That being said it has been a while since I have reviewed a beer. Time to make the cellar look a little more slim.

2010 Bottle of Kate the Great that I acquired in a trade with the help of some Czar Jack.

A: The beer is opaque and dark, perfect for a night that follows winter solstice. The head on this beer was short-lived, even with an aggressive pour. A small ring subsides and lacing is not as plentiful as anticipated.

S: Intoxicating port alcohol, dark chocolate, berries. The roasted malts were more evident. Notes of oak or some slight woodiness.

T: First sip was pleasant, but not a obvious sign from the beer gods. I like it, more and more after each sip. The flavor profile is very port like with an acidic, fruit like edge. I like it - but don't absolutely love it. The "acidic" edge detracts from my overall enjoyment of this beer.

M: A little thinner than expected, but @ 12% it holds it's own. It lingers long, I like that. Wish there was a bit more carbonation in this one.

O: Yep, big hype. Didn't quite deliver, but I enjoyed the beer.

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Photo of juhl31
3.97/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

'09 vintage

-necessarily black with a medium brown head that looked well carbonated for the vintage

-nose is the best part. smells as if it is bourbon aged due to its sweet, caramel, vanilla character. also sniffs a touch warm

-a sweet RIP for sure. also, a lot more fruity than i would have expected, and not in a dark fruit way. couldn't really make out a specific fruit, but some kind of berry and maybe some white raisin. decent taste, but not as high in the bold type profiles that i enjoy

-a bit light bodied for the style. wish it was more chewy. definitely leads to being able to drink it quicker...although thats not really a plus

-a lot different experience than i was expecting. i wasnt disappointed, because i am surely glad to be able to try it, but it's nothing that i plan to seek out again

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Photo of BMan1113VR
3.98/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2010 Bottle with much thanks to ericandersnavy. Pours with a deep brown body and a tan head that goes. Aroma of brown sugar, earthy, nearly a bit woody. Taste is brown sugar, chocolate and alcohol, with an AWESOME mouthfeel. Thick as hell, very hefty. Many thanks Eric!

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Photo of drowland
4/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bomber shared at the SeaBass going away tasting! Opaque pitch-black pour with a small brown head. Slightly sour aroma loaded with dark fruits. Sweet roasted flavor filled with chocolate and roasted malts. Pretty tasty, but not as awesome as some make it out to be.

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Photo of shawnm213
4/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle shared by phaleslu at DLD 2010. Big thanks peter. Have been curious about this beer. hoppy, bitter, roasty. cocoa, coffee. has a weird moldy cocoa taste. light body compared to the Oak aged DL, Apis Póltorak Jadwiga, and black tuesday i just had. Maybe i was previously batting with a doughnut on my bat, but this seemed quite drinkable. Hope to try it again some day when I’m not a boat load of beers deep. Great beer. Happy to have tried it.

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Portsmouth Kate The Great from Portsmouth Brewery
4.51 out of 5 based on 926 ratings.
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