We're Just Nuts About 903 Brewers' Crackin' Up.

Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we'll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it's local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!

This week, we sipped on 903 Brewers' Crackin' Up.

Fast Facts on 903 Brewers' Crackin' Up.
Style: American Porter.
ABV: 8.5 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 51.
Color: Dark Brown.
Availability: Seasonal, in cans.

Overview.
I'm a big fan of the robust porter style. It's a complex style with a wide latitude for hop bitterness, and its malty and roast flavors lend themselves nicely to cooler weather drinking. If you're a home-brewer, this is a somewhat easy style to brew yourself, provided you can get your grain bill ratios in balance. It also helps that there is so much going on in the flavor department that you can often cover up any tiny flaws or off flavors pretty easily.

Typically, there's a burnt note that accompanies porters, but all that bitterness and all those burnt notes aren't quite as in-your-face as you might see in, say, a stout. 903's a confident lot, though, and the roast and toast are evidently clear with Crackin' Up. It's all about the roast notes with this beer, folks. And I can dig it. So let's get on to the review: Has 903 cracked the code on American porters?

Background on Robust Porter.
For a primer on the robust porter style, check out our review of Four Corners' Block Party. For most robust porters, the emphasis is on a slightly higher grain bill compared to the more standard porters. Side bar: I have categorized this beer as an American porter for this review, but sometimes this style is also referred to as robust porter; it just depends which set of BJCP style guidelines you want to look at. So let's not get all weird and split hairs about it, OK?

Appearance.
Crackin' Up pours almost black with a firm tan head. It's a little tough to judge the clarity on this beer because it's so dark (duh), but this looks like a clean beer. There's a nice lacing on my glass as I finish this first drink, and a thin layer of head remains through the whole first beer.

Aroma.
The aroma begins with an inviting roast note, followed by a faint hint of nutty pecan. I get hints of hop character, but only enough to provide a sense of balance.

Flavor.
The flavor department is where Crackin' Up excels. On the tongue, there is a burnt sweetness along with a haunting, burnt nutty pecan flavor. The aftertaste is imminently roasty, and it hangs around long enough to remind me that I am most certainly drinking a porter. If there's any flavor trait I'd change, it would maybe be to pull back the tiniest bit on the burnt/roast character. But keep the pecans. Hell, maybe even up the pecans.

Mouthfeel.
Initially I found myself wondering if this is really an 8.5 percent ABV beer. I kept asking myself that until I finished the second, at which point my general posture confirmed that this one's no slouch in the ABV department. This full-bodied porter leaves a tiny bit of sugary feeling on my lips but, hey, I'm not complaining. Even the can states that the finish on this beer is slightly on the sweet side.

Overall Impression.
Since I took over this beer-review column — this is my 26th review! — I feel like I've bagged on 903 Brewers a little bit , but not for any major flaws to its brew. It's been more about implementing minor changes that would make me become a repeat customer. With Crackin' Up, however, I'm stoked to say that I'm very pleased with how this beer turned out. I will be a repeat customer now. Is this beer 903 Brewers' best beer? I dunno. But it should be said that 903 has taken a classic southern ingredient and incorporated it nicely in a highly drinkable and enjoyable porter here. Oftentimes when I see “brewed with [insert fruit or nut here],” I'm hoping that the brewer used a gentle hand on the flavor additions. That's the case here, as the pecan addition is deliberate as opposed to over-the-top, and I appreciate that the nutty flavor doesn't play the leading role in this beer, standing instead as a strong supporting member in the ensemble.

Score.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give 903 Brewers Crackin' Up a 8.



What's happening in the area brew scene?
• Friday, January 29. Grand Opening at Backcountry Brewery.
• Saturday, January 30. Chili Cook-Off at Audacity Brew House.
• Sunday, January 31-February 4. Girl Scout Cookie & Beer Pairing at LUCK.
• Saturday, January 31. Cookies and Dark Beer Class at East Side Denton.
• Thursday, February 18. Birds and Brews at Trinity Audubon Center.
• Friday, April 1-2. Big Texas Beer Fest.

Previous On Tap Reviews:
Peticolas' Royal Scandal: 10.
Community's Mosaic IPA: 10.
Peticolas' Velvet Hammer: 10.
Community's Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
Community's Legion: 10.
Deep Ellum's Barrel Aged Four Swords: 9.5.
Lakewood's Saint Dymphna: 9.5.
Peticolas' Lost Epic: 9.5.
Community's Ascension Porter: 9.5.
Lakewood's Temptress: 9.5.
Lakewood's Goatman: 9.5.
Community's Public Ale: 9.5.
Peticolas' Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
Lakewood's Wild Manimal: 9.
Revolver's Blood & Honey: 9.
Martin House's Imperial Texan: 9.
Community's Trinity Tripel: 9.
Peticolas' Irish Goodbye: 9.
Four Corners' Block Party Porter: 9.
Cedar Creek's Belgian Dubbel: 9.
Peticolas' Ghost Of Alfred Brown: 8.5.
Deep Ellum's Easy Peasy IPA: 8.5.
Deep Ellum's Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
Lakewood's Rock Ryder: 8.5.
Rahr's Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
Lakewood's Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
Deep Ellum's Play Date: 8.
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company's 11th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout: 8.
Bitter Sisters' Belgian Tripel: 8.
Noble Rey's SteamPunk: 8.
903 Brewers' Citra On Top: 8.
Bitter Sisters' Hissy Fit: 8.
BrainDead's Gritz: 8.
Community's Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
Cedar Creek's Fisticuffs: 8.
Lakewood's Punkel: 8.
Four Corners' El Chingon IPA: 8.
Martin House's Day Break: 8.
Deep Ellum's GOURDzilla: 8.
Peticolas' The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
Deep Ellum's Pale Ale: 8.
Revolver's Bock: 8.
903 Brewers' Sasquatch: 8.
Peticolas' Wintervention: 8.
Armadillo Ale Works' Brunch Money: 8.
Martin House's Salsa Verde: 8.
Cedar Creek's Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
Lakewood's Holiday Bonus: 8.
Lakewood's Hop Trapp: 8.
Noble Rey Golden Rey With Raspberries and Ginger: 7.5.
On Rotation Saved By The Belma: 7.5.
True Vine's Unicorn's Revenge: 7.5.
Deep Ellum's Hop Seeker: 7.5.
Four Corners' El Super Bee: 7.5.
Lakewood's Hopochondria: 7.5.
Three Nations GPA: 7.5.
Martin House's Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
Lakewood's Antigoon's Revenge: 7.5.
Community's Texas Pils: 7.5.
Lakewood's Zomer Pils: 7.5.
Cedar Creek's Dankosaurus: 7.5.
Martin House's Turtle Power: 7.
Collective's Petite Golden Sour: 7.
Shannon's Chocolate Stout: 7.
BrainDead's Red Ale: 7.
Community's Razzy Raspberry Witbier: 7.
Martin House's Gateway Blonde Ale: 7.
Bearded Eel's Purple Unicorn: 7.
Shannon Brewing Company's Irish Red: 7.
Texas Ale Project's Somethin' Shady: 7.
Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
Cedar Creek's The Lawn Ranger: 7.
Martin House Brewing Company's Cellarman's Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
Lakewood's Till & Toil: 7.
903 Brewers' The Chosen One: 7.
903 Brewers' Sugar On Top: 7.
Martin House's Gateway XPA: 7.
Armadillo Ale Work's Quakertown Stout: 7.
Revolver's High Brass: 7.
Community's Pale Ale: 7.
Oak Highlands' Chump Change: 7.
Martin House's River House: 7.
Grapevine Craft Brewery's Sir William's Brown Ale: 7.
Community's Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
Audacity's Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
Collective Brewing Project's Mom Azacca: 6.5.
Four Corners' La Lechuza: 6.5.
Revolver's Ironhead IPA: 6.5.
903 Brewers' Trot Line: 6.5.
Peticolas' Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
Grapevine Craft Brewery's Nightwatch: 6.5.
Peticolas' The Duke: 6.5.
Deep Ellum's Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
Martin House's Kafkaesque: 6.
Tupps' Cotton Mill Gold: 6.
Rabbit Hole's Tweedleyum: 6.
Rabbit Hole's Off With Your Red: 6.
Cedar Creek's Elliott's Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
Grapevine Craft Brewery's Lakefire: 6
Armadillo Ale Works' WunderMelon: 6
Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
Lakewood's La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
903 Brewers' The Land Of Milk And Honey: 5.
Deep Ellum's Numb Comfort: 5.
Four Bullets' Black Jack Brown: 4.5.
Four Corners Heart O' Texas: 4.
Audacity's Sunset Boulevard: 4.
Shannon Brewing Company's IPA: 4.
Grapevine's Monarch: 4.
Franconia Wheat: 3.
Miller Lite: 1.

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