As the stock market ping-pongs lamely around this season and the financial doom-and-gloom casts shadows even on a good, old-fashioned night of heavy drinking, we see but one quick fix: beer that's strong, dark and cheap. Easier said then done, right? Some of the fancier American concoctions that fill the "dark" bill--Baltic Porters, artisanal, hand-numbered flasks of Scotch barrel-aged Stouts--can be just as heavy on the wallet. Lately the $3.99 bombers from Firestone Walker--especially its "Robust Porter"--have been drawing us away from the glitzier beer-fridge all-stars. Paying less than $4 for a thick, 650-milliliter bottle of roasty, toasty, squid-ink colored beer nowadays is more satisfying than many finer pleasures.
The question is: Once you get Firestone Walker's Reserve "Robust Porter" home and popped, will this penny-saver deliver? First off, "robust" might be a misnomer. At 5.9 percent alcohol by volume, it's a little kid's Porter.
A whiff into the glass rim brings sour, blood-iron notes and a little toffee-chocolate. At the end, the smell is not unlike unearthing an old Marlboro carton from your childhood closet and huffing the cardboard for high school memories—a faint, stale tobacco perfume. At first sight, the stuff looks dark but not menacing; chocolate milk with big, caramel bubbles. Swishing this beer around in your mouth is a pleasure, light and slurpy. And the gulps that follow come easy. In fact, it feels like drinking Stout soda--maybe an RC Cola. At a time when some of us are veering toward drippy burgers and paper bags of french fries on Saturday nights, this is the stuff to wash it down with, or even submerge vanilla bean ice cream in for a beer float. Especially since you can afford three.