Veteran brewer Grant Johnston is now crafting beers at the new Lucky’s 1313 at 1313 Regent St. Johnston, who has brewed professionally for more than 30 years with stops from California to England, was hired to help build and start the brew house. His first three beers just went on tap, and the 5th Quarter Porter lives up to its celebratory name.
What is it? 5th Quarter Porter from Lucky’s 1313 of Madison.
Style: The porter is brown to deep black in color. While it may look dark and thick, porters more often are medium-bodied and well balanced, with signature hits of chocolate and smoked brown malts. The style is commonly around 4-6 percent ABV. The origins of the style go back to the 1700s, when it was a favorite beer of the porters who worked the London shipyards.
Background: Lucky’s has been a fixture on Regent Street since 2004, but it recently moved to a new location on the same street. Owner Rod Ripley also owns sister bars, which are also called Lucky’s, in Waunakee and near Lodi on Lake Wisconsin. His plan is to eventually supply the beers to those locations from the Regent Street brewpub.
Johnston was brought in early to help with brew house design. That gave him a unique understanding of the brewing system even before the very first batch was made. “An ah-ha moment came with getting to know the brewing system. Now, it’s a matter of balancing the materials I have with that system and doing a little fine tuning,” says Johnston.
I hope he doesn’t tinker too much with the porter. It’s a solid take on the style, showing the influence of his brewing time in England during the early 2000s while working for ZeroDegrees Brewery. “My beers are intended to be balanced, full-flavored, and very drinkable,” says Johnston. 5th Quarter Porter is made with a combination of English and American malts and hopped for balance with U.S.-grown Centennial. “You should be able to distinguish the malts and hops, but striking a balance is the goal,” he says.
While Lucky’s may call itself a brewpub, its atmosphere is more like a sports bar. There are two dozen tap beers, from national macros to Wisconsin micros. There’s lots of open space with high ceilings and a TV screen visible from nearly every conceivable vantage point. But having housemade brews sets Lucky’s apart among nearby taverns that appeal to the Badger faithful by also catering to craft beer enthusiasts. 5th Quarter Porter rounds out the list of Lucky’s own brews; Johnston is also currently offering a malty red ale (1313 Big Red) and a mildly hopped pale ale (Hoppy Go Lucky). All three initial brews are fine beers and worthy of a stop. Yet it’s the porter that I enjoyed most, with its malty flavor and nice clean balance.
5th Quarter Porter finishes at 5.8 percent ABV. It sells for $5/pint.
Aroma: A light whiff of chocolate malt.
Appearance: Black body with a modest tan soft bubbly head.
Texture: Medium-bodied with roundness and softness.
Taste: Pleasant and flavorful with balance. Smooth chocolate maltiness that’s soft, alongside hints of toffee and caramel.
Finish/Aftertaste: Malty, yet clean and balanced.
Glassware: This is a beer that deserves to be served in an English nonic pint out of respect to the origins of the style. Unfortunately, Lucky’s 1313 serves this beer in a standard bar glass, which doesn’t do anything to celebrate this beer.
Pairs well with: This well-balanced porter is suited for a range of pub-style entrees. From Lucky’s menu it should go well with the Orchard Street pork chops topped with a touch of apple. It also complements light lunch fare like the turkey bacon ranch wrap.
The verdict: This is a very pleasant porter with smooth chocolate and caramel maltiness that contributes sweetness. The Centennial hops and their piney bitterness remain in the background, just enough to offer balance. It finishes with a hint of caramel and toffee, while remaining clean. This is the way a porter should be, flavorful and inviting.