I used to use this phrase “peak pub moment” to describe that ineffable zone that can surround a location, an amount of time, a group of people and a beer.  I distinctly remember one of the earliest of these, a Sunday afternoon at Wynkoop Brewery in Denver that reminded me of how delicious life can be.

I recalledof that moment last night while sitting on the patio at Boylan Bridge Brewpub, with our events guy Ola Nilbrink, watching the reflection of the setting sun on the Raleigh skyline, with my hands around a pint of wonderful porter.

Ola and I had just come from Poole’s Downtown Diner where we had donated a hefty chunk of the net proceeds from the World Beer Festival – Raleigh to David Dias and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, our partner in the event. They were hosting a reception at Poole’s, which is quite a treat for beer lovers.

First, Poole’s had draught Fuller’s London Pride, apparently one of the few handles in the area.  A nice, comfortable English ale, with a floral finish.  Then they had a list of exotic big bottle beers. I couldn’t resist splitting a Brooklyn Local #1 and North Coast Le Merle Saison with a couple of attendees. Both beers are Belgian in orientation pouring golden with creamy heads and excellent spicy finishes.

In other words, by the time Ola and I had arrived at Boylan’s, a spontaneous decision, we’d already sampled some extraordinary beers.  Boylan’s was ready for the challenge.  We started with their cask pale ale which was very refreshing although a little cool, watching the setting suns reflection move up the sides of the downtown buildings.  Owner Andrew Leager joined Ola and me, even giving us a tour of his cabinet shop underneath the brewpub.

We followed the cask ale with the porter and brewer Mark Fesche joined us. Now Mark uses classic English grains, hops and yeast. However, I couldn’t get over how spicy the beer was. It deviated from a traditional porter in a very pleasant way. Instead of such a noticeable toastiness of the roasted malts, both Ola and I found a highly refreshing spiciness in the finish.  And the three of us got into a debate.  Brewer vs. Beer Lovers about using a name.  What a surprise.

So, when is a porter a porter?  Does it make a difference if the name isn’t spot on?  How much latitude should brewers have?  How picky should beer geeks be?  When does the interests of the less-than-geeky customer get considered?  At the end of the day, what is the “give-a-shit” factor, especially since the beer tasted really, really good.