....and the winner is....
This is not a surprise, but one can always dream.
I did a sequential tasting (one after the other) starting with the Anchor. The Anchor was luscious black velvet with hops. The bitterness was definitely more present, but the mouthfeel was thicker, and the taste was sweeter. Even the head was creamier... I would have liked a little less hops, but it was much, much better than ours. Don't get me wrong, I like our Porter, but I taste a graininess or astringency, and it was our first try at this beer. I recall a similar issue (astringency) with our brown ale, which was one of our first all-grain batches. We entered that beer in the National Homebrew Competition, and received a silver certificate (first round, middle of the pack, labeled as "good", but I don't remember the points it received).
According to John Palmer's book, How to Brew a common cause of graininess or astringencies are from sparging or milling issues. Oversparging or using water that is too hot causes the pH to rise which leaches out tannins and other off flavors. I reject the milling, as it was done on professional equipment at the local homebrew shop. Was this the batch we ran dry too early and ran through some cold water? I felt uneasy about it at the time, and don't know if that constituted oversparging, or caused the flavors I am tasting, but it is my primary suspect.
My brother and I were considering putting this and our West Coast Ale into a local competition in February. It will be interesting to see if they pick up any of the same issues. It will be good to get good feedback.