By Tyler Estabrook
The ideal dark beer is one with a deep, impenetrable hue, a flavor that is unconventional and robust without being busy or too bitter and a velvety finish that simultaneously soothes the throat and the spirit.
I have so far been consistently impressed by Founders Brewing of Grand Rapids, Mich., for making dark beers that fit these criteria, and in the process creating many new options that are both original and highly palatable. Founders’ complete bypass of filtration is a nice touch in its brews. A beer doesn’t have to be a hazy golden wheat ale to enjoy the full benefits of hearty yeast background flavor and texture.
The Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale is a logical extension of its style, bringing the peat-smoked malt goodness up to the front in a very intense but satisfying way, without quite as sharp an edge as in other American versions, like Samuel Adams Scotch Ale. This is a strong-tasting, deep ruby ale that is none too bitter. Traditionally, the Scots don’t make them as smoky as the Americans do, and a sip of Belhaven will prove this, but the Dirty Bastard is such an exciting take on Scotch ale that authenticity is not much of a concern.
Founders Porter is shockingly rich, dark and chocolaty for a porter; it tastes (and looks) more like a really refined and sweet stout. The finish is as velvety as it is dry, making it one of the few porters to live up to the sales pitch. This is something special for an American porter; it’s not too bitter/hoppy, and not too watered down, either.
The much-revered Breakfast Stout is somewhat of an anomaly: it is one of the only stouts that purports to include oatmeal, chocolate and coffee flavors all in one beer. And the amazing part is that all these flavors cut through with ease, without interfering with each other. I also detect a hint of nuttiness on the palate that is intriguing. This is a rather sweet and mellow beer, albeit an extremely heavy, opaque one: no doubt a stout lover’s beer, but not anything I would put in the “extreme beer” category.
Send questions or beer recommendations to Tyler Estabrook at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Dec. 9-15, 2009 issue