DARING THE DARK
Dark beer’s place in the American consciousness once was owned by Guinness, the Irish classic with its creamy head and ruby-hued opaqueness. Michelob Dark entered the scene with a national ad campaign with irreverent funnyman Martin Mull imploring consumers not to be afraid of the dark.
For many, perceptions about so-called dark beer stay the same, but brewers’ new and taste-bending takes on dark-roasted barley malt leave those old saws about the beers dull.
Freetail Brewing Co.’s take on the newest style recognized by the Brewers Association, Black IPA, is a revelation. Dubbed Tadarida Oscura, the IPA offering from brewers Jason Davis and John Lee delivers a good dose of the roasted flavors expected from darker malts, but they’re overbalanced with the hoppy goodness indicative of an American-style India Pale Ale. Lee says the brew is 7.4-percent alcohol and a celebration of the distinctive Amarillo hops.
If hop bitterness isn’t your thing, Blue Star Brewing Company has started making its Smoked Dark Ale again. Some find the smokiness reminiscent of bacon, others think smoked cheese. It isn’t so much an acquired taste as one that is loved or hated. I, for one, am glad to see the return of this brew, introduced when the brewery first opened in 1996. I find it very easy to pair with many foods Texans love.
Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling’s Mesquite Smoked Porter has also been turning heads since it hit taps early this year. Porter, a beer style that paved the way for stout and was the preferred quaff of the Founding Fathers, has coffee and chocolate richness in the flavor profile with the subtle complexity of barley malt smoked with South Texas mesquite wood on site.
Make no deals with the devil, but when it comes to beer, don’t be afraid to embrace the dark.
As reported here before Christmas, the Faust Brewing Company is preparing to brew again. Faust Hotel and brewery owner Vance Hinton says that Ray Mitteldorf has gone from consultant status to a full-time engagement to revive the New Braunfels brewpub. First beers should be on tap by mid-March.
WINTER BEER UPDATE
Freetail Brewing Co. has just announced details about its Valentine’s Day winter beer dinner. Chef Gary Butler is preparing fruit and cheese, lobster bisque, chicken lettuce wraps, Texas antelope schnitzel with wild mushroom risotto, and the storied figgy pudding. Beer pairings will include bourbon barrel-aged Witicus double witbier and some brews only available to the lucky few who get the brewery tour that includes access to the private taps in the back.
Travis E. Poling writes about beer weekly for the Current and is author of Beer Across Texas: A Guide to Brews and Brewmasters of the Lone Star State. Please send beer news and event information two weeks in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org.