So what makes a dark beer dark? It all comes down to the malts. Though all beer relies on malts (cereal grains that have been allowed to germinate, then dried to halt the germination process), dark beers are unique in their use of black and dark malts. These grains are heavily roasted to achieve the characteristic color as well as the caramelized, toasty flavors we love. The blanket term “dark beer” encompasses everything from classic styles like schwarzbier (a dark German lager) to the relatively new and trendy black IPAs. The most familiar dark beers, however, are generally billed as either porters or stouts. As it turns out, the line between those two styles is rather blurry indeed, and many argue that there is no practical difference at all. Historically, stouts evolved from porters, with English brewers aiming to create a “stouter” version of their country’s beloved porter beers. Though the two styles often overlap, today’s stouts still tend to be a bit bolder and stronger than easy-drinking porters. Within those two broad categories is a range of styles to suit any palate. Peaks and Pints presents a flight of dark beers, in the middle of a hot summer, that we call Craft Beer Crosscut 8.11.17: A Flight of Dark Beers.
5.2% ABV, 30 IBU
Deschutes named its porter after a stratovolcano in the Deschutes National Forest near its brewery in Bend, Oregon. While there, grab a fresh pint of one of the loveliest porters in the country. The aroma bears a hint of nuttiness, followed by the unmistakable smells of rich yet soft milk chocolate. Black Butte Porter is slightly bitter in the first sip, but mellows out with a chocolate and roasted finish. As creamy and chocolaty as it should be, this is the porter all other porters strive to be.
For Peaks and Pints, there’s nothing quite like a good porter; we can recognize one almost by its aroma alone. These dark, often full-bodied beers have something of an attitude thanks to their caramel and chocolate tones. And it’s a beer that will complement many foods. If you’re a fan of the style, then the Matchless Brewing porter simply named Porter is a beer to try. It’s a malt bomb. Don’t expect hops here. Do expect rich chocolate and cherries on toast with a light mineral and soft bitterness.
Brewed at De Proef, Viven Smoked Porter renders our 5-ounce taster glass a deep dark color that allows almost no light to pass, save for a ruby glow at the edges. The nose provides a multicultural beery experience — offering up notes reminiscent of sweetish English porter, the chalky-meets-chocolaty dryness of many classic domestic craft porters, a little Belgian yeastiness and even some German rauchbier notes. Viven Smoked Porter hits the tongue with gentle, balancing sweetness, giving way to a much drier, roasty middle, then into a woody, lightly smoky, almost chalky character where notes of espresso and dark chocolate linger before fading out.
8.5% ABV, 33 IBU
Its coffee, roasty, dark chocolate character defines Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merlin. Aged for about a year in retired bourbon barrels, including those from Heaven Hill and Four Roses distilleries, and it’s transformed into Velvet Merkin. After the aromatic opera of charred oak, buttery vanilla and roasty, chocolatey goodness — thanks to Roast Barley, English Dark Caramel, Medium Caramel, Carafa Malt and Oats — it would be hard for any flavor to live up to. Merkin makes an attempt, with sweet toffee and vanilla bean followed by definite alcohol notes and oodles of vinous new oak. A simple wave of chocolate rolls in mid-palate; notes of sweet toffee settle in the back; soft oats join after the swallow. Very smooth oatmeal malt makes this so decadent to sip.
10% ABV, 100 IBU
As part of our Beer Buddies project, Double Mountain made a beer just for Tavour’s community throwing down more than 1,900 pounds of dark malts — Carafa III, Double Roasted Crystal, Rye, Pilsner, Roasted, and Black Malts — to create the flavorful Dark and Moody imperial stout. In order not to fall deep into the Dark, Double Mountain balance the brew with the piney bitterness of Simcoe, the resinous slap of Cascade and lavish fruity notes of figs and raspberry via Kolsch and abbey yeasts. Twisting with spires of fruit, pine, and chocolate, Double Mountain’s Dark and Moody imperial stout is available for a limited time at Peaks and Pints but all the time at Tavour Craft Beer Club.