When it comes to porters, stouts, brown ales, schwarzbier, etc (i.e. “dark beers”) there are a lot of misconceptions that those new to craft beer have. The number one reason for this? Let’s just say that there’s this well known Irish brewery that makes this particular beer that everyone knows and usually drinks at St. Patrick’s Day, and because that’s often the first (and only) dark beer most people have tried, all dark beers must then be like it. I mean, there are all sorts of macro beers out there, and all of them are yellow but only ONE beer that is dark. Well, for most of human history, all beers were, in fact, dark. Only in recent times have beers become lighter in color. But craft brewers make all sorts of styles, and many of these finished products are dark. Are they all like the Irish example above? Some are, sure, but I would say 80% or more are nothing like it.
The number one thing we hear behind the bar here at Hoptron Brewtique when it comes to dark beer is that it must be thick and probably high in alcohol and calories, and that it tastes, well, like that Irish guy again. First, that Irish guy is actually low in both alcohol and calories – the two go hand-in-hand. But second, my favorite phrase I and my staff repeat is that dark is not a flavor. Darkness is created by the use of roasted malts. That’s it. Now, that being said, do most dark beers have a bit of a roastiness to them? To some degree, yes. But that’s pretty much where it ends. Dark beers are light or heavy in the mouthfeel; they are really low or crazy high in alcohol. Some are “diet” beers and some are hefty suckers. But just as you can have a light adjunct lager next to a triple IPA and have them be “light”, you can have a Dark English Mild and a bourbon barreled Russian Imperial Stout, and you have two completely different beers, with different flavor profiles, different alcohol and calorie levels. Darks can be chocolately, smooth, bitter, sharp, coffee, sweet, hoppy, malty.
For everyone who came in saying they wanted something, as long as it wasn’t dark, I sometimes wish I could blindfold them, make them a flight, and have them taste four different, lovely brews – how many would they love? And if they took their blindfold off, how many would be shocked that what they loved was in fact the dark beers? Jumping into this craft beer thing is really no harder than discovering what kind of cake you like, what kind of breakfast you loved, what your favorite pizza topping is. It’s just about flavors, flavors you like. And dark is not a flavor!
Check out this video from our friends at Craftbeer.com while you’re drinking your Port Jeff Brewery Porter!