Another Sunday means another batch of beers you’ve got to check out. With winter coming to a close tomorrow, it’s also time to close the door on some deliciously dark beers that drink well when the nights are frigid.
Pizza Boy Sunny Side Up
These days, it sometimes seems like a brewer can’t make an imperial stout without forcing it into a barrel or adding a little dash of something extra to make it different. That’s why Pizza Boy’s Sunny Side Up is kind of refreshing. It’s “just” an imperial stout – and a delicious imperial stout it is. Inky black and thick as motor oil, it has a glorious, puffy brown head that offers up aromas of burnt coffee and cocoa. The scent is intoxicating. At 11 percent ABV, every sip is intoxicating, too. Rich, chewy, with each mouthful uncovering roasty coffee beans and bitter dark chocolate (though neither are used in the making of this brew), Sunny Side Up is a beer that demands slow sipping.
Dark doesn’t necessarily mean stout. Take the schwarzbier style, for example. It’s German for “black beer,” though that only tells part of the story. The schwarzbier is a black lager, with the lightness and drinkability of a lager but the alluring chocolate malts of a stout. Oh, and they’re delicious. Schlafly’s take on the style is proof of that. The aroma of Nutella-covered toast gives way to flavors of mild hot chocolate, a hint of creamy coffee, and toasted grains. Herbal hops add a little balance, but this beer is sweet forward. It may be a black beer, but the body is light and drinkable. It’s a highly sessionable beer, too, suitable for a few in one sitting. It’s the perfect brew for chilly March days.
Maine’s Allagash Brewing Company is probably best known for their nearly ubiquitous Allagash White, the beer you give to Blue Moon drinkers to show them what an American witbier should taste like. Lesser known, but just as good, is Allagash Black, a roasty stout brewed with candi sugar and fermented with Belgian yeast, giving it a softness you usually don’t get in stouts. You know some of what to expect already: rich, deep cocoa and hints of coffee. It’s a stout, after all. But you might not expect the touches of dark fruits, faint hints of black cherries, and the softness of a chocolate birthday cake. It’s silky smooth with a thin body despite the black color, and finishes with a touch of unexpected smokiness, too. The yin to White’s yang, Allagash Black is a great way to help pass the last days of winter by.
If you prefer for your big beers to let you know they’re big beers – no compromise, no trying to hide what they are – then Weyerbacher’s Tiny is the beer for you. The name might be small, but all the name is is a great big wink and nudge. Weighing in at an impressive 11.8% ABV, this Belgian style imperial stout goes down with some alcohol heat, but also a marshmallow softness that allows it to drink nicely despite the booze. Tiny has rich notes of chocolate with hints of licorice, roasted nuts and coffee, but it lacks the astringent bitterness so common in imperial stouts thanks to the earthy softness, dark fruits and velvety mouthfeel imparted by the Belgian strain of yeast it uses. Pair this with cherries or strawberries at dessert and you’ll be in heaven. If you can’t find it on draft, head over to Weyerbacher’s Easton, PA brewery for a tour and a taste.
Those brewers in Germany sure know their stuff. They’ve pioneered some of the world’s best styles, usually using just a few simple ingredients. For example, the wonderful bock: it’s a strong German lager, often a rich brown color. Even more robust is the double bock, aka dopplebock, “liquid bread” once brewed by Franciscan Friars for times of fasting. The good folks at Troegs do one called Troegenator, and it’s easy to see why they used to be considered a meal in a glass. This full-bodied beer is a chewy delight, blending rich dark breads with brown sugar, caramel, breakfast cereal and freshly baked Danish. It has plenty of warming alcohol on the way down without being outright hot, and just a hint of clove to give it a spicy finish.