Oooh! My first rauchbier of the autumn. I believe that it is also my first Dark Horse
review. I've had a collaboration brew
with which they were involved and have sampled their wares at the Great Taste but I can't find any evidence that I've blessed them with a solo inspection of one of their beers.
Dark Horse hails from Marshall, Michigan – a town about the size of Portage that lies in the south central part of the lower bit of the state. I don't really know why but I always think that the brewery is in California or Colorado when I see their six packs in the cooler. And they're almost always seated next to Short's, Bell's, Founders, and whole lot of other establishments that lie east of the Mississippi so you'd think I'd get the hint. But no.
Honestly, I don't know much about Dark Horse. I presume they brew lots of IPAs because that's what breweries do to placate all those tongues wagging in Citra-fueled paroxysm. Fore Smoked Stout
is the fourth entry in their Stout Series so apparently they also have a thing for stouts in addition to hoppier beers.
Fore can rightly be described as Stygian in appearance. Pouring it, the beer looked to have the color and viscosity of motor oil. Sure, it's deep brown but looking at the glass like any normal person does, it is black. It may have been clear but I couldn't say for sure. I can tell you, however, that I didn't see any flakes or chunks. As per normal, I managed only a small head here. The foam was moved beyond the realm of tan into brown, albeit one of a lighter hue. Sadly it went away rather quickly. The effervescence you ask? Stygian, I say, Stygian!
As a lover of smoke beers, I find trying a new one to be exciting because I get to find out how far a brewer is willing to go/keen on going. Are they going to throw in a just a little smoked malt simply to add to the gustatory milieu and appease a wide audience or will they use a more generous helping to emphasize the smoky taste to appeal to the hearty few?
I can usually tell by waving my beer around to look at the color and whatnot because a fairly smoky beer is discernible even when it is a foot or more away from your nose. If there's a Schlekerla even 30 cm away, you'll know it. Fore is not one of those beers. Bitter chocolate was most pronounced to my proboscis with the smoke having a definite supporting role. And no, it didn't smell like bacon. Nor of apple wood. Perhaps it was oak smoked. There was also a firm sweetness which reminded me of the Chinese haw flakes I ate as a kid.
While I am sure the history of the stout is quite lengthy and convoluted, I simply think of them as, well strong porters. Fore certainly fits that description with a lot of dark/bitter chocolate taste that was bedecked with a hint of coffee and, of course, some (non-porcine tasting) smoke. Some spicy hops added a touch of bitterness but it was really the black malts that gave that acerbic taste.
A bitter chocolate aftertaste lingered long after the last drop had descended into my gullet and was joined by the hops which became a little grassy here. This was by no means a very hoppy beer but they let your tongue know they were there. And, when the carbonation joined, it was more than a little dry. I also noticed a slight alcohol burn. Fore is only 7% but you can taste it. There wasn't much lacing here – just some small spots here and there.
Dark Horse definitely took the smoke-as-an-accent route. It doesn't jump out at you and instead has a good ol' time blending with the coffee and bitter chocolate maltiness. Fore has a definite ashen black malt taste and it is bitter. But in a good way. While I wish there was more smoke flavor – I always wish there was more smoke flavor – Fore is a really tasty combination of dark and smoked malts. It's also on the big side with a heavy-medium body and some alcohol burn. Still, I found that it went down quite smoothly.
Junk food pairing: Pair Fore Smoked Stout with some Smoked Gouda Triscuits smothered in American Flavor Easy Cheese.
Labels: Beer, Dark Horse Brewing, Rauchbier, Smoke Beer, Stout