“All cats are black in the dark”
Any ale-y cat could tell you this: do not judge a book by its cover or a beer by its color. Nothing sounds more true when talking about dark craft beers.
Let me shine a light on the darkest place my mind wanders while drinking a crisp dark lager, reminiscing about the blasphemous few words my “Non-Craft Beer “ friends told me as I arrived at a party.
“I don’t drink heavy, strong, dark beers”.
These are the words dropped like bombs when I occasionally find myself on a personal quest to educate friends about craft beer. Standing at the door, bottles in hand, and eager to share a new chipotle stout, a black saison, or a black IPA or dark sour I just discovered and was excited about. I was told repetitively by more than one guest, “I don’t drink black heavy strong beers”.
I started enumerating a few examples, like EagleRock Brewing “Solidarity” Black Mild, a super drinkable, lightly roasted coffee beer with fruity notes Ale. Port Brewing “Midnight Sessions,” a Black Lager that would quench any So Cal surfer’s thirst with a crisp and complex and roasted coffee taste with bitter sweet chocolate medium body. I then insisted on the fantastic food pairing possibilities with any smoked gouda cheese or a soft and ripe washed rind triple cream Camembert. I persisted, explaining that rich foods will find balance when paired with a super dry black saison, or the assertive hop bite from a black IPA. Pork dishes could be enhanced by an acidic finish and highly carbonated sour black ale, like “Black Sour” from Weyerbacker brewing, to cut trough the fatty texture of the meats.
The crowd dissipated quickly. Left only with my shadow for companionship, I enjoyed the rare and innovative dark barley, hops, and yeast offerings alone. I still wonder if it was the longing for a beer geek to share these few pints with or just the ABV numbers I had savored that didn’t add up. I started daydreaming about black patent malts and dehusked Carafa III .The whole industrial revolution’s impact on roasted barley was changing before my eyes. The doors for all kinds of new flavors and aromas were now open. I desperately needed a cup of freshly roasted coffee, or maybe it would be the perfect addition to one of my fictional future home brewed Imperial Porters?
This socially challenged evening almost discouraged my sharing journey. If only I could explain that the dark color doesn’t necessarily imply a heavy and acrid roasted astringency, just like hoppy doesn’t only suggest enamel-stripping bitterness.
The craft beer revolution was a personal awakening. It has tied together my passion for DIY projects in my home brewery and experimenting with food recipe compositions. It has inspired beertasting parties along with beer and food pairing dinners. Most of all, craft beer has given me a sense of community in Los Angeles, where I moved ten years ago.
Even though I conserve my roots and blended culture with a strong Sicilian heritage and French Swiss upbringing, I’ve enjoyed the gift of self identity that I discovered here in U.S. and more precisely in Los Angeles. This urban melting pot of cultures and mixed influences materialized concretely for me personally in the diverse craft beer culture. This art form allowed me to express a true reflection of my personality and share with others a cold pint while discovering more about these small batch hand crafted historical beverages. I literally found a real home. I remain hopeful and determined to find the best gateway beers to share when attending parties outside of the craft beer community, because there is no such thing as “too dark” or “too light” beer. There are endless combinations of colors and flavor profiles to discover and share.
I encourage you, yes you craft beer lover, beer geek, and fellow hophead nerd, to take under your wing and guide the uninitiated through the dark labyrinth of brewing innovations. Be the one that shines a light on the darkest and most intimidating of all the craft beers. Who knows, one pint could open the doors of this whole community and change your friends’ lives for the better, maybe even for the bitter. May the dark brew be with you, cheers!