Friday, July 10, 2009

Beer Of The Week (Vol XIV)

Another Friday dawns and with it another Beer of the Week brought to you as always by the fine folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits in Minnetonka. This week we step away from the beers of summer and cross over to the dark side.

Many beer drinkers--especially many American beer drinkers--harbor an unnatural fear of the dark. They label anything with more taste and color than your average mass-produced American lager as "dark." They assume that every "dark" beer is heavy, bitter, and strong in alcohol and caloric content while beers on the other side of the color spectrum are wispy, refreshing, and light. Dark beers are like ogres and giants while light beers are like fairy princesses and handsome princes.

The reality of course is quite different:

For some beer drinkers, there are only two types of beer--light and dark--and never the twain shall meet in their gustatory experiences. Forget all that nonsense the beer experts, writers, critics and snobs say about beer being classified as either ales or lagers. What's that got to do with anything? Beer is light (good) or dark (bad). Period. End of discussion. Now pour me another (light) one.

Some years ago I was at a watering hole in Chihuahua, Mexico that literally offered you two choices of tap beer. One handle poured light, the other dark. No styles or even brands mentioned at all. You want light or dark amigo?

Is all this true? Well, yes, but only to an extent.

Yes, beers are correctly classified as ales and lagers. And you know what? There are both light and dark ales and lagers. And you know what else? Dark beers aren't all heavy, bitter, fattening and strong. Some are weak, wussy and watery, with just a touch of color to make them appear exotic.

You should never judge a beer by its color, but rather the content of its character.

My first experiences on the dark side came near the end of my college daze. Whitey's in East Grand Forks used to have some sort of weeknight special where you got to throw three darts at the board when you first came in. It you scored a bull's-eye on any of your tosses, you'd win a pint of Stroh's Dark. Usually followed up by many more throughout the night. We'd also quaff schooners of Pabst Dark at Bonzer's in Grand Forks.

Now, neither one of those beers would in any way be considered a craft beer. And neither had that much more flavor that the lighter counterparts that we were used to drinking. But they both served an informative role in my on-going beer education. Maybe these dark beers aren't so bad after all.

Today we look at a beer from a historic Minnesota brewery that's made something of a comeback of late. That beer is Schell's Dark.

In a departure from the other Schell's products, Dark comes in a clear bottle. With that bottle and the beer's brown color, the look is somewhat reminiscent of Newcastle Brown Ale. The label features the classic Schell's font with a sunset, forest, and imposing deer head.

Beer Style: American dark lager

Alcohol by Volume: 5.1%

COLOR (0-2): Copper brown color. 2

AROMA (0-2): Faint malt odor. 1

HEAD (0-2): Tan head that fades a bit fast. 1

TASTE (0-5): Malty, smooth, and simple. 2

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Pleasant but light follow through. 1

OVERALL (0-6): Not much here for the real beer enthusiast to get excited about, but an offering that could serve as a good entry point into the wider world of beer for those who previously had been afraid of the dark. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 10

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