Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Dark Season

Yesterday afternoon at 5:38 pm we reached the winter solstice. The darkest part of the year is here and there’s nothing that brightens these short, black days better than a big, black beer. It’s time to go opaque.

Let’s start over at Fratellos' Fox River Brewing Company where they’re making something of a secret of the fact that this December marks their fifteenth year of brewing in Oshkosh. They’ve just resurrected the venerable Titan Porter, though, and it’s a proper companion for wondering where the hell all that time went. This is a porter in a rich and robust vein with a great aroma of toast on the verge of scorching. A healthy dollop of coffee and chocolate follow through in the quaff and it closes with a dry, dark-malt and hop bitterness that lingers until the next pull. Get it while you can.

At Festival Foods in Oshkosh, they’ve recently stocked up on a couple of worthy black beers. The Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is an odd, little ale that’s nothing like that other Guinness Stout you know about. When I say little, I mean that annoying European practice of  sending us beer in 11.2 oz bottles instead of giving us the full 12. Aside from that, this beer is big enough at 7.5% and is heartier than you’d expect any breed of Guinness to be. Lot’s of smoky, charred malt aroma smolders off this one and the flavor comes on with a carbonic shot of burnt grain and bitter hops. The hop aspect of this surprised me; it’s almost American in execution. I don’t know that I’d make a habit of this beer, but it’s definitely one to seek out and experience.

And just in at Festival, all the way from trusty and rusty Kalamazoo, is our old friend Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout. This brew tends to come and go around here, but right now there’s a fresh batch waiting to get reacquainted with your liver. This is one of those comfortable stouts that’s easy to take for granted until you start drinking and remember all over again what a fine beer it is. The beer comes with all the standard, American stout features. It’s roasty and peaty and a little sweet with a nice zip of hops and it’s all balanced so well that only a dolt would miss it’s deliciousness. Ummmm.

All right, one last beer for those among us afraid of the dark. Festival now has New Belgium’s Frambozen Raspberry Brown Ale, a fruit beer that skips down the same lane as New Glarus’ Raspberry Tart. Frambozen isn’t going to blow you away with the sort of succulent unctuousness of the Tart, but it’s no slouch and one to put on your list if fruit beers with a Belgian slant are your thing. Also, the aroma and color is quite un-beer like, so if you’re having one of those days you could probably get away with drinking this at work. Just an idea.

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