The month of March supposedly contains the first day of spring, but you would never know it from the weather outside. This is the time of year that still feels like the bleak midwinter, with just the slightest hint of the change of season ahead.
While the occasional chinook brings a brief respite, I am still steadfastly in winter beer drinking mode, which means the darker brews like stouts and porters are the order of the day.
Novice boozers will often lump stouts, porters, or pretty much any dark beer into the same category, as there is indeed some overlap in the different styles.
However, the beer snobs of the world will brook no arguments in this matter, considering stouts, porters, and other types of dark beers as unique styles that should each be enjoyed for their own merits.
Stouts and Porters may be the most common styles of dark beer, but there are many other examples of inky black goodness in a glass that fall outside those styles. The closest example is from our beloved Township 24 Brewing right here in Chestermere, in the form of their Meridian Black Lager, available on tap at the brewery on Rainbow Road, or in tall boy cans at your local bottle shop.
The Meridian Black Lager is made in the Schwarzbier style, which the German-speaking readers will be able to translate as black beer, which should give you a good idea about its defining characteristic.
The Meridian Black Lager is made right here in Chestermere, so it is the freshest beer you will find, and in regular rotation in my fridge at home. The combination of light pilsner malts with dark roasted barley, combined with the lighter tasting lager yeasts makes the Meridian Black Lager a dark beer for those who do not normally drink dark beers, so pick one up the next time you are on Rainbow Road.
Keeping up with the German theme, the Dunkelweizen dark wheat ale from Brauerei Fahr in Turner Valley is only 70 kilometers from Chestermere, but tastes like it came out of a small village in Germany. The notes of banana and clove from the centuries-old Weihenstephan yeast so typical with wheat beers shine through the dark roasted malt flavours, making this a beer that does double duty in both the cold winter months and sunny patio season.
While not quite as local as our own Township 24 Brewing, we need look only as far east as Strathmore to find Origin Brewing & Malting, home of The Darkness Porter. Flaked oats are added to the dark roast malts for a smooth and creamy mouth feel, with lots of burnt chocolate notes on the tongue, and a robust hop bitterness to balance the hefty malt bill. Since Origin is both a brewer and malter, they grow all their own barley, making this the most farm-to-glass a beer can get.
My favourite new porter on the market comes from Revival Brewcade, a craft brewery and retro 80s arcade parlour in Calgary’s hip Inglewood area, which is rapidly becoming known as Brewery Flats, thanks to the abundance of new breweries popping up.
The Pinhead Porter from Revival Brewcade is named for fans of retro pinball games, which ate many of the quarters from my allowance in the days of my squandered youth.
Just down the street from Revival Brewcade is perhaps the granddaddy of local stout beers, namely the Dandy in the Underworld Oyster Stout from the Dandy Brewing Company. This beer has been pouring since 2015, and was the inspiration for countless other new breweries to create their own dark and delicious creations.
At only 5% ABV, it goes down just dandy, and pairs especially well with oysters or garlic sausage. Although the colouring is as dark as night, the blending of roasted malts with lighter malts results in a light to medium body on the tongue, and a highly sessionable beer that can be enjoyed all night.
Until the gentle winds of summer are ready to caress us once again, I will be drinking deep of all the stouts, porters, and other dark beers that our local craft brewers have to offer. Look for them at your local watering hole or friendly neighbourhood booze merchant to do the same!