The Dark Beer Trilogy
If ever there was a thesis statement regarding my ultimate desire for all things ‘dark beer’, this would certainly have to be it. Rather than have three separate reviews on these three different beers, it sounded like a fun challenge to compare and contrast and just see how incredibly diverse the tastes of three very dark beers could be. Now I didn’t go into the beer purchase with this in mind, but stumbling across a trifecta of such unusual bedfellows made it almost a given that something like this review would come to a head.
Michelob Porter – Michelob Brewing Co., St Louis MO
I begin with the Michelob Porter. Now first off I have to give big props to Michelob for setting itself aside from all the other ‘big beer’ companies and really taking it upon themselves to stretch their wings and come out with a real fine selection of beers. Even above and beyond that is the price. Michelob, still maintaining its ‘inexpensive beer’ moniker while simultaneously branching out in variety truly allows one, like myself, to enjoy something other than the standard Pilsner at a great price. This six pack was only $5.99 plus Michigan’s 10-cent deposit. Pretty nice. So the beer itself is a very nice color reminiscent of its porter brethren: it’s dark, rich, and loaded with that familiar coffee/mocha/caramel aroma similar to the genre. The head is fleeting, yet foamy wile it lasts, and it does give off a good bit of a hoppy nose that is a bit more unusual for a darker beer as the chocolate flavor tends to bury it almost outright. The taste is quite crisp and refreshing; not only in its flavor, but also in its perky difference to other porters. Right away it’s very obvious that more than the common amount of hops are used in this porter’s manufacture and that’s really cool. It has a bite even beyond the typical malty one given by its namesake. This one is a new one to me, and nothing pleases me more than something I haven’t tried. It would go well with something salty, like, oddly, a ham. Good stuff.
San Miguel Dark Lager – San Miguel Corp., Philippines
The second brew is the San Miguel Dark Lager. I feel pretty lucky that my local party store that I frequent has such a vast array of beers, up to and including at least three from San Miguel. As I pour I am immediately aware of two things: this dark lager as almost exactly as richly black as the previous porter, and the aroma is sweetly caramel and malt heavy. The color doesn’t surprise me too much as the Sam Adams Dark Lager looked exactly the same. The smell, well, it’s certainly both a pleasant diversion from the deep darkness I’ve come to love and an all together new nose for me. And wow is the taste matched directly to its scent: completely bittersweet with its sugary malts and well balanced hops. It’s almost too sweet from the first mouth-feel, but as quickly as you can think that, the bitterness kicks in and almost subliminally creates a Yin and Yang effect on your tongue. So even with that vortex of playing complex flavors, never is it too much of one (beyond the first second) and it finishes quite clean and nice. I would very much match this beer with a beef roast or even as an after-meal ‘drink’. Enjoyable.
Arcadia Cocoa Loco – Arcadia Brewing Co., Battle Creek MI
Finally, Arcadia’s Cocoa Loco. I had quite literally not gotten the cap even half way off and my nose was assailed by nothing but milk chocolate. Just by view of the pour alone you can immediately tell that this beer is not messing around; it is absolutely everything it claims to be, and I haven’t even tasted it yet. I implore you to read the description on the web site for a run down on exactly what your getting into should you happen upon a 4-pack (yes, four) for around 10 bucks and decide on a try. Remember the chocolate milk you’d always make when you knew your parents weren’t looking, or maybe the milk shakes gramma used to whip up when you’d stay the night… yeah, well this is it, in beer form. Aside from candy, I can honestly say its been a while since I smelled something so completely devoid of anything but chocolate. It is something truly amazing that surely must be tried to be believed. The taste, as you can rightly imagine just from the description of the smell, is rich, loaded with cocoa and malts, creamy (hey, it’s brewed with lactose for crying out loud), and so completely heavy that that 4-pack makes a bit more sense. Six would be just too much. I would be surprised, no, floored, if Willy Wonka didn’t somehow have a hand in this. This beer is so very special. It is, fully and completely, dessert in a glass. Yet, serving with food would be great especially with something like a grilled, beefy fish or even like a fruity pastry with ice cream. Ya know what, who cares! It’s a meal in and of itself!
Viva la Difference:
Michelob Porter: * * * 1/2
San Miguel Dark Lager: * * * *
Arcadia Cocoa Loco: * * * * *
Do yourself a favor, all you beer lovers out there: Try this out! Get a few different beers, stay away from the 18-pack of Bud, and branch out! You owe it to yourself.