As we teeter between winter and spring, this is a good moment for beers that tread the line between light and dark. Dark lagers are in season, particularly the Doppelbocks that would traditionally have been flowing around this time of year for the monks to enjoy during lent. These beers were counted as liquid bread and meant the brothers could keep up with their chores without recourse to the many foods prohibited during the run-up to Easter. It may be April but it’s snowing outside in big, fat flakes and these beers feel very apt indeed.
Verdant Brewing Co, Munich Dunkel dark lager
The beer gleams a dark toffee amber under its thick rocky head of tan foam. It is pleasing to look at, enticing in the glass. The first impression leads me to expect something hearty and substantial, funny what colour can do to your perception. A sip reveals flavours of toasted malt, brown bread, and brittle caramel. There’s a light grainy character here, and then the crisp clean finish of a lager to keep things from getting too heavy. I want to pair it with something porky and sizzling, or cheesy and oozing, or better yet both at once. If I had to change anything here I’d dial the carbonation down a notch. It’s a touch sharp for my taste. But a good beer to enjoy by a warming fire, which gives some of the comfort I still crave as the chill of winter hangs on into spring.
Utopian Brewing, Doppelbock Strong Lager
Oh my! It looks lovely, especially in a gold-rimmed glass: rich chestnut-brown, seemingly lit from within. The head, slowly sinking in on itself, is silky and glossy and persists once it has thinned out. Its aroma puts me in mind of thick squidgy malt loaf, or barleywine minus the spiritous and fruity esters. There’s delicious strength on the palate balancing malty almost raisin sweetness, baking spice, grassy floral hops, and a clean light but lingering finish. There’s a depth of flavour and clean but eloquent malt character that suggests to me decoction; it’s still dry but the malt is more present and impactful than the Verdant. This is altogether more indulgent. Its carbonation is gentler and more controlled, doesn’t get in the way, is just enough to lift the beer from the palate and prevent it from being cloying.
If you were drinking the Dunkel while making the best of a slightly blustery afternoon, this is the beer you’d switch to once darkness fell and the lights came on. This is a beer for welcoming guests to the hearth. A beer which reminds us small pleasures can impart happiness beyond their scale.