A modest selection of the darker side of beer
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
Move over, pumpkin ale, we’re sick of your gimmicky flavours and cloying autumn spices. With the calendar flipping over to November, it’s finally time for tiresome pumpkin-spice-everything to clear the shelves and make way for porters and stouts.
Porter is a hoppy beer made with brown malt that originated in England in the 18th century. It lends itself well to flavours, and while porters can be (and definitely are) enjoyed year round, there’s something about the cold, rainy, and snowy season that makes me want to sip on a robust beverage, reading one of my many leather-bound books, in my apartment that smells of rich mahogany.
Stouts are descended from porters, and while they are a little bit more intense than porters because they use roasted barley, both types of beer feature a malty sweetness combined with a hoppy bitterness that is perfect for the season. I checked out five dark beers on offer at your local liquor store.
Lions Winter Ale (Granville Island Brewing): This award-winning local hero is not technically a porter or a stout. It’s a robust, dark ale that I like to call a starter porter, probably because it’s what I got my start on. I still anticipate the return of Winter Ale every year, but ever since I discovered stouts, I find the Winter Ale to taste a little weak—the chocolate notes mix with vanilla and caramel to create a taste that is a little cloying, but still massively drinkable. Available in six-packs of bottles, or on tap at many establishments.
Dark Matter (Hoyne Brewing): Brewed on Vancouver Island (aka Brewtopia), Dark Matter is a warm, uncomplicated nut-brown beer. It has a simple chocolate flavour and a creamy texture, and unlike the other, more-flavoured beers that I reviewed, I could see myself drinking a ton of this. This beer, like the following ones, comes in big bottles in the $6-8 range.
Blackberry Porter (Cannery Brewing): Oh, the beers of BC. Cannery Brewing is located in Penticton, BC, and the sun-kissed blackberry flavour infuses this robust porter. I love it for sipping and for novelty, but I think this one is best kept as an after-dinner beer, perhaps with some chocolate gelato. The blackberry notes are very obvious.
Vanilla Oatis Oatmeal Stout (Ninkasi Brewing): So, I could bathe in this delicious oatmeal vanilla stout that comes from Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene, Oregon. This is the one I was most excited to try, and it ended up being my absolute favourite. It has a smoky, coffee-tinged taste when you first sip it, with that creamy texture that oatmeal stouts always have. The vanilla shows itself on the finish with a decisive sweet tenderness. I think I’m going to marry this beer.
Longboat Chocolate Porter (Phillips): Another beer from Vancouver Island, Victoria-based Phillips has been making delicious flavoured beers since 2001. Their classic chocolate porter is no exception—frequently imitated, Longboat Chocolate Porter is the original and probably the best. I found that the chocolate flavour wasn’t too forceful: it shows itself mildly on the finish of this very drinkable dark ale. Not my favourite of the ones I tried, but definitely a contender.