Food and Drink: A darker shade of ale

Food and Drink: A darker shade of ale
Smoke Porter and Boone County Brown are ales for the winter. [Dave Faries]
Dave Faries

Some people have favorite beers that suit them no matter the occasion. Others, however, consider certain brews to be seasonal in nature – bright wheat beers for the summer, a marzen to welcome the fall, for instance.

But judging by the somewhat less than favorable conditions of the past few weeks, tis the season for the heftier savor of dark-hued ales.

The Boone County Brown from Bur Oak Brewing Company in Columbia is a welcoming American brown ale, with a creamy head and friendly aromas of toasted grain and cola.

Moser’s stocks it in cans, but the beer defies the disdain once held for aluminum containers. It is dark amber in color and smooth in body, with ripples of dark roast coffee and craft root beer, sharp chicory softened by a touch of vanilla and chocolate so that all the flavors fall into balance.

A bitter streak develops and defines the finish, but doesn’t tip things over.

Boone County Brown has heft like a duvet, plush and comfortable. It is crafted from four different malts – the versatile Franco-Belges, chocolate, kiln coffee and Caramunich so the coffee note resonates – and German Hallertau Mittelfruh hops to enhance the earthy note.

O’Fallon Brewery’s Smoke Porter is more evocative, a campfire crackling or a pile of leaves smoldering with darkness beginning to cloak the fading sun. A dusky spice undertone layers behind a hint of blond date. There’s a soft, ashen bitterness and roasted coffee bean that alerts the finish.

Smoke drifts through the beer, even on the nose which offers charred mesquite, toasted grain and cappuccino.

The Smoke Porter is a gold medal winner from last year’s prestigious Great American Beer Festival. It leans heavily on Bamberg Smoked Malt – Bamberg is the center of German Rauchbier – with smaller portions of four other malts.

Chinook and German Hallertau Mittelfruh hops lend character, allowing you to imagine smoke hanging in a patch of woods studded with pine.

Despite the beer’s heavy dark chocolate color, it has a more genteel body that blankets the palate.

And that’s what you want on a winter evening, a nice warming blanket.


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