The nights are steadily getting longer and colder as November comes to a close and we plod our way into winter. That old familiar chill settling into all of our bones means one thing for beer drinkers: time to bid farewell to the lighter fares of fall and break out some heavy and flavorful stouts to warm the winter blues.
With an array of winter brews to choose from this season, the selection can be overwhelming, but Magic Hat Brewing Company’s Heart of Darkness stout is a great place to start.
The Magic Hat Brewery, based in South Burlington, Vt., is widely known for their unique year-round brews and specialty craft beers released periodically throughout the year.
Heart of Darkness, Magic Hat’s winter flavor of the year, is a refreshing reprieve from the ale standard that makes up the majority of its repertoire. While their year-round elixirs are delicious in their own right (#9 is one of my personal favorites), the taste composition of Heart of Darkness sets it apart from other Magic Hat delights as well as from the array of stouts currently available.
The swirling bright pinks and purples of the label suggest a light and fruity beer. But don’t be fooled by appearances – this brew is as delectably dark as they come, and the piercing gaze of the great eye on the label warns drinkers to beware the power of the stout. I am a sucker for a good label, which is what captured my attention with this beer from the start.
Well played, Magic Hat, well played.
Normally, I’m not much of a stout drinker. I find the taste a little too heavy, but if it’s done just right then I am willing to compromise. Heart of Darkness took me by surprise; not just because it is a stout beer from a company famous for brewing lighter ales, but also because it is a good stout from such a company.
Pouring a 12-ounce bottle into a pint glass releases a black-looking liquid, with a thick, lingering head the color of rich oatmeal with heavy lacing. Appearance alone suggests the presence of a coffee stout, which is only enhanced by the enticing aroma; rich espresso with hints of unsweetened chocolate and a hearty malt scent hiding underneath.
The first sip heralds a symphony of savory flavors expertly combining the tastes of strong coffee, burnt caramel and roasted malt that swirl across the palette and leave an aftertaste of hop bitterness. While not entirely sweet, there are definite hints of chocolate and exotic vanilla, but thankfully they don’t overpower what is otherwise a relatively tart beer. Mild carbonation enhances the density of this luscious liquid and the overall taste is smoky and malty without being too bitter.
I’ve always been a fan of Magic Hat brews, and after tasting this dark treat I think I may have found a new favorite.
For anyone who is intimidated by the darker varietals of beer, Heart of Darkness is a good introduction to the fascinating and delicious world of darker beers. Not too heavy and not too light, it combines the best qualities of both ale and dark beer; strong taste with a crisp finish and a plethora of tantalizing flavors to warm the cold winter nights.
While it would certainly pair well with any hot dish, it is best complimented by roasted meats or a hearty stew, or even as an afterthought while you curl up in front of a warm fire as the wind whips and wails outside.
The darkest time of the year is approaching fast, but good beers like Heart of Darkness can easily and deliciously take the chill out of your cold bones.
Emily Brightman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org