Send in the Imperial Dancing Bears
May 7, 2008

I confess I often choose beer because of the label. Despite my ambivalence about Dark Star Brewery (named after a Grateful Dead song, the best-titled Dead song, but still…) I bought this beer because of the label. It’s pretty.

I have tried a couple disappointing Dark Star brews on tap at the Whole Foods “pub”– which now closes at 5pm– is it not part of the green lifestyle to drink after 5pm now? I digress! Could Dark Star redeem itself with my favourite style?

And I wondered: can hippies brew an Imperial Stout, the corsair of beers? This question pressed on me until I purchased a (rather expensive) bottle from the same Whole Foods.

My heart sinks a bit when I pour it– there’s no head at all, not even a lace of foam ringing the glass. It seems a bit, well, dead. The color is a dark ruby, not quite the black-night-of-the-soul I was hoping for. Plus, it has a soy nose and is sour and bitter at the middle and finish. I keep waiting as it warms in my glass for the chocolate or the malt to show, but I am stood up.

This tastes more like an unripe old ale– similar to the savoury/sweet contradictions of Theakston’s Old Peculiar, but without the paradoxical depth. It says on the label that this beer is bottle conditioned and it “will continue to improve for many years.” Maybe this beer wasn’t ready for me? I certainly wasn’t ready for it.

The only similarity between this and other imperial porters I’ve tried– North Coast Old Rasputin being the favourite– is the alcohol content. At 10.5%, chances are when I am done with this one I won’t care too much that it wasn’t that tall, dark Baltic I was dreaming of. I’ll just be happy it did the job.

Eats: chocolate covered hazelnuts to make up for what the beer lacked.

While listening to: Norma Waterson’s version of the Dead’s Black Muddy River