Lights Out Part 2: Dunkels
My “beer road” started out with mostly darker beers, both ales and lagers included, as I kept on a search for beers with what I thought were similar flavors. I was looking for beers which featured and coaxed the various flavors out of a heavier malt presence in the beer, which can include richer flavors, roasted or toasted characteristics, tastes of brown breads, dark fruits such as raisin or prune, or caramel or toffee flavors, and perhaps a sweeter taste also, which can be quite out in front or just the slightest bit sweet. For anyone that might be curious about and new to craft beer, I still think that pursuing beers with these same types of flavors might be a good path to take. After all, sweeter, richer foods and beverages in general seem to always be easier to acclimate oneself to instead of ones with a more bitter taste, which in the beer world would be hoppier beers like hoppy IPAs and such. Some beer people move on to appreciate these hoppier beers, but these darker beers that I’ve mentioned before – maltier Brown Ales and Black Lagers (or Schwarzbiers) for example, I truly think can be good starting points.
Add to those my next beer road stop, a curiosity in a very old German style, the Dunkel, or Munich Dunkel. This lager benefits from an certain brewing technique, called decoction, which at different times in the brewing process means part of the soon to be beer mixture is removed and further roasted for a richer taste. Typically you do get a fuller bodied beer than most lagers, but they are not usually heavy. Due to the decoction, these have a rich, dominant malty taste with a low to medium hop presence, and flavors can range from those that I was looking for – caramel, toasted malt, dark breads, and occasionally dark fruit. The richness can be something to savor – a lot of times, a good Dunkel makes for that good end of the day, feel good, warming beer for me. Unfortunately they are not terribly easy to find, but here are some good examples to search out – Dixie Brewing’s Blackened Voodoo was the first I tried, and might be the easiest to locate. Most beer drinkers are familiar with Negra Modelo, which ought to show up on the beer list of any Mexican restaurant. However, specialty shops might stock something like Ayinger’s Altbairisch Dunkel or Pennsylvania Brewing’s Penn Dark, and both are delicious.