Style: Brown Ale
Availability: limited release, draft only
Pairing: caramelized pork chops, wash-rind cheese, vanilla ice cream, cheeescake
Last night, New York received another great opportunity to visit the Brooklyn Brewery for the invite-only release of Dark Matter, their latest in the Brewmaster’s Reserve series. Brewmaster Garrett Oliver was on hand along along with a laundry list of the city’s finest pub owners, food editors and beer bloggers. Once again, the tap room flowed with some of brewery’s best drafts: Cookie Jar Porter, Monster ’09, Blast, Black Chocolate Stout ’09, Pilsner and more. The Bedford Cheese Shop and The Meat Hook were on hand to supply a nice meat and cheese compliment Dark Matter’s vanilla-oaked, sweet palate of flavors.
Appearance: The Dark Matter pours a deep, dusty brown with reddish undertones and a very fine ecru head. On draft, the beer shows only a slight carbonation but a nice lacing develops with a minor swirl signifying a well crafted brew.
Smell: A massive vanilla-oak barrel aroma hits the nose upfront with lingering hints of dark stone fruits. Raisins, prunes, and black currant are all here along with notes of sweet bourbon.
Taste: There’s an explosion of contrast in the Dark Matter’s flavor palate. Upfront, this beer is delicate with slightly bitter, wooden hints and vanilla notes. Quickly, however, a massive rush of barrel-aged flavors envelope the palate. All of the character of the nose is here — especially the bourbon and raisin ones — mingling with lots of sweet burnt caramel and chocolate malt.
Mouthfeel: A very delicate carbonation hits the tongue at first but finishes with a strong, syrupy coating of the mouth.
Drinkability: This is surprisingly drinkable for such a sweet beer with such rich flavors. Paired with a hearty meal, a few Dark Matters will go down without a second thought. But this beer can also be approached on its own during the last few cold nights of late winter.
Overall: Dark Matter is a strong edition to the Brooklyn Brewery’s Brewmasters Series. While their flagship barrel-aged offering, the Black Ops, is often sought out by Imperial Stout lovers worldwide, it is also one that is best served after a year in the bottle. Dark Matter, however, carries all the richness and complexity of Black Ops in a much more accessible, ready-to-drink brew with a lower ABV. This beer is also a great introduction to barrel-aging for those unfamiliar with the technique. Poorly crafted oak-aged beers can be abrasive and overpowering but the flavors here are balanced and very approachable for even an uninitiated palate. As a solid standby, it will pair nicely with meat-centric dinners and tangy/creamy desserts alike. Overall, Dark Matter is another fine offering from the Brooklyn Brewery.
Malt: British Pale Ale, Crystal, Chocolate, Wheat, Belgian Aromatic, Roasted Barley
Hops: Willamette, Cascade, U.S. Fuggle
Yeast: Brooklyn House Ale
Barreling: Four months in a blend of bourbon and rye barrels of differing ages
OG: 18 deg. Plato
Cosmologists tell us that the universe was made by a massive explosion called the Big Bang. And in this Big Bang was created a material called “dark matter”, which accounts for 95% of the mass of the universe and actually binds the universe together. Well, that sounds pretty heavy. But it’s theoretical. Here in Brooklyn, our cosmology is a bit different.
In the beginning, there was Black Ops. Or perhaps not. Beer does have its mysteries. Anyhow, they say that back in 2007, a small amount of Dark Matter was created alongside Black Ops, but very few people had an opportunity to taste it. The Brooklyn Brewing Team decided that this shortage was unfortunate – plenty of Dark Matter for themselves, but not enough to share with all their friends. So last autumn they decided to recreate Dark Matter and open up the Brooklyn Barrel Room to a wider world. Brooklyn Dark Matter is a robust brown ale aged for four months in bourbon and rye whiskey barrels. Some barrels previously held Black Ops, some hosted The Manhattan Project, others came straight from the distilleries as soon as the whiskey was decanted. We’ve blended these barrels to create a beer full of caramel and chocolate flavors heightened by vanilla-like oak notes and hints of the barrels’ previous tenants. The result is a smooth, rich beer that really loves food, from fried or roasted chicken to char-grilled steak, barbecue, pork chops and even monkfish. And on some chilly evening in late winter, or perhaps the first warm night of spring, we hope that you may be tempted to believe that Dark Matter really does bind the universe together.
– Garrett Oliver