Spring officially begins March 20, and right on time comes the release of Dino's Dark from Lake Louie Brewing. The beer is a limited-release, seasonal beer from the Arena brewery. Owner and brewmaster Tom Porter admits he likes to play around with the recipe of Dino's, just enough to offer fans of this beer a little something different from its previous vintage. It's a beer that always falls somewhere close to the character of a porter, with this year's edition a strong American brown ale.
What is it? Dino's Dark in Arena.
Style: Brewmaster Tom Porter considers Dino's Dark to be an American brown ale. The style is known for a deep bronze to black color. Expect it to have some roasted tones; however, smoother caramel and chocolate maltiness will dominate, and some hop aroma and an overall medium bitter flavor is to be expected. The American brown is a bigger, maltier interpretation of an English brown ale, yet less malty than a brown porter. The American brown is medium to full-bodied, and ranges in alcohol from 4.3% to 6.2% ABV.
Background: Fans of Lake Louie likely know that Dino's Dark is a spring seasonal, although it wasn't made in 2010. Because of high demand for his regular brews, Porter cut back on limited releases last year, making the new Dino's Dark even more special.
This year, Porter made Dino's with seven different malts, including a small amount of wheat for additional body. Four different varieties of hops are used, and three of those in dry hopping, which add to the beer's light citrus aroma.
Dino's Dark was one of Lake Louie's first seasonal brews. Porter says it was created by accident while making his popular "Tommy's Porter" when he forgot to add one of the specialty malts. Rather than start over, he finished it out and offered it for sale. Thanks to the demand from a faithful following, Dino's turned into a regular seasonal.
However, there is more to the story of Dino's Dark. Porter says in the early days of his brewery he often invited friends out to try his latest beer. After his accidental brew was finished, he and friends were sitting around drinking it when he heard a distinctive laugh from a buddy that caused him to proclaim, "Hey, you sound like the dog on The Flintstones." Then someone added that that would be a great name for a beer -- and Dino's Dark was born. (Porter jokes that when he was first starting out, rarely did a beer get named when friends were sober.)
Dino's is currently available on tap in a number of Madison-area bars. The majority of the first 30-barrel batch was pre-sold to more than two dozen keg accounts in the region. So until late March, when his second batch is bottled, it might be easier to find on tap than in stores. That will change when the second batch is released at the end of the month. Dino's Dark sells in six-packs for around $9. Its alcohol content is around 7% ABV.
Lake Louie fans might want to mark their calendars for a brand new beer this summer called Mosquito Beach. It'll have a vivid red color, and it is based on the steam beer or California common beer style; that is, when an ale is fermented at cold temperatures, much like a lager. Stay tuned: Porter is still working on the beer but hopes to have a test batch for selected bar accounts in April.
- Aroma: A light malty nose, with accents of hoppy citrus-like aromas.
- Appearance: Very dark with reddish-bronze highlights. A thin, soft, brown head.
- Texture: Full bodied.
- Taste: Smooth, mild maltiness with tones of chocolate and caramel.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Malty, smooth, a light warmth in the lingering finish. Also, notes of light citrus hoppiness return in the end.
Glassware: Dino's Dark has great color with a ruby-red tint. While the basic pilsner glass does not enhance flavor, pour this beer into it for purely aesthetic reasons.
Pairs well with: Gouda and havarti cheeses will accentuate the light citrus-hoppiness. It is also a nice beer for sandwiches, especially hamburgers; or for a unique treat, try it with the spiciness of summer sausage.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Dino's Dark is a beer to look forward to in early spring. It offers great malty presence with smooth chocolate tones and a full-bodied mouthfeel. The hoppiness is there as a backbone to the beer, with a light citrus accent. Bitter isn't over the top, but there's enough to add balance to the maltiness and overall depth to the flavor and character.