Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dark Beers — Heater Allen Brewing vs. Pelican Brewery

Heater Allen Brewing
Sandy Paws

(2009 Dark Lager)
ABV 6.2% 

Color: Deep brown.
Aroma: Chocolate and coffee with a bit of hop funk.
Flavor: Sweet chocolate malts and coffee.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Balanced
Finish: Lingering coffee flavor with mild, dark chocolate bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Fantastic

Pelican Brewery
Doryman's Dark Ale

ABV 6.2%

Reddish brown.
Aroma: Fruity and slightly metallic.
Flavor: Simple watery coffee.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Balanced
Finish: Coffee and moderate metallic bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Good -

Blow by Blow
Being an eagle-eyed beer hunter, I noticed this Heater Allen beer on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator at Market of Choice in Ashland. I became even more intrigued when I read that it was a "2009 Dark Lager." At first, I didn't think I could find a worthy opponent, but then the Pelican Doryman's Dark started posturing and just like that I had the makings of a good battle.

So we had a dark lager and a dark ale, two beers with names that don't really offer up much information to the consumer. The Pelican revealed its style on the side of the bottle as a Northwest Brown Ale and the Heater Allen provided us with important details like the names of the owners of the dog on the label. We decided to taste first and research later.

The Sandy Paws was a pleasant surprise. Rich, sweet and chocolaty with just enough bitterness to balance the sweetness. The more we drank it, the more we liked it. It's a great beer for anyone who craves dark malts but doesn't want the huge ABV that often comes with the darker beers.
The Doryman's Dark Ale wasn't so dark. Perhaps it might be dark when compared to Pelican's other beers, but it was no match for the deep brown of the Sandy Paws. So it lost the battle of color right from the start and never really recovered. It's actually a pretty solid beer, but its dark malt flavors were a little watered down next to the Heater Allen brew. The finish was also a bit more bitter and had a slight metallic note that we didn't care for as much.

After the battle I did a little internet research and found out that the Sandy Paws is actually a Baltic Porter offered as a seasonal beer in the Fall/Winter. What the 2009 batch was doing two years later on a shelf at the grocery store is still a mystery, but we're proud to report that it is holding up just fine after two years in the bottle. Heck, maybe it's even better now than when it was released? If you're lucky enough to find it, pick up a bottle and if not keep an eye out for the 2011 version which should be coming out later this year.

Winner by unanimous decision: Heater Allen Sandy Paws

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