Monday, June 6, 2011

Dark Horse - Raspberry Ale

I have had some brews that I really enjoy from Dark Horse Brewing Co in Michigan.  I have also had some amazing LMS (Lake Michigan Shore) wines from Michigan.  Some of those wines are fruit based as Michigan has a rather robust fruit trade during the summer months.  It lends itself well to tremendous cherry treats (wines, jams), fantastic farmers' markets, sweet strawberries, and boast-worthy blueberries.  OK, enough alliteration.  What I am getting at is that this beer from the midwest was brewed in a state particularly known for its fruit-bearing prowess.  That and the depiction of some rather aggressive looking bees on the front tell me there should also be some honey involved.  It should be a nice summer treat.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 9/12
The initial sniffs from the 2-3oz sample are of a very acidic malt.  Once the head dies down a small plastic carton of raspberries greets the nose, but is made to seem false by the acidity.  In fact, the acidity allows the drinker to believe that there may be a larger amount of grapefruit flavored hops involved than this style would use or require.  There is also a floral ester that reminds one of trees blooming in springtime.  This aroma combined with the raspberry is a beautiful harmony that is unfortunately made less by the dissonant acidity. I can see including bees on the label for the floral esters, but there is no honey to be detected.  Halfway through the pint a smell not unlike a red malt is detectable.

Appearance 2/3
The beer pours lightly in a bright, light-ochre hue and in the right lighting, nearly a strawberry blonde.  However, that may be the wishful thinking of the drinker while having a "raspberry" ale in hand.  The head appears a moderately-sized sudsy ivory, but dissolves quickly away.  This is not a large surprise in a beer with such an acidic nose.

Picture is my own.
Flavor 12/20
Not a terrible beer, but where are the raspberries?  The taste is certainly acidic but the genuine fruit from the aroma has all but vanished.  This is especially true after attempts to raise the sediment from the bottom have been made.  Then the flavor grows even dimmer!  The backbone is diminished to a yeasty, sour combination of things.  In fact, this beer has a distinct bitter tinge even through the backbone of what is supposed to be a lighter, fruiter, refreshing summer brew.  Only in the finish does the authentic raspberry flavor start to poke through again.  It yields quickly to a cleaner aftertaste with a light-to-moderate hop bitter.  The bitter sticks out more and more as it goes.  It is appropriate for someone offering a more "gutsy" fruit beer, but without the fruit for balance, it seems a bit out of place.  Side note:  again no honey, despite the bees depicted on the label.

Mouthfeel 3/5
Really nothing wrong here.  In fact, Dark Horse has made this a bit more full bodied than most fruity summer ales that are offered.  Carbonation is bubbly and refreshing to the end of the pint.  There is no warmth or creaminess of which to speak.

Overall Impression 3/10
It is a raspberry ale that does not taste much at all like raspberries.  While the brewery has tried to give a brew that is more substantial in terms of body, color, malt profile, and bitterness it fell rather flat on the aspect of flavor.  This could be a very nice regular ale minus the fruit/acidity plus some minor tweaks, but as it stands this is an unfortunate offering from a brewery not accustomed to such things.

Total 30/50
This score places it at the very bottom of the "Very Good" category and that seems mildly generous.   I want a beer that is not some "fruited-up one trick pony" as much as the next guy, but when you say a beer is flavored a certain way, please ensure that it is.  Not much else to say.  I would not spend money on this again and would focus on other fine offerings from Dark Horse. The search for more non-lambic fruit-based beers continues.

Note:  I do know of a few non-lambic fruit-based beers, but if anyone has any knock out suggestions, I am more than willing to try them out.  Cheers!


  1. Have you tried new glarus' belgian red or raspberry tart? Both world class non-lambic fruit beers.

  2. I see you found the Belgian Red review. Also, you'll be please to know that I have two bottles of the Raspberry Tart chilled and ready to go. Choice suggestions!