Category Archives: Dark Beer

Beer Vacation

My short absence has not been idle – I was on beer vacation! It was planned as a regular family reunion, but unexpectedly turned into a beer vacation, which is perfectly fine with me.

Day 1: Meet with Casey Klahn of The Colorist, who has the most beautiful backyard ever. Got to see some of his originals and his awesome new studio-in-progress. He has cute kids and gave me beer. Thumbs up!

Walnut Brewery Old Elk Brown Ale: a nice red beer, tastier by far than Killian’s. Ratings for a non-dark beer… M: 7 N: 6.5

Day 2: Family reunion in beautiful Leavenworth, WA. Found out that I have the same birthday as this handsome fellow, my great-great-grandfather the horse-wrangler.

Also found out that I’m related to an excellent botanical artist, Catherine Watters. My family rocks.

Leavenworth is a Bavarian Village, and has tons of good beer on tap. Here’s what we drank:

Big Sky Brewery Moose Drool Brown Ale: chocolatey, mild, complex, and dark for an ale. On tap at Gustav’s, which makes kick-ass cheeseburgers. Non-dark beer ratings… M: 9 N: 8.5

Boundary Bay Imperial Oatmeal Stout: served room temp, it’s dessert-sweet and rich, like a mild black russian. On tap at Ducks and Drakes. M: 9 N: 9

Elysian Perseus Porter: complex, better than Guinness. On tap at I forget which beer garden. M: 7 N: 7.5

Hales Brewery Sleeping Maiden Porter: deep, rich, tasty. On tap at, and made exclusively for, Gustav’s. M: 7.5 N: 7

Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter: smooth and mild, a typical porter. On tap at Gustav’s. M: 8 N: 7

Day 3: Drove to Dayton, WA to visit my grandmother, a 96-year-old firecracker with a 20-year-old sense of humor. Visit Palouse Falls. Successfully take photos without falling in.

Day 4: Visited Little Goose Dam and its fish ladder. I’ve never seen salmon so big.

Day 5: Dinner at Skye Book & Brew in Dayton. It’s an awesome little mix of cafe, coffee shop, and bookstore. Their brewmaster makes excellent beer that is only available on tap at this restaurant. They have $1 pints on Monday night. ONE DOLLAR. I love this place.

S. McTaggart Scottish Ale: dark, complex, and earthy with a hint of cocoa. Non-dark beer ratings… M: 9 N:9

Pataha Creek Porter: light for a porter, smooth, complex, and bitter. M: 7.5 N: 7

Tucannon Honey Wheat: not dark beer at all, but Grandmother liked it, so I had to try. Sweet and tasty.

Startin Starveout Stout: I had this on my last trip to Dayton, and it was delicious. They aren’t making it right now. Shame.

Day 6: Pick wild blackberries. Dinner at the Weinhard Cafe. Awesome food.

Deschutes Brewery Obsidian Stout: full, smooth, thick, nutty, and sweet. M: 9 N: 8.5

Day 7: Had beer on tap at Squatters Pub Brewery in the Salt Lake City airport while waiting on a layover.

Squatters Polygamy Porter: mild, smooth, with a small bite. M: 7 N: 5

Squatters Captain Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout: complex but verrry bitter and sour, smells like coffee. M: 6  N: 5

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed my beer vacation as much as I did.

Moorhouse’s Black Cat

A stout generally tastes like a stout, and the same with a porter. Dark beers, however, run the gamut. They’re like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. I love trying out new dark ales or black beers, because it’s anybody’s guess what you’re going to get.

Moorehouse’s Black Cat called to me from its lonely perch in the refrigerator case. It was a lone bottle, waiting for someone to give it a good home. It had come all the way from England. I obliged.

Black Cat is a dark ale that tastes a tiny bit like a stout – a very mild one. It has the ale characteristic of not having much taste, at least compared to most dark beers. We’re talking a tame, cute black cat (Fig. 1), rather than a witch’s pet or the evil, insane kind (Fig. 2).

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

This Black Cat is more tangy than sweet, but the flavor isn’t very strong either way. It’s very smooth, with not much aftertaste. Apparently it won some awards in 1998. Meh.

M: 7
N: 6

Fizzy Organic Beer

This week, instead of beer ratings, y’all get a warning and a question. When it happened once, I asked the liquor store (and stumped them). When it happened again, I turn to you for answers.

Twice we’ve bought organic beer that was possessed. Two separate occasions, two different breweries. We’d open the bottle, but as soon as the beer reached our mouths, it turned to complete fizz. All air, no liquid. Same if we poured it in a glass – it turned completely to foam. Let it sit for half an hour, and there’d be half an inch of totally flat beer in a glass that had been brimming full of foam.

Both times, the blight affected the entire six-pack. Both times, we’ve had the beer several times before and it was fine. The first occasion was several months ago, and it was Bison Chocolate Stout. The second time was last weekend, with Butte Creek Organic Porter. It wasn’t as bad as the Bison, but still difficult to drink. Beer is much less enjoyable when you have to concentrate on each sip or end up with fizz up your nose and a shirt covered in beer fluff.

So… if you but these organic beers, beware… and does anyone know what the freakin’ heck is going on? Unless you have ideas, I’m going on the presumption that these beers are possessed.

Rogue Dead Guy Ale on Tap

Happy Memorial Day!

To celebrate the unofficial arrival of summer, this week’s beer is a lighter one; an ale with the soul of a dark beer. I was first introduced to Rogue Dead Guy Ale by a dear friend in Houston. I liked it. Since returning, I have only tried it on tap, so that’s the description you get.

First of all, it is dark for an ale. It has a skeleton on the tap (and on the bottle), and its black heart comes out through its dark taste. It’s fairly smooth and a bit bright. The first taste is sweet and dark, but then it gives you a small bite to remind you that it’s an ale. We didn’t rank it sky-high because it is still an ale, and is therefore competing against a tough benchmark. But saying an ale is good enough to stand up with the dark beers is saying something.

N: 7

M: 6.5

And in honor of all those who have fought or are still fighting for our right to drink whatever beer we choose, a toast. Thank you.

Negra Modelo

We had a party this week, and in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, people brought Mexican-themed food and drink. Among these was Negra Modelo, a dark beer imported from Mexico. We hadn’t tried it before.

For a dark beer, it isn’t all that dark. I suppose it tastes dark when compared with lighter beers and ales and whatnot, but compared to our usual beer fare, it’s pretty light-tasting.

There is a hint of honey in the initial taste, and it lingers in the aftertaste a little. The rest of the flavor is bitter, with a darker bite… but mostly bitter. Initially I didn’t like it at all, but it’s growing on me. It still doesn’t hold a candle to our usual stouts and porters, but for an ale-like beer, it isn’t bad. And I could be biased, since it’s only been 24 hours since I woke up with a smashing tequila hangover, and I’m not really in the mood for beer.


M: 4.5

N: 3

Dogfish Head Raison d’Etre

Our local Beverage Resort recently got a bunch of new beers from Dogfish Head Brewery. We tried two; only one could qualify as a dark beer. They have a bunch, though, and with cool names like Lawnmower Light, plus their rockin’ shark logo, I’d suggest giving the others a try (if you don’t mind light beer).


Dogfish Head Raison d’Etre was tasty. According to the almighty Wikipedia, its name translates to “the reason for existence.” This seems a bit presumptuous, but it matches their website’s attitude, which also recommends drinking this beer from a goblet or snifter. Since Nathan and I are more walk-around-barefoot-outside people than OMG-my-goblets-don’t-match-my-china-pattern people, we just drank it straight from the bottle.

Anyhow, although this beer is technically ale, it’s really sweet and dark. It’s slightly sugary and reminiscent of raisins, which might be what’s on the label, although I think they look like coffee beans. Not a remarkable dark beer, but pleasant, and I’d recommend it.


M: 8.5

N: 8

Shiner 97 Bohemian Black Lager and Gouache Underpainting, Part 2

Most of the beers I’ve posted have been good. Time for a disappointment. Although it is not a stout or porter, we picked up Shiner 97 Bohemian Black Lager because of the word “black.” Some very good dark beers are labeled simply as “black,” not stout or porter. But this beer really is a lager, and has almost no dark beer qualities. It tastes just like a light beer, but with heavy undertones. Conclusion: although it might be a good lager (I don’t really know), we won’t be buying it again.

M: 4
N: 4

Gouache Underpainting, the Final Chapter

I admit to being a complete newbie when it comes to 1) painting 2) color and 3) portraits. So I really didn’t know what I was doing. I chose some colors that I thought would make a good skin tone, and mixed them willy-nilly. I ended up with a color that would look good on a tropical parakeet… but I wasn’t going to throw out all that paint. So forgive the ultra-tanned sheen that makes Grandpa look like he’s a snorkel instructor in Tuvalu.

I attempted to paint over Left Grandpa. I mixed four values with this shade, but added some blue into the darks for a more interesting contrast. I mixed a few shades of suit and hair color as well. And I painted over.
I forgot to paint the glasses. Anyway, You can see that on the face, the underpainting didn’t show through at all. I used opaque mixes for the face, and although the underpainting was a good guide, it didn’t do much else. It was great to paint on something other than white, though. On the suit, I used a much more transparent mix, and the underpainting showed through.
Here are some of the techniques I used. You can see the results – not too great. Dry brush looks terrible. Add water and it gives nice texture. Scrubbing an area lifts like nobody’s business.

So I learned how to make it work, but didn’t much like the results. Lesson: if you make the second layer transparent enough for the underpainting to show through, it tends to lift. Therefore, my actual painting of grandpa will use a watery wash as the underpainting, so I am not painting on white. From this experiment, mostly I learned what not to do.

Xingu and Scanning Slide FIlm

Let’s start with a good one. Xingu is one of my favorites. It’s a Brazilian “black beer” that has a light, sweet taste. It’s medium-bodied, but doesn’t leave that heavy, filmy feel in your mouth like most dark beers. It’s very smooth, no tang, and almost no aftertaste (you know, the bitter one that comes with most stouts & porters). Ratings (10 = I’d be happy if I died right now, 1 = nearly yakked):

M: 10
N: 8

I should note that the “I’d be happy if I died right now” sensation wore off after the beer was gone.

(edit: link to Xingu)


This weekend has been an adventure in scanning slide film. I bought the fancy scanner that would do it well (Epson 4990 Photo). It’s a great scanner. However, the quality of the scanner is only as good as the software that you use with it (and vice versa). So… it came with Photoshop elements, which of course doesn’t work in Linux. The program I found, xsane, is a very good substitute. It doesn’t auto-crop the slides, but it scans transparencies well. The color correction, however, sucks pumpkins. Big ones. It illuminates the slides fairly well, but everything looks all magenta, so it took hours to correct them all. And there were a few great slides I cut out of my portfolio because I couldn’t get the damned scanned file to look like the slide.

The lesson: Ask the lab to scan them onto a CD for you. It’s worth the extra five bucks. Believe me. It’s nice to know I could do it myself if I had to, but it’s just not worth the effort… and they do it better anyway.