So as the year winds down, we come to the last (for the time being, anyway) of our new columns: Iron Hops, focusing on the world of craft beer (and probably the occasional bourbon). Why craft beer? Because metalheads love to drink, and life’s too short to drink shit beer.
Since it’s the holiday season, I thought I’d kick things off with a seasonal beer:
Dark Horse Brewing 4 Elf Winter Warmer Ale (8.75% ABV)
Pour: 12 oz. bottle into tulip glass
Look: A very dark brown with a thin, tannish head that dissipates pretty quickly. Not a lot of effervescence once the head is gone. Not a very opaque beer, either – I held the flashlight from my iPhone up to the glass and it barely shone through. No lacing at all on the glass.
Smell: A lot of cinnamon, almost like one of those Red Hots candies. There are other spice notes in there as well (maybe some nutmeg, definitely some clove), but the cinnamon is so powerful that it’s hard to pick them out. No alcohol in the nose, which is a bit surpising given the ABV.
Taste: There’s a lot going on here. The cinnamon is definitely the first thing that hits the tongue, but it’s more sweet than spicy. A lot of clove in the middle, almost like a mulled wine. Malty in the finish with a light, slightly bitter aftertaste, like baker’s chocolate, but it doesn’t linger for long. Not much alcohol here, either, in spite of the higher ABV.
Mouthfeel: Surprisingly thin for a beer this dark, but not unpleasantly so. The carbonation is more evident on the tongue than in the glass. It’s light and very drinkable.
Overall: 4 Elf is one of Dark Horse’s signature beers. Only available from October through December, and is generally accompanied by an annual release party where other limited-release Dark Horse beers are generally also available.
In general, I’m a fan of Marshall, MI-based Dark Horse’s beers, but I’ve never tried 4 Elf before because, with the exception of Three Floyd’s Alpha Claus, I generally hate seasonal beers. Pumpkin beers are an abomination, and the few Christmas beers I’ve previously tried have had that same watered-down pumpkin pie spice profile that make pumpkin beers such an abomination. So I had some admittedly low expectations going into this beer, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. 4 Elf is a beer with a lot going on in its flavor profile, but it’s well-balanced and very drinkable. I don’t know that it’s something I would drink regularly if it were available year-round, but I’m probably going to track down at least one more 4-pack before it’s gone for the season.