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Best Beer: Exploring Niagara's Dark Side

Ready to go over to the dark side?

The dark side of craft beer, that is. Here in Niagara, some of our favourite craft breweries are delving into stouts and black lagers, exploring all the complex flavours in these rich and complicated brews. Why are brewers so excited to take on dark beers? Where can you taste an award-winning dark beer?  How can you liberally try them all, learn about the craft beer process, and have an amazing brewery experience in Niagara?

The Appeal of Dark Beers

First, let's get a little technical. When it comes to dark beers, it all comes down to malted barley. In dark beers, the malted barley is subjected to a deeper roast than light beers. This darker roast is how dark beers get their signature nutty, chocolatey, coffee-like, deep flavour. Many people think that dark beers have higher calories and higher alcohol content, this isn't necessarily true. In general, the dark colour of beer simply comes from the malting process and doesn't impact calories.

Dark beers don't just come in one variety. Black lagers are known for their smooth taste, high carbonation, and lack of extreme roasted flavour. Porters and stouts, on the other hand, often have those chocolate and coffee undertones — in addition to an unmistakable malt aroma.

Because dark beers can vary so much in flavour and aroma, Niagara craft brewers are eager to put their own personal spin on this delicious, rich malt beverage. 

Our Niagara Brewers

Let's take a closer look at some of the amazing dark beers of Niagara:

Silversmith's Black Lager

Silversmith is a true gem of a brewery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Small and independently owned, Silversmith's brewery and beer hall is located in a gorgeous church from the 1890s. Their Black Lager in one dark beer you truly don't want to miss. Using all-natural malts from Germany, Black Lager has a subtle, light-roasted flavour, with a crisp and clean finish that will leave you wanting another. This well-balanced lager hasn't gone unnoticed, and has garnered a ton of awards:

  • In the 2017 World Beer Awards, it won Gold for Canada in the Black Lager Division
  • In the 2017 Canada Brewing Awards, it won silver for Medium to Dark European lagers
  • At the U.S. Open Beer Championship, it won silver for Dark Lagers

Oast House's Dark'Ass Ale

Oast House Brewery is well-worth a visit. Their barn, dating back to the late 1800s, houses their operations. When you visit, make sure to visit the Beer Shed (aka the tasting room) to get a taste of their sensational craft beers. Known as a super hospitable and friendly brewery, one of their most complex beers is their Dark'Ass Ale. First,  Dark'Ass Ale is fermented in Oast House's stainless steel. Then, it's given a healthy dose of Brettanomyces yeast. Before it goes in for its second fermentation, it's aged in Cabernet Franc French Oak Barrels.

Due to this complex process, and the variety of malts and yeasts used in the brewing process, Dark'Ass ale has an incredibly complex taste. Its rustic finish is balanced well by its red wine quality (from the Cabernet oak barrels), and this is a unique beer you won't want to miss.

Exchange's Foreign Exchange Stout

Located in the building that housed Niagara's First Telephone Exchange, Exchange Brewery plays off that history and numbers their beers. With lower numbers signifying more low-key and approachable beer varieties, higher numbers are a sign of a more "flavourful and intense" experience. Given this numbers system, it makes sense that their Foreign Exchange Stout gets an 8 out of 10 for flavour and intensity! With a trace of molasses informing the taste, the Foreign Exchange Stout is an award-winning beer:

  • Gold medal in the 2017 New York International Beer Competition
  • Gold medal in the 2017 U.S. Open Beer Championship

How Wheelz Can Take you To the Dark Side

Not only will you taste some delicious beers on a brewery tour of Niagara, but you'll also learn the science and craft of brewing from knowledgeable and friendly experts.

If you want to take a tour of some of Niagara's best dark beers, Wheelz can get you there. We have an extensive knowledge of the area and can take you on a premium brewery tour of the best-of-the-best of Niagara — offering you safety, peace of mind, and an incredible experience. Ready to go to the dark side? Contact us today!

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