Instead, let's consider the beer, which is actually damned nice. The whole black pale is meant to suggest something, and Dark Rain delivers. Pale ales feature the toothsome marriage of lightly sweet malts and pleasant, aromatic hopping. American pales are usually at turns caramelly, citric, and floral. So a black pale would suggest those characteristics but also a roasted note balanced right on top of everything else. Which is a pretty good description of Dark Rain, a roasty-smelling, tangy beer. The roast does have a tinge of that thin, metallic bitterness you find in a cup of Starbucks, but otherwise, this is an interesting, unusual beer and a good one.
If it's January, it's time for a new Widmer W' Series beer. The Brothers now have lots of non-core side projects: this one, the Rotator IPAs (see below), the Brothers' Reserve, and seasonals. Last year, Widmer brewed sixteen different brands, and this year it will be 23 [!]. The '12 W beer is a Dark Saison, brewed with Wyeast's French Saison yeast, about 10% wheat, and some malts dark enough to stain but not deepen the beer. I attended a release party, and the assembled crowd of writers was largely ho-hum about the beer (I think--we can watch the blogs and magazines to see), but I think it is pretty nice. Brewer Joe Casey fermented it at a relatively low 75 degrees, which meant the esters never really got revved up. Nevertheless, it does have a fair amount of zesty character. The series gets a nationwide release, and so it will be the first saison many Americans taste. If they move on from it to Dupont, say, they will note the family resemblance. W '12 isn't the most characterful saison on the market, but it's tasty and authentic.
We also got a chance to take the next Rotator IPA out for a test drive. The brothers reached out to QUAFF, a San Diego homebrew club to do what was in effect a collaborator beer. The beer they ultimately chose was Spiced IPA, made with a chai blend from Tao of Tea. In a reverse of the saison experience, the room lit up with this beer--while I found it a bit ... spicy. Actually, the spices are mainly aromatic. It was the asharply-astringent tea itself which I found off-putting. Weirdly, no one I spoke to could even taste it. It's made with a black tea and an assortment of spices--ginger, star anise, cardamom, clove, and black pepper. These are infused into water which is then mixed with the beer in the conditioning tank at a rate of a pound per ten gallons. A fascinating experiment. I will be interested to hear how it's received.