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Beer Review: Ommegang Art of Darkness

Nuanced magic
by Tara Nurin on Apr 9, 2012 in Beer
Beer Review: Ommegang Art of Darkness

Art of Darkness is a Belgian-style dark ale that is “a spellbinding homage to brewing’s dark arts,” according to the the front label, with further paeans to wizardry spelled out on the side. Being this is an offering from Cooperstown, NY’s Brewery Ommegang, the pioneering craft brewery largely responsible for introducing Belgian beer to the U.S.,  the liquid is every bit as good as the incantation.

Released for the first time this month, the late winter/early spring seasonal pours as black as tar and exhibits a bit of carbonation even at the bottom of the glass, making it resemble dark soda. It sprouts a two-to-three finger sandy-colored head that dissipates quickly, with an aroma is of burnt raisin and some alcohol. It sustains a medium mouthfeel and a consistent taste throughout.

The overtly malty flavor is balanced between dark-fruit sweetness and coffee-like bitterness, feeling equally dry and sweet on the tongue. Only a skillfully crafted beer doesn’t suffer when it lacks complexity — in this case, it’s not a criticism. Here, simplicity doesn’t come in service of accessibility or from a dumbing down of concept. Rather, Art of Darkness is like a fine coffee: a drinker can discern impeccable quality only after developing an appreciative palate for strong yet straightforward flavors.

Indeed, this 8.7% ABV strong ale derives its flavor not from spices or adjuncts but from an imaginative recipe of a series of malts: Pils, pale, cara crystal, aroma, Midnight Wheat, Cara Pils and flaked oats, along with Spalter Select and Styrian Golding hops and Ommegang’s house yeast. It’s available in 750-ml. bottles and a limited amount of kegs, and can be enjoyed now or cellar-aged for up to three years.

Top photo via The Ale Runner

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