Sud Savant: Berghoff – Sundown Dark

OK, I have GOT to get the remnants of this variety pack out of my beer fridge! I’m pretty sure its been there since the first quarter of this year and fridge space is rapidly becoming a commodity as my nice, cool closet is looking more and more like a beer cellar every day (literally 3 cases in there!). This is a Wisconsin beer, but the rest of the 12-pack has been so-so. There is good news though; these beers seem to be getting better as they age. Needless to say, it has been an incentive to let them sit, but there are now more expensive beers that need the space. That said… Let’s pour!

Aroma 9/12: This is somewhat surprising given my past less-than-memorable experiences with Berghoff. First to the nose are handsomely roasted, molasses-laden malts. Something not far behind that is an almost smoky, chaw-like, spiciness. It is a fainter example of when beers use a rye or spiced tea (chai?).

Appearance 2/3: This has a very nice look for a dark or amber beer – at different times appearing cola-brown, dark amber, copper, and ruby. The head is a light tan, moderate in size, and remains as a disc for the majority of the pint.

Flavor 13/20: Certainly more flavorful than any macro, but not a strong competitor in the craft beer market. The list of ingredients found in the aroma is disappointingly absent in the flavor. It begins with a lot of molasses and malt, though the malt is much less roasty than we discovered in the aroma. The backbone continues to be laden with molasses and malt, but does allow for a bit of the spiciness to show through (now seen as originating from the hops). Things even get a little sweeter, if you can believe that. By showing caramel flavors and a sweetness that could be called apple-like were it not the complete lack of tartness. The finish leaves one feeling somewhat unsatisfied. There are no parting flavors or changes of profile. It simply fades away and leaves one a bit miffed, as would company that leaves without saying good-bye. Aftertaste unfortunately continues that trend.

Mouthfeel 3/5: A bit light in body than a “dark” (which pressumedly means “brown”?) beer should be. Also the carbonation was almost completely gone very early on into the pint. Normally, that could complement the “brown ale” style by lending an illusion of creaminess, but when the beer is this light-bodied it can come across as more flat than it should be. I think this beer examples both the benefit and the detriment to this choice. There is a certain level of creaminess wrought, but it could also use some more carbonation.

Overall Impression 5/10: Better than pretty much any macro you would find on a shelf. However, that does not exactly earn it a lofty perch in the grand scheme of things. Flavor has the elements for something grander, but insists on showcasing a sweet, simple malt. Carbonation could stand to be increased as could some balance. The lack of balance effected this beer more than anything when scoring the flavor category.

Total 28/50: I’ve only mentioned it a couple times already, but this is not an atrocious beer. I would gladly snag this in a cooler filled with the other typical offerings found at a party. A great beer it is not, but the beer spectrum must contain all contenders. They can’t all be Dogfish Head or Bud Lights or St. Bernardus or Mickey’s. There will be beers that fall in the middle of low-flavor, well-made macro offerings and amazing flavor, intense craft beers. This is one of those beers. Plenty of flavor, but probably not enough to wow anyone involved in craft beer circles. That said, it sweetness could be a great way to introduce someone to darker beers that might not yet care for the bitter flavors commonly found in them. Being fairly sweet, it could also be a convincing and safe introduction to beer with more flavor.

Score says it all folks. They can’t all be winners, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a loser either