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May 3, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Once you go black …

I’m not quite sure why, but most people tend to think of dark beer as scary, or an old man’s drink. What’s more is that the vast majority of females who drink beer from time to time tend to go for light-coloured lagers. But what many people do not realise is that some dark beers are perfectly suited to a woman’s palate.

Often considered to be dense, bitter and the drink of a ‘real man’, dark ales actually have far more to offer. While a Guinness is largely smooth but uninspiring, and Speight’s Old Dark has little more than a roasted character, dark craft beers are in a different realm.

To give the beer its colour, dark specialty malts are used. Brewers also tend to use more varieties of malt in darker beers, giving them a greater complexity of flavour. The best thing about using these malts is that they usually give off sweeter aromas and flavours than your average pale beer.

Renaissance Brewing Company, based in Blenheim, has two beers in its range which showcase a sweet malt character—its scotch ale, and its porter. Co-owner and operations manager Brian Thiel has even made the comment—several times in fact—that many females who try the Renaissance range frequently pick one of the two dark beers as their favourite.

Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale (7%) is brewed with nine different malts, which ultimately creates a good-looking, dark red beer. It immediately gives off dark fruit aromas with hints of toffee and even smoke. But what really makes this a popular beer with the ladies is the taste. Raisin, prunes and dark berry flavours give the beer an initial sweetness which sometimes reminds me of the raspberry syrup they put in your coke at bars. But the dark fruit is balanced by caramel and roast malt characters, and finishes on a subtle, smoked note. The scariest thing about this beer is that despite being 7%, there’s no trace of the alcohol in the flavour. Take this one easy.

While the Stonecutter displays the fruity sweetness dark beers can contain, Renaissance Elemental Porter (6%) showcases the chocolate. Black in colour, the Elemental gives off strong coffee and chocolate aromas—pretty much my two favourite things. Each sip also provides a big coffee hit, balanced with the subtle caramel, chocolate and cocoa flavours. The cocoa and coffee characters make sure this beer isn’t too sweet, but rich in flavour just the same.

Renaissance do most of their trade in bottles (very classy ones I might add), and the range is widely available in most supermarkets. But luckily, Wellington is one of the few cities that you can find its beer on tap as well. The Malthouse, Hashigo Zake and Regional Wines and Spirits consistently have a tap or three pouring the Renaissance brews. And, now that it’s almost winter, the Elemental Porter and the Stonecutter Scotch Ale are likely to be flowing regularly.

So rather than shying away from the dark beer this winter, give the craft breweries a chance. After all, what could be better than spending an evening with a velvety glass of dark fruits, or the warming flavours of coffee and chocolate?

If you have any questions about this week’s beers or any comments, please contact me at


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Comments (4)

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  1. Vera Setz-Deuchars says:

    My husband is the talent behind making the Renaissance beers. I love a guiness every now and then, but Renaissance’s porter is great!



  2. Grant says:

    Send Salient some freebies, Vera!

  3. James says:

    Blenheim represent! I tired those at Black Creek, now Dodson St Ale House. Very flavorsome. I still wouldn’t recommend for the ladies though, that shit will put hair on your chest.

  4. You go deaf says:

    I don’t like dark and yeasty beers, as they remind me of my ex’s personality and vagina, respectively. Zing!

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