(or some variation thereof). This proverb or platitude (depending on your mood) is usually offered sympathetically to suggest that even though the current situation seemed dire, it could improve very shortly. It is taken from a 1650 book called A Pisgah Sight of Palestine by Thomas Fuller [1] who originally wrote “it is always darkest just before the Day dawneth”.  

Like many common sayings, it is not necessarily true. This particular one was investigated by Your Weekend magazine in 2010 which concluded:

“Early results hinted that the axiom was true but more recent results show that sometimes it is darkest just before dawn, sometimes it is not.  The chief culprit on a moonless night is airglow, light given off by the atmosphere itself, and its fluctuations seem to be random. So the darkest hour is only sometimes just before dawn and, as is so often the case, another familiar phrase turns out to be mere moonshine.” [2]

That noted, the sun will soon rise on The Darkest Day, a celebration of dark beers at the Malthouse. It will be held on Friday 21 June from noon. After literally months of foraging, hoarding, cajoling and pleading, Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor has finalised an impressive beer list for The Darkest Day. Here it is in alphabetical order:

8 Wired Rastafari Foreign Extra Stout (6%)
Coopers Extra Stout (6.3%)
Croucher Coffee Stout (5.5%)
Epic 2012 Vintage Coffee & Fig Stout (8%)
Epic Double Stout (7.77%)
Epic Repocalypse Black IPA (8.2%)
Epic / Malthouse Hop Reaper Imperial American Stout (7.4%)
Garage Project Aro Noir American Hop Stout (7.1%)
Garage Project Bourbon Barrel Aged Baltic Porter (10.5%)
Liberty Darkest Days Oatmeal Stout (5.8%)
Moa Russian Imperial Stout (10.2%)
Moo Brew 2011 Vintage Stout (8.5%)
Three Boys Coconut Milk Stout (4.2%)
Tuatara Black Light Stout (7%)
Tuatara X1 Barley Wine (10.5%)

There may also be a few limited edition treats including, but not limited to 19 litres of Garage Project Coxswain’s Courage which has been cask conditioned and dry truffled [3] and will be gravity poured. It is worth noting that their barrel aged porter was, according to Jos, “brewed in February in the hottest summer ever.  It did not make sense to brew it then but we just got sick of waiting for the weather to change.”  The resulting beer has spent around three months in Maker’s Mark bourbon barrels but has retained a clean finish. 

The Darkest Day beer selection is, perhaps unsurprisingly, dominated by stouts though there is wide variety of stout styles on offer (Foreign Extra, American, Oatmeal, Imperial, Vintage and Flavoured). The Oxford Companion to Beer notes:

“Stouts are a category of warm-fermented ale styles that are distinguished by their dark colour, generally an opaque deep brown or black, as well as a distinct roasted character that is often perceived as dark chocolate or coffee. Both of these qualities derive from the use of roasted grains to brew these beers. 

Traditional English stout recipes rely on bitterness from the roasted grain to provide a dry finish and consequently show very little hop character. American craft-brewed versions however, tend to have a bolder hop presence.”

English, Irish and American inspired versions will be on offer at The Darkest Day. A number of Imperial stouts with the expected high alcohol contents are available but there is also a lot of talk about Three Boys 4.2% Coconut Milk Stout – a cheeky Pacific play on the traditional Milk Stouts. It has a fantastic reputation. [4]

I’m quite surprised there is only one black IPA, or Cascadian IPA as they are often called. Although I’m not a huge fan of the style, it’s popular style in New Zealand craft brewing, particularly as winter well and truly sets in. The Oxford Companion to Beer provides a helpful explanation for the unusual name:

“Although fairly new, the designation ‘Cascadian dark ale’ is gaining some currency as the name of a beer style emerging out of the Pacific Northwest.  Sometimes referred to as “black India Pale ale”, Cascadian dark ale is a top-fermented beer using roasted malts for colour but also featuring strong hop bitterness and an effusion of hop flavour and aroma. 

Perhaps feeling that the name ‘black India pale ale’ was clearly silly, brewers in Oregon and Washington coined a style name that alludes to a mythical republic of Cascadia [5] that would link Seattle to Portland and Vancouver and take a snip out of Alaska.  Although the name is tongue in cheek, many examples are now produced commercially.”

The Darkest Day – 21 June 2013, Malthouse.  Enjoy a walk on the dark side.

The Hoppiest Day – 12 July 2013, Malthouse.  It is the always anticipated West Coast IPA Challenge.

Next time, we drink to the return of Georgie Pie before reality catches up with nostalgia.

[1] The book is, as the name suggests, a “descriptive geography of the Holy Land.”

[2] Clearly the author is being paid by the word because the entire answer could be summarised as “sometimes but not always”.

[3] Yes, there are real and rally expensive truffles in the beer.

[4] I had thought it had actually sold out completely but Colin clearly squirreled some away.  

[5] Some people on the internet seem to take the idea of a Republic of Cascadia very seriously. The republic, if formed, would have a population of over 15 million and a Gross National Product of around US$750m. 


Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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