Typically, Valentine’s Day is celebrated by sipping bubbly and nibbling chocolates. This year isn’t typical. Why not spread the holiday of long-stemmed red roses and corny greeting cards into almost a full week of drinking something chocolatey and boozy? In this spirit, Northbank Brewers Alliance, Final Draft Taphouse, Visit Vancouver USA and ZZeppelin are offering the six-day Beyond The Darkness Beer Week beginning Monday.
This festival of stouts, porters, Doppelbocks and barley wines grew from a conversation between Michael Perozzo, founder and owner of the marketing company ZZeppelin, and Kimberly Johnson, co-owner of Final Draft Taphouse.
“Beyond the Darkness is a play on words because we’ve all been through a lot,” Johnson said. “We don’t have Brew Fest happening and North Bank Beer Week isn’t until the end of September. People are missing out on a sense of community and something to look forward to.”
The Brewers Association typically celebrates Stout Month in February. Johnson and Perozzo decided to include all dark beer in their event. They wanted to offer something for people who look forward to the annual Festival of Dark Arts at Fort George in Astoria, canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of people are missing that,” Johnson said. “We want to shine a light on Southwest Washington craft beers with these big, bold beers meant to warm and comfort you.”
The event organizers hope people who don’t usually drink dark beer will give it a try.
“Not every dark beer drinks like a meal,” Perozzo said.
Not all of these darker-hued brews are super boozy; many fall in the moderate alcohol by volume (ABV) category of 4-6 percent. Another misconception is that dark beers are bitter. Dark beer can be smooth and caramelly, particularly a new category of beer called pastry stouts or dessert beers.
Perozzo first noticed pastry stouts at Bottle Logic in Anaheim, Calif., where brewers put cake-batter ingredients into their beer. He believes that this trend taps into the sugar obsession cultivated by coffee chains like Dutch Brothers, Black Rock and Starbucks. Three pumps of syrup and a pump of caramel whipped with cream into a grande Frappuccino may have inspired brewers to dump candy bars and cookies into their vats.
“It’s the reason there’s a line around Dutch Brothers and Starbucks. People line up for these flavors,” Perozzo said.
Heavy Metal Brewing makes a Painkiller Chocolate Cherry Stout and Nuttin Else Matters, a brown ale with loads of peanut butter cups. Heathen Brewing will be releasing a mocha affogato this month (a pastry stout with coffee, vanilla and chocolate) and an Almond Joy pastry stout called Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut. Loowit Brewing’s Quetzalcoatl is a Mexican hot chocolate stout, creamy and sweet with a spicy aftertaste.
These boozy, dessert-like drinks aren’t meant to be chugged on a hot day. They’re best sipped 4 to 8 ounces at a time at the end of the evening. (Perozzo said Loowit Brewing’s Quetzalcoatl tastes good poured over vanilla ice cream.)
For those looking for a straightforward stout, Trap Door Brewing is offering Dialectical. Trap Door owner Bryan Shull called it “stout person’s stout with a clean finish and low ABV.”
To celebrate Beyond the Darkness, pick up a passport at one of the 23 breweries and 12 taprooms participating — ranging from White Salmon (Everybody’s Brewing) to Seaview (North Jetty Brewing). (See a complete list at northbankbeerweek.com/beyond-the-darkness.) For each visit, you get a stamp on your passport and entry into the Beyond the Darkness raffle.
Can a six-day celebration of dark beer lighten up a difficult year? Event organizers hope so.