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DARK HORSE NATION: FINALLY the mash-tun cleaning antics TV viewers have been demanding all these years

In case you haven’t heard yet, them old bearded boys of Marshall, Michigan went and done acquired themselves a television show, on the history channel no less. That’s right, for both of you at home who couldn’t get enough of BREWDAWGZ and BREWMASTERS, comes DARK HORSE NATION, a thrilling new TV series chronicling the lives of Michigan brewers attempting to address the stark solipisms of the human condition by running water through crunched up grains. TRULY COMPELLING.

In the fourth episode, VALENTINES HORSE, one of the bearded boys needs to woo a female companion out of her Lane Bryant jumper

In the fourth episode, VALENTINES HORSE, one of the bearded boys needs to woo a female companion out of her Lane Bryant jumper

You may be asking, “what in the fuck does this have to do with history?” Well technically any event recorded in a static medium is HISTORY, so even minutia connected to making SOUR THREE GUYS OFF THE SCALE, is technically historically relevant because it happened in the not-future. Listen, I am no Don Draper, so I will let History Channel give you their spin on this pile of spent grain:

“”In small town Marshall, Michigan, there is a group of life-long friends living out their visions of the American dream. Led by rebel entrepreneur and fearless visionary, Aaron Morse, Dark Horse is a thriving business set amongst a rural paradise. Morse and his team have been making a name for themselves since 1997, when Dark Horse started bottling their unique line of craft beers. Now distributed in 12 states, the Dark Horse crew is determined to turn their business into a household name. It’s diehard fan base even has its own nickname: Dark Horse Nation.”

“However, DARK HORSE NATION is not only about crafting great beer, it’s a way of life. Their recipe for success is as much about experimentation and trouble-shooting as it is self-taught skill and determination. Every week, there’s some new project, from creating outlandish inventions to building additions to their ever-growing compound. Around here, everything is done by hand, the old-fashioned way, or as they like to put, ‘The Dark Horse Way.'”

So TL;DR the first paragraph is essentially an advertisement for Dark Horse. That’s fine, I guess. The second paragraph delves into existential territory and shows you the raw pathos of the show, THE DARK HORSE WAY OF LIFE. This tao of pouring sacks of two row melded with the Vedas of pitching buckets of yeast underpins the SOUL OF THEIR EVER GROWING COMPOUND. At a certain point, when your size 40 husky jeans chafe from the Michigan sun, you reach that third stage of Kierkegaardian development: THE DARKHORSE WAY.

This is how I feel when I get requests from people to talk about fucking BREWDOGZ or whatever show DFH Sam is pandering at the moment.

This is how I feel when I get requests from people to talk about fucking BREWDOGZ or whatever show DFH Sam is pandering at the moment.

But seriously, what in the fuck is this show actually about? Surely they can’t fill up seven episodes with dipshits wearing North Face jackets arguing about the Lions, OR CAN THEY. Here is my episode breakdown of predictable and tired pseudo-reality plot points:

Episode 1 “MEET THEM HORSES” in this episode we meet four dudes with beards and watch them race against interspliced shots of a clock for some reason, and then we get a B plotline where two husky keg washers have a dispute about who sprayed muds on whose S10.

Episode 2 “TRAVELING HORSES” in this episode two bearded dudes pile into a Tacoma and look for like vanilla, or razzleberry or some shit for an upcoming beer. It really isn’t that important but expect minor chords played over a dude looking winsomely at a barrel like “MAN IF THEY DONT GET THEM BURRIES IN TIME WE ARE FIXIN FOR A REAL SITCH!” Also, we meet a female support character who is probably latently degrading.

Episode 3 “EXPANDING THAT HORSE” in this pivotal TWO PART episode we explore the finer points of basic construction, putting brite tanks in place, and some bullshit ticking clock about how CROOKED TREE NEEDS TO START BREWIN OTHERWISE THE MICHIGAN CHOPPER SOCIETY WONT HAVE ANY KEGS. Also Danzig might show up for some reason.

When they cut to commercial, expect some PAWN STARS bullshit facts like “Dark Horse Brewing is located at 511 S. Kalamazoo Ave., just south of downtown Marshall. The location was formerly Wacky Willy’s party store, owned and named after Bill Morse.” The types of facts you can bring up in case you need to avoid ever feeling a vagina.

the episode "Bring your illegitimate child to the brewery" was nominated for several emmays

the episode “Bring your illegitimate child to the brewery” was nominated for several emmays

Let’s be honest, I am just butthurt that CONDOLAMBIC: the Future Rustic Adventure, was not greenlighted. Just a dude trying to decide what type of DME to use, going to Ralph’s for frozen burritos and then siphoning HOA poolwater before the manager finds out. At one point, the crew has to sit and wait while a Daredorm episode is assiduously selected. Moving television.

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Dark Horse Three Guys Off the Scale SOUR VERSION, Apparently if you ruin beer, you can just call it SOUR VERSION

Let’s clear the air right away: I love bourbon barrel plead the 5th. It is one of my favorite BB stouts out there, without qualification. That being said, there have been a series of questionable ass releases from those metal brewers up in depressing ass Norway Michigan. First, Fore Stout was a weird thin smokey mess. Then Borubon Barrel Mosnter 29 was somehow thinner, boozier, yet with a lower ABV than regular Monster 29 and was totally imbalanced. After I opened this actual monster, I figured I would work Dark Horse over with a bicycle chain for a bit in today’s review

BEAUTY CONTEST WINNER: DO NOT PASS GO.

BEAUTY CONTEST WINNER: DO NOT PASS GO.

Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine | 15.00% ABV (? I guess)
The bottle didn’t say, so I just assumed that the infected mess was similar in attenuation/bugs/vermin levels.

A: Beauty contest winrar alert: a beer this is. Look at that sloppy merlot mess. Are you drinking a 1500 bottle waxed release because the dead flat pour looks like you are enjoying some Kendal Jackson Merlot at an Applebees. No bubbles at all, it’s like a pour straight from a carboy, as lackluster as that dumbass new Jason Bateman movie, and equally predictable. The sheeting is clear and intense, with no residual sugars to balance out this imbalaced ass scale. And look at that janky ass label, was this approved? It looks like some homebrewer printed that shit off a HP Bubblejet printer, I had it in my fridge for like 4 days and the condensation already had that ink running like mascara on a fat girl’s face after prom.

If this is a sign of sours and old ales to come, I am out.

If this is a sign of sours and old ales to come, I am out.

S: Well I hope you like red apple vinegar, now mix in with your Melange 3. That is exactly what is going on here, there is this fusel cherry jolly rancher with a splash of a musky cabernet. It honestly reminds me of “accidentally” soured home brews where it straddles both genres so hard that it barely qualifies as either a wild or an old ale. Leave a fruit by the foot in a locker for a week, then enjoy it, you have just had Three Guys off the Scale, you won the beer game.

T: The rabbit hole goes deeper, take that classic caramel and nice roast from Hair of the Dog Adam, now go ahead and dump some acrimonious vinegar into it, but don’t even blend it to taste, just Bobby Flay that shit from shoulder height. The finish is intensely dry and I don’t know if it is oak or if it just busted open HSV sores in my mouth that I didn’t even know were there. It finishes with a taste I can only describe as “currency.” One time when I was a kid I clutched a bunch of dimes and went to the store and bought some candy, so sweaty ass coins and Skittles, that is basically what is going on here. Not exactly a panty dropper, even by Michigan standards, where a size 10 is literally a dime, that is top of the line.

Give your kids this beer early on, it will Uncle Donald their asses into hating beer.

Give your kids this beer early on, it will Uncle Donald their asses into hating beer.

M: This is dry, cracking, yet sickeningly fusel at the same time. The completely tepid nature doesn’t do it any favors, it just lays there and gets pounded like Ben Kingsley in Gandhi trying to get his vote on. I don’t want to pound this point home further but, there is no way this was intentionally sour, nor could it have passed the QC panel. I tasted “One” and it is a legitimate oatmeal stout, this, this is like if they left the brewing doors open and they let a bunch of disadvantaged Detroit youth try their hand at real world working times as a brewer. Then sold it.

D: On a scale from one to “call an oral surgeon” this is a Bluelady. If you don’t know what that means, you are lucky, this was incredibly difficult to finish and I even let it warm up and well, that was a mistake, this beer went HAM and was like “THIS ISN’T EVEN MY FINAL FORM!!!” and turned into a huge infected hydra, like most people’s ex-wives. I could barely get this down while watching The Room, I was like OH HAI DOGGY.

This beer is off the scale

This beer is off the scale

Narrative: Liz Wilkerson thumbed the elastic waistband of her Lane Bryant stretch pants and looked out over the desolate Michigan winter. She looked over the gazing starlets in US! Weekly and longed to be like Zooey Deschanel, wearing clothes that did not come from Fashion Bug or Tuesday Morning. She ran the tips of her fingers over the smooth fissures of her stretch marks, reminders of where she had been, and where she could not return. Life working at Michigan’s most esteemed winery was fine, for the 4 months of the year that the vines got sun, but the rest of the time she looked out upon the cold dead poplars and wondered what those tropical ass people in Kansas were up to, much less Floridians. She tried her best, but no one wanted her, at least not in her current state, she was on and off the scale, constantly mulling over her appearance, bemoaning other more beautiful girls, girls whose incisors actually made contact. She was big, sour, ungainly, and unwanted, and everyone in Flint knew it.

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Dark Horse Monster29, Two Liters of 20% Abv Double Barleywine to the Dome Piece

I know what you are thinking, “a DOUBLE barleywine? What manner of chicanery is this?” Fear not, I have this one under control. This beer is a brewery only, growler only release from Dark Horse. Why this brewery chose to growler a 20% abv beer in two liter format is beyond me but, here we are. I am told something to the tune of 30 growlers of this were filled and it was $50 a fill, so this was quite an undertaking. This is not an iced beer, just straight up doubled down barleywine, so let’s get to it.

No need to worry, this is just another monster.

Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States
American Barleywine | 20% (?) 17.50% ABV (?) There are conflicting reports and I am unaware if this was lab tested. Either way, God damn.

A: Just look at that tepid inky blackness. The growler leaked en route from Michigan and getting even a drop of this mahogany darkness on your skin is like tattoo ink or that black stuff from Pirates of Dark Water. There is little carbonation to speak of but just look at that sheeting. The clear alcohol on the glass takes everything like 16th century prelates. There is no lacing, no embroidery, no quilting to tell old Gam Gam about. This beer has zero fucks to spare.

Spread that sticky double barleywine all over the place.

S: The bouquet is outrageously sweet, with notes of caramel, oak, bourbon, vanilla, toffee, and Heath bars. I must reiterate: this beer is NOT ice distilled. Furthermore, it is not even barrel aged, but I am told that Dark Horse has sinister plans of actually barrel aging this beast and unleashing it upon the Michigan public to determine the extent that their livers can withstand. Detroit is basically the nation’s haunted house, so I am confident that this beer will not shake things up in that region.

T: This has an initial huge sweetness that is similar to charred brown sugar, maple syrup, mocha caramel, and some sticky light pine at the backend. This is a complete monster through and through. I shared this at the Bruery with the staff that had just finished the 19.x% batch of Black Tuesday from this year and everyone in attendance was mystified at this beer. This drinks in a manner leaning towards liqueur in the intense booziness and sticky residual sugar profile. I spread this around the attendants of the tasting room like a DUI Fairy, blessing each participant with court sanctions classes and bus rides.

Take this to a club. Share with size 00 women. Post results.

M: This is incredibly sticky and lingers for a long time after the finish. I drank about 12oz of this and that was an incredible feat given the complexity, sweetness, and downright booziness. This is not exceptionally difficult to drink, but it will put you directly to bed. You don’t get the alcoholic burn that you would be expecting from a Manticore of this proportion, but it will still light up your chest like E.T.

D: This is a highly nuanced beer that can be enjoyed completely flat and at room temperature, that being said, this is not exceptionally drinkable. I can only imagine the marketing meeting at Dark Horse where they decided that 64oz growlers were the appropriate serving size for this Chimera. I am glad to have tried it but it was on the upper end of what I can tolerate. I have to remind you, this is reviewing it in light of TNP, Five Squared, Double Black, and the other “ultra-beers” that I have tried. This warrants an entirely new style classification. In sum, a great beer that should be shared without hesitation.

If you open up a 2 liter growler of this, the time for fucking around has long since elapsed.

Narrative: Clarence Cimmerian was born in Madison County, Illinois to humble beginnings. The water birth was a success and he shed the successive husks of his nascent shell in accordance with the waning of the lunar cycles, as was tradition with the broodlings in his bloodline. His foster parents weren’t sure exactly how to treat him, what with his 7 clicking sticky mandibles and front hooves oozing acrimonious gel. Sure, he was a “monster” in the loosest sense, but what is a monster but that which has not been classified? The Cimmerians patted his smooth carapace and handed the sack lunch to one of his writhing metatarsus and motioned for him to board the bus. His compound lenses scanned his classmates and excreted a putrid larvae onto the classroom floor, for first grade was even more taxing for the dark grub harvester, Prince of a thousand reliquaries.

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Dark Horse Brewing One Oatmeal Stout, One Stout to Bind Them

Ok so you drank One, but what is it called? And other such “who’s on first jokes.” I always enjoy the mouthfeel of this style but hearing that it was done by the kings of HUGE BEERS, Dark Horse, I knew a shitstorm was a brewing. Let’s check the drizzle in today’s review.

If you are drinking this for breakfast, you probably work at the Post Office or some other government job with zero accountability.

Dark Horse Brewery, Oatmeal Stout Ale, 8% abv

A: I was expecting a bit of welcoming breakfast time fun here but it was just a petulant hatred of deep blacks and mild browns within the murky middle carbonation. The khaki head has that great lacing and tiny bubbles that I used to lay awake in my bunk and dream about in summer camp. Nice tiny bubbles and a coffee appearance make this clear that this is for big people and tattered livers.

This beer is just out of control, I don’t know what to do with it Maury.

S: This has a great coffee and chocolate profile with a mild cameo from everyone’s favorite trickster duo, toffee and caramel. Their appearance is fleeting and you wonder if they got IMDB credit in this project.

T: This is more bitter and acidic than the pleasing Founders Breakfast Stout, however, the bitterness isn’t cloying and the sweet chocolate notes balance this out pretty well. It’s like finding weed in your 7th grader son’s comic book binder: you aren’t mad, just disappointed. The experience doesn’t linger and keeps this to more of an everyday sort of stout instead of those 4 a.m. in Iowa City bender stouts where you walk around with khaki colored teeth. We have all been there.

This is clearly not the work of amateur brewers.

M: This is an oatmeal stout so I expected it to crush it out of the park in this category but, eh, it doesn’t have that silkiness and creamy pseudo-nitro tap feel to it that usually slam dunks this category. It seems almost like a black IPA were the coffee notes not so all up in the mix. It is decent but for an oatmeal stout, the mouthfeel should be too legit, even to quit.

D: This is moderately drinkable, and very pairable, for the old obvious reasons. I can’t say that this is a bad stout but it certainly doesn’t knock it out of the park and feels more like a baby Imperial Russian Stout instead of an Oatmeal Stout. It needs to practice its major chords and let go of its rock star arpeggio shredding dreams.

This is a great stout, without Koalifiers.

Narrative: “MICHAEL? God I swear sometimes you just don’t listen, go get some Gladwrap and DO NOT GET SARAN WRAP, you did that last time and ruined the bake sale for everyone, so if you want Kaitlyn to cry, go get Saran, you’re good at that, ok so can you handle just getting GLAD. WRAP? OK?” Michael stared off and ruminated to himself about the dreams that he entertained at age 16, gripping the steering wheel of a broken down Plymouth Neon Espresso. Now he gripped the plastic bar of a supermarket shopping cart and was the regular recipient of admonishing and chastising for minor purchase deviations. “Yeah, the Sara- GLAD. Ok, Glad.” He nodded and thought back to the raw energy of those first bluegrass shows that he attended. The raw oats crushed into the ground and the sticky sweet twang of the steel guitar. Now he felt so mildly bitter and artificial. “They, well, the Glad was more expensive so I got the other-” “GOD DAMNIT MIKE, is it really that hard not to be a complete failure at everything?” During his wife’s diatribe he heard the sweet dulcet tones of Loretta Lynn and drifted away to a time bereft of cellophane wrapping.

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Dark Horse Brewing Company, Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th, I CHOOSE NOT TO EXERCISE THAT RIGHT IN LIGHT OF TASTING THIS BEER

Ok so a quick backstory to my tawdry affair with this (spoiler alert) completely amazing stout. I originally traded and tried to land one of the 50 some bottles from the initial release and failed horribly. Later, I traded and landed an entire 4 pack of these bottles and kept swearing to myself that I needed to review this top 100 stout. The problem was, each time after I drank this 15% abv bottle, I just became a sleep jeep and couldn’t be bothered to record my flawed impressions. This bottle is from my buddy, Bear, so here’s a final bite at the apple, let’s see if I can actually complete this one.

The difference between regular Plead the 5th and BBpt5 is like Urkel vs Stefan.

Dark Horse Brewing Company, Plead the 5th Bourbon Barrel Aged, 15% abv

THIS IS ONE OF MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE STOUTS SO TODAY IS A DOUBLE MEME DAY

Pop this open before a sexy date, your teeth will look like this.

A: Well all is quiet on this eastern front. Theres a fantastic cosmos of bubbles that forms on the surface and lets you know that you are dealing with a complex, vengeful beer that operates under its own moral code. Just look up there, the chocolate and bourbon practically spontaneously combust and set the surface on fire with rage. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The existence of this beer is akin to the "Divine Watchmaker" argument. Mere mortals could not assemble something this amazing without supernatural intervention.

S: Holy hell this beer smells amazing. There’s a deep chocolate frosting aspect, with a faint milkiness on the backend like 85% cacao mixed with creme, some butterscotch and molasses toffee, finally a hot bourbon note closed the gates and declares the war a victory. A victory indeed. Every time that I open a bottle of this I remember anew how amazing it is. It is thoroughly fantastic on the nose, guess what (spoiler alert) the taste is amazing too-

The first time I tried this stout and then read the abv, my face was all like-

T: Initially there’s a nice coffee dryness like hopping into the dry leather saddle with Juan Valdez and his trusty burro. He hands you some cacao nibs to chew on and your ruminate over the New Mexico landscape and wonder how you had strayed so far from South America, he took another swig of Elijah Craig bourbon and you realize that he is less a coffee horticulurist and more a nomadic vagrant. The chocolate and coffee give this finish similar to a mocha that has been spiked with some Pappy Van Winkle. I always toss around the “top 5” and “lifetime achievement” awards with capricious infidelity, but seriously, this beer is amazing.

Protip: you are not the bird in this scenario after drinking this beer

M: The mouthfeel doesn’t take up more space than is needed in the overhead compartment, just pure ass beatings delivered with alarming efficiency. This imparts a huge dirty bomb of swift chocolate and bourbon and then is gone before you even know what organization imparted this efficient terrorism. All you know is that, from the destruction comes order, and the San Francisco earthquake may have ruined everyone’s shit, but it was rebuilt stronger and more solid in constitution as a result. TL;DR drink this beer to be stronger, funnier, and more impressive with the ladies [FN1 citation needed]

After I finished my first 12oz bottle and realized that I was likely 2x the legal DUI limit, I was like-

D: This is exceptionally drinkable, that is all there is to it, and god damn is it scary as a result. At least they had the sense to ratchet it back to a 12oz serving. It is strange, like how in Trainspotting you see everyone getting destroyed by heroin but they just want more, that’s this beer. You just want more of it and it puts your ass to bed like a swift choke hold. Great now I have to try and put together a coherent, clever narrative to sum up the joie de vivre of this beer after punishing myself with that crazy abv.

How to deal with the butthurt that comes with drinking your final bottle of BBpt5, film at 11.

Narrative: Licorice Miter was an ebony beauty, a beauty full of a murderous rage. Generations of powerful equine lineage had developed the fastest, yet the most rage filled horse that man had ever seen. To enrage the pituitary gland, its owner would get chocolate wasted and come taunt the horse with re-runs of Step by Step. The mere smell of a Mint Julep was sufficient to send the horse into a rage. It was deep, dark, and powerfully aware of the torque that it imparted into the loose soil. Miter never lost a single race and never allowed a single penance for the transgressions suffered at the hands of others. Through its own rueful disposition, it learned to harness the rage of the horse condition into an awareness of the future and the futility of the present. The taunting and whipping of the tiny pilot amused Licorice in a manner that seemed fitting for such a self-aware horse, the darkest horse, harboring the deepest rage, accomplishing the greatest feats.