Monday, December 2, 2013

Review of Westbrook Brewing Dark Helmet Rye Schwarzbier

If there’s one thing Westbrook Brewing does well, it’s building up anticipation for their offerings. A significant portion of their portfolio is seasonal/annual release, and there is no shortage of Westbrookians (yeah, I just made that up) that spend the year waiting for his/her favorite. Dark Helmet is one of those beers. It’s an annual release that locals go nuts for when it’s around.

The first thing you notice about this beer (or the first thing you SHOULD notice) is its name. Dark Helmet pays homage to one of the great Mel Brooks movies: Spaceballs. Rick Moranis plays the satirical counterpart to the infamous Darth Vader for which this beer is named. The name is also a play on the beer’s style – schwarzbier. Schwarzbier, or black lager, is a german style lager that utilizes black malts to beget an interesting combination of the light body of a lager and roasty, chocolatey flavor usually associated with stouts and porters. Even though this is a unique style in and of itself, Westbrook saw fit to add in 10% rye malt to the bill for an extra twist. I’m not usually a fan of beers that showcase rye, but this one made me a believer. Dark Helmet’s namesake is featured on the crux of the label, with Spaceballs’ version of Stormtroopers (who we can only assue haven’t found s***) bordering the bottom of the label. The commercial description of the beer is written in the classic Star Wars rolling script. Everything about this beer’s presentation throws me into a geeky conniption, however popping the cap is what really launched me into ludicrous speed.

It pours a dark ruby color with about a finger of light tan head that dissipates quickly. Spicy rye notes dominate the nose, with roastiness, grains, and chocolate also present. The body of this beer is light-medium, which is one of the things I like best about this style. It’s a great way to get the warm, roasty experience of a porter or a stout without feeling like you are syrup. The front end is sweet and chocolatey, which sets the stage for the intense roastiness and bitterness that dominates the middle, and it finishes off with a rye spiciness. 

Overall, I think the best aspect this beer is also the mark of a good movie - it tells a story. None of its components are muddled together; there is a beginning, a middle, an end, and they all run into each other nicely. There are unexpected twists in the light body and with the addition of rye into the mix, but they work wonderfully. Your Schwarz is definitely not as big as this one.

Review By Reece LeMay

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