In one of his classic songs titled I Hope I Don't Fall In Love With You, the legendary Tom Waits has a line “Last call for drinks, I'll have another stout”.
Dark beer, or tmavé pivo in Czech, has always had a reputation for being so heavy that only the strongest characters, guys like Waits and his 2AM boozy voice, could easily drink it while the "ordinary people" were to stick to the light stuff. A lot of heavy beers are indeed dark and strong. Russian Imperial Stout, the strongest of the strong with an average ABV 8-12%, got its name because it was the beer England exported to Russia and its ruler Catherine the Great as a token of appreciation. In order to survive the long and cold voyage to Russia, the beer had to be high in both gravity and alcohol. And just like that, a new style was born. It is a bulky beer with a full, thick body, sweetish taste and an ABV so high that two of these could probably knock most of the people of their feet.
As we can see, the strong reputation of dark beers goes a long way. One of the many things that make beer such a fascinating drink is the fact that there is almost always the other side of the spectrum. In this case, it is the lighter side of the dark beer universe. It consists of beers that are dark, thanks to the use of roasted barley in the malt bill, and yet have a low ABV. Staropramen Dark, to mention one of our own, is a perfectly smooth dark lager done in a typical Czech tradition with the addition of roasted malt, and it comes at 4.4% ABV, which is in the ballpark of your average pale lager in any country in the world. The challenge with these beers is to bring out the roasty and caramel flavours from the dark malt and balance them with the hops without bringing the ABV too high. The chosen ingredients, the recipe and the brewer’s experience are all tested with this brew. But the brewers are not the only ones tested here. The sole appearance of dark beer tests our senses. At first, we rightly anticipate something thick and strong. After the first sip, once the caramel sweetness blends with the hoppy aroma, our senses are pleasantly surprised. It is a different kind of dark beer. A dark lager brewed this way is a true perception mythbuster, because it challenges the senses to accept the fact that the dark side is actually light.