Many of Terrapin’s more challenging offerings are presented in their Monster Tour beer series. The series includes the Big Hoppy Monster, Gamma Ray, and Wake ‘n’ Bake among others. But while those beers are innovative in their own right, Terrapin occasionally likes to push the envelope even further. That’s where the Side Project series comes in.
Each year, the master brewers in Athens choose a style (or often, a clash of styles) for their Side Project. When I first moved to the Southeast, their Maggie’s Farmhouse Ale was on tap at the J. Clyde’s (my favorite local suds depository) and I loved it. Since then, they’ve brewed a beer combining the best of Oktoberfest and Pumpkin ales (called, fittingly, the Pumpkinfest) and the upcoming offering is a Black India Pale Ale called Capt’n Krunkles. But right now, they’re on Project #9 which is a fascinating brew called The Dark Side.
The Dark Side is an attempt to marry a Belgian Style brew with an Imperial Stout. It’s as dark, rich and malty as most Imperial Stouts, but made with Trappist ale yeast strains to bring a sour, fruity complexity to the party. Minimal hops are added to allow the other flavors to shine through.
The Dark Side pours jet black, as you would expect from an Imperial Stout, and it has a compact tan head that disappears fast. Oily, but beautiful lacing clings to the glass throughout. The nose is what Doc van Drinkale would call “roasty toasty”. It’s sweet and malty, with strong hints of chocolate, coffee, and dried fruits (prunes and currants). There’s a good balance between the malt and fruit esters and very little hop bitterness (which was the brewer’s intention).
The taste is far more stout than Belgian. The malty sweetness, particularly the coffee/unsweetened chocolate flavors tend to dominate the front and middle of each sip with the 8.5% alcohol taking control of the warming, pleasant aftertaste. I wish there was more Belgian fruitiness and biscuity yeast flavor in the middle and finish. It’s definitely present, just not as pronounced as I’d like. I suspect getting a perfect 50/50 ratio of stout to Belgian is quite challenging (particularly for a first-year brew) and I’m pretty impressed with the brew regardless.*
*Or irregahdless as they say in my hometown of Boston.
Drinkability is very limited. The mouthfeel is heavy and a little too sweet…and that sweetness lingers longer than I’d like. The flavors are all wonderful, but as I said, they’re not quite “in tune”…that, plus the high ABV makes this a “one and done” brew. A good “one”, but I’m still not pining for more. 3 Hops for The Dark Side. I’d love to see the Terp master brewers tweak this one a little and if it comes back for a repeat performance, I’ll certainly jump on it in the future.