It is about that time for another beer review, and this one was quite exciting for me. This beer came from a good friend of mine at Goose Island Beer Company (Chicago, Illinois) and it is their Dark Traveler Munich Dunkel.
During this craft beer journey of mine, I have met some really amazing people over the years. Some were in passing, and others went from random contact to good friend. One of those folks is Dave Tohtz, brewer at Goose Island Beer Company. I actually met Dave on a beer forum and website called The Beer Spot several years ago. We had mutual friends, and we chatted back and forth with more and more regularity as time went on. Dave is quite humble at times, and I actually did not put together that he was a brewer for almost a year because he’s not the kind of guy to boast or throw his weight around. He does possess an incredible wealth of knowledge when it comes to beer and other interests we share, and that is where we bonded. Overall, he’s just an incredibly kind soul who’s generosity is truly unmatched. Having learned this, it was hard not to share his excitement when he told me he was releasing a beer called Dark Traveler that he brewed at Goose Island as a collaboration with a few of his fellow brewers. It was even harder to hide my excitement when he informed me I was going to get a growler and that he wanted me to review it.
Before the review, we will start with a little background about the beer. Dark Traveler is a Munich Dunkel Lager brewed by Dave Tohtz, Keith Gabbett, Brian Davis, and Ken Hunnemeder as the second installment of 2013 in Goose Island’s Fulton and Wood Series. This style is often overlooked these days, but this crew gave this beer’s every detail close attention. That fact can be seen in the following description of Dark Traveler from the brewery:
This traditionally malt forward style is rarely seen in Chicago and the three types of wheat, Caramunich malt and Belgian oats in Dark Traveler contribute a depth and complexity that reveals new discoveries with each sip taken. The brewers brought a bit of Germany to Chicago by closely replicating the hard water profile traditionally found in Munich to accentuate the sweet malt flavors inherent in the beer, and lastly they used a mix of Czech and American Saaz hops to fuse the old and new worlds to deliver a subtle earthy hop flavor.
Dark Traveler pours a nearly opaque mahogany color, an aroma of dark roast bread, and a subtle nut flavor are balanced by a dryness that’s the result of the seven weeks this beer was given to lager. Take a sip and start your own dark travels.
Dark Traveler was officially released on April 3rd as a draft only offering for the Chicago area only, and it can still be found around the city. Although we will never see this beer in our area, maybe this review will pique your interest enough to sample the Goose Island offerings that have found their way onto Alabama shelves and taps.
Now, my review and tasting notes for Dark Traveler:
Dark Traveler hits the glass and builds a seemingly dark black body. As the light wraps around the glass, it appears the beer rests on a deep garnet pedestal. Held to direct light, those garnet hues push through the whole body and create more of a deep brown similar to a soda. A steady carbonation stream slides up the sides of the glass and through the middle of the body. The pour yielded about a finger of tan head. It had me worried when it cut itself in half almost immediately, but the remaining foam clings to life and the glass for almost the entire experience. Flecks of lace spot the glass all the way down.
The aroma is not overpowering, but by no means muted or simple. Toasted/roasted grains greet the nose along with an incredibly earthy heartiness from the wheat and oats. The malts take on an almost nutty quality. The roast brings out some light coffee notes and even a touch of semisweet chocolate pops up from time to time. All of this is held up by a subtle hop quality that adds some earthy, Noble bitterness to the fold.
The flavor starts with a combo of nutty and bread like flavors, almost mimicking a rustic oat and nut bread. The roasted notes kick in and mix with a light sweetness, a kiss of chocolate, and then an almost bitter coffee note. This coffee note moves effortlessly into the earthy hop qualities working in this beer. The beer finishes with this lingering hop flavor with just a touch of hazelnut sweetness.
Dark Traveler has shined in all categories, but it is just ridiculous in the mouthfeel department. It is medium to light in body with a moderate carbonation. This creates an almost creamy weight to the beer that makes you believe it might be heavy, but it dries up beautifully with a refreshing snap to it. The 4.9% ABV lies low and out of sight. The aftertaste is just the lightest touch of bitter, earthy hops and a faint, toasted nut sweetness.
The best way I could possibly describe this beer is that it is incredibly well rounded in every department. The care that went into this beer is obvious and impressive. Any chance of a rough edge was honed with utmost attention, leaving only a wonderfully smooth experience in every aspect. The beer has a depth of layered flavor and aroma that can only be described as nearing perfection. Although at times it can almost seem rich and creamy, the beer never teeters or falls out of the realm of refreshing and incredibly drinkable. It is just delicious and simply beautiful.
Hopefully, beers such as this one will inspire folks to take a longer look at this style and other like it that have lost attention over the years. After years of seemingly nothing but huge beers, I honestly believe the American craft beer scene could use a revival of smaller styles that are made well and still possess big flavor. Here’s to hoping we see that as time goes on. What is for certain is that you made a hell of a beer, Dave. Prost!