Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Fore Smoked Stout

Dark Horse Brewing Co.
Marshall, MI

Style: Smoked

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Pair With:

Unfortunately for Nigel, the 2008 golf season has thus far forced me to utter this traditional yell warning fellow linksters about an errant shot on more than one occasion. As Nigel continues to work off considerable amounts of rust accumulated through a slow 2007 season and the long winter that followed, I thought it would be nice to nip a refreshing brew while watching David Ledbetter’s instructional tapes (I’m not actually doing this, as I don’t recall what a “tape” is).

Unfortunately for Nigel, part II … Dark Horses’ Fore isn’t a nice, refreshing summer brew, but rather a smoked stout checking in at 8 percent ABV. Nothing screams golf and summer more than massive quantities of thick, smoked malt, although peat and golf are both synonymous with Scotland.

Despite Fore’s overall strength and the fact that I’m drinking out of season, I’m still looking forward to another opportunity to sample Michigan’s Dark Horse. I currently have Dark Horse in my Midwest Top 10, so any chance I have to cement that selection (or disprove it) is always nice. As a bonus, I had 250K on Dark Horse upsetting Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes, thwarting a Triple Crown bid by a racehorse with one of the most unoriginal names in history. I’m not sure what the name of the horse that won was, but it looks like early retirement for Nigel.

As I’ve stated in the past, stouts or porters made with loads of smoked malt need to be enjoyed in small doses, as they can quickly overwhelm. Heavily smoked brews are not for everyone, as it is a strong flavor that not only stands out on contact, but sticks with you for a long time afterward. I do enjoy the occasional smoky brew, but only when I’m in the right mood and when the weather is dark, dreary, and damp. Even under those circumstances I can only handle one or two at a time, so I can see why there are many craft beer lovers out there who avoid these types of brews altogether.

Fore Smoked Stout pours pink, with a purple haze emanating from the top and about a half inch of neon green head. This is of course a complete fabrication on Nigel’s part, but I wanted to switch things up for a change instead of giving you the same boring description. As for that boring (but true) description, Fore pours like a standard stout. A thick, ultra-dark brown brew reveals a mild tan head that instantly disappears, leaving the slightest lace on the top throughout. While it’s hard to see through such a black brew, I’m a bit nervous as HUGE amounts of chunkage settled to the bottom of my glass. A little sedimentation is expected, but I have some continent-sized chunks here … we’ll see what the effects are.

The aroma is exactly as you’d expect: smoke up the ying-yang. Dark roasted malts with large amounts of smoky aroma dominate, with secondary malt aromas of cocoa, coffee, and dark fruit. A slight, sugary tinge comes through at the very end, but this lacks any type of hops or alcohol, making it a peaty monster through and through.

The flavor is similar to the aroma, and reminds me more of a smoked porter rather than a stout (I know the difference is minimal, but that’s just what I sensed). While it has all of the stout qualities, it’s a bit more watered-down (relatively speaking) than I expected. Huge roasted flavors come cascading through at the outset, with flavors of smoked meat, roasted nuts, and coffee. While this is the type of smoke that will stick with you for awhile, it’s not quite as strong as it could be. Other flavors are present as well, including dark fruit (black cherry, fig, and raisin) and a sweeter malt (caramel, toffee, and molasses), but they take a distant back seat to the overall roasted, smoky profile. Full bodied with a touch of creaminess, but not as extreme as many imperial stouts, Fore goes down relatively smooth with a huge aftertaste. The large chunks fortunately don’t come into play as long as you rinse out the glass without trying to drink that last sip.

While Fore is quite tasty—smoky, roasty, chocolaty, and sweet—I can’t quite put it up to a four mugger. It’s a great beer nonetheless, and I feel a bit guilty marking it as seemingly average. The only way to settle the debate is to try it for yourself, so if you should see it around this late in the season, give it a shot; Dark Horse sells their four-packs for a reasonable $6-8. Perhaps a few of these before the next 18 could help Nigel fix that inexplicable slice off the tee.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on June 18, 2008.
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