“When I first started in this business,” a craft beer brewer told me several years ago, “I had to keep telling people: DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK.” He was referring to most beer drinkers’ belief that beer should be the pale yellow color of the megabrands that dominated the twentieth century.

The fear included stout — the British Isles ale that most people associated with Guinness. But fortunately, Guinness had such good publicity, that stout didn’t seem as frightening as the other dark beers that craft brewers were creating. Now, stout is one of the most popular of the craft beers — next, of course, to IPAs. And they aren’t just Guinness clones. There are English, Irish, and American styles, along with oatmeal stout and Russian, or Imperial, Stout.

Last week on a cold, dark late New Mexico afternoon, I lit a cheery fire and settled in my easy chair with a glass of Sierra Blanca’s Alien Imperial Stout. It poured an opaque dark brown, with a tan head. My first sip introduced me to the mocha coffee like malt notes, with traces of hop that kept any potential sweetness down. (As the glass warmed up, the sweetness did come through, but not overwhelmingly so.) It was a well-rounded beer, medium to higher bodied, with ho harshness.

When I talked to Rich Weber, the owner of Sierra Blanca, he told me that they used a higher mash temperature, so that the residual sugar would prevent the taste of alcohol from becoming dominant. The beer used both Magnum and Fuggles hops, the latter providing an earthy balance to the potential malt sweetness.

But WARNING! The Guinness served at Irish pubs and available in “widget” cans on this side of the Atlantic, is around 4.2 percent alcohol by volume and is designed for someone having a few of an evening. It’s designed so that you can have profound thoughts and still have them make sense to anyone who might decide to listen. Alien Imperial Stout, in contrast, is 8.2 percent. Its kind of like a winter warmer, a beer that you can have one, or at most two of on a cold winter’s afternoon. Any more and your profound thoughts might become suspect.

I enjoyed my glass of Alien Imperial, banked the fire, had a bowl of hearty beef and vegetable stew, and then returned to the fireside to read my book.

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