In the basement of Root Cellar Cafe, in San Marcos, Texas, is a one man brewing operation, Darkside Fermentation. The founder and brewer, Silas Parker, specializes in Belgian style, bottle-conditioned beers and happens to be the only brewery and brewpub in San Marcos. Through a few friends, I happen to come across 5 different styles that Silas has brewed and sat down Sunday evening to try them with a few friends. There’s not too much out there on Darkside’s beers, as far as reviews or even brewing information, but you can check out the Beer Advocate profile on them, their Facebook page, and Rate Beer.
We started with the lightest beers, the Pale Ale and the Hefewizen, both being 8% and worked our way to what I have been dying to drink since I saw it, the Sacromancer, a 13% lambic barleywine. It’s like he made it for me. Although he has styles listed for all his beer, I don’t think nearly any of them fit into one style category, nor should they.
Pale | Belgian Pale Ale | 8%
According to the very uninformative label, this beer was bottled on 3/29, but for a one-man operation the lack of description, etc. is almost expected. We had a hard time figuring out which Pale this was, as the different rating sites had several listed that didn’t really fit this bottle, since it is 8%, not 7% like the others.
The beer poured a beautiful golden color with a nice big white head, but no lacing. It was a tad sweet, with a dry, slightly hoppy aftertaste. The carbonation was about medium, not too fizzy. The group loved this beer, and I did as well, but it just isn’t my favorite style. I think it was very typical of a Belgian Pale Ale and very well-made, nothing outstanding, but perfect for the hot days we have, and you definitely don’t taste 8% ABV.
Weiz Guy (4th batch) | Hefeweizen | 8% ABV
The hefeweizen, Weiz Guy, was bottle on 3/8 and happens to be the 4th batch of this beer. When my friend gave it to me, she called it the “4th Weizen” maybe a nickname to incorporate the batch number?
[per Silas (after posting) it is called "4th Weizman" and is a Belgian Wit brewed with Oats, Corriander, Oranges and Lemons]
The beer poured a light golden color with minimal white head. The aroma smelled like Belgian yeast, sort of bready and esther-y, and the taste was about the same. There was something I couldn’t put my finger on in the taste, nothing bad, just couldn’t figure it out. It wasn’t cloves or bananas or any other citrus flavor you normally find in a hefeweizen. His Facebook page says it is brewed with oats, not sure if this batch was, but maybe that was it.
Golden Mean | Belgian Strong Pale Ale | 9% ABV
The bottle didn’t have a “bottle on” date, rather it said “Began On 1/10″ so not sure if that’s bottle on or brewed on. [per Silas, brewed on 1/10/11]
This beer was super carbonated, definitely the fizziest beer we tried. It was sweet, with a hint of apples and to me the aroma smelled like sweet grains. I like the style and thought this was a great beer. And the label is pretty kick-ass as well.
Mark of the Yeast 78666 | Imperial Lambic Stout | 11% ABV
Per Darkside’s Facebook it is an “Imperial Lambic Stout”, but Beer Advocate has it listed as a Quadrupel. It was brewed with elderberries, wormwood, raisins, yarrow and brettanomyces according to the bottle.
It poured a super dark, almost black color, with a light brown head. It smelled like sweet, roasted malts, definitely more my style beer than any of the previous beers we tried. The taste was definitely chocolate-y, with a surprising herb (“christmas-y”) flavor in there as well. I did not taste the Brettanomyces, maybe more aging would have changed that, and it definitely didn’t feel like an 11% ABV beer. This was my favorite (thus far) in the tasting.
Sacromancer | Lambic Barleywine | 13% ABV
This beer was bottled on 4/6 and was batch number 3:16 (not sure how his designations work) [per Silas, brewed on 3/16/10]. When I first saw this bottle, I knew it would be something I would love. I love sours and barleywines, so combining them has to be the culmination of everything in beer I love, right?
The aroma was definitely sour fruits and the taste, oh my, the taste. It was smooth and dark, yet sour and fruity with a slight hop bitterness on the finish. It wasn’t characteristic of a barleywine, per se, other than that it was big ABV, with a sweet boozy taste. The tart flavor became more pronounced as the beer warmed up, which I loved. I want so much more of this.
I definitely have to make the trip to San Marcos sooner rather than later, to try to get more styles and more Sacromancer. Though, according to the Facebook page, July will be a slow month, with bottle availability being limited.