Dark Horse Brewing Co rides into South Dakota

(Editor’s Note: This is the first column from our new beer writer, Kosta Theodosopoulos. He will be alternating weeks with Corey Vilhauer going forward. Welcome, Kosta!)

Let’s start this thing by giving a little background info. My name is Kosta (think Costa Rica) Theodosopoulos (thee-uh-duh-SOP-o-lus). I first introduced my palate to craft beer during college in Colorado (a number of years ago, I admit). I was lucky enough to be able to drink on a regular basis great beers from New Belgium Brewing Co., Avery Brewing Co., Boulder Brewing Co., Mountain Sun Brewing Co., and many other Colorado and West Coast craft beers. I treated my friends to these beers on my return trips during the holidays. (To those friends who may be reading this, you’re welcome!)

Over the past few years, I’ve been doing craft beer sales for the likes of New Belgium Brewing Co., Tallgrass Brewing Co., and Sioux Falls’ premiere craft beer distributor, Global Distributing. These days, you can find me tending bar at one of the top 100 craft beer bars in the U.S.(according to Draft magazine): Monk’s. That’s right, one of the best craft beer bars in the country is located right here in Sioux Falls.

Let’s just say I practically bathe in craft beer. Not literally…but I have thought about it. Just kidding (maybe).

Enough introduction. This is meant to be about craft beer, not my ego.

My first taste of Dark Horse Brewing Co., established in 1997 in Marshall, MI, came this past winter. My good friend Beau kindly brought me a bottle of their Imperial Stout, Plead the 5th. This is one of Jo’s (my wife) favorite styles, so I shared. We were blown away! (Seek out a Dark Horse beer on draft, check out the tap handles, and you’ll understand my play on words there.)

First off is Dark Horse Raspberry Ale. I admit, I’m not normally a fruit beer guy, but I thought I’d give this one a try since it’s new to the scene. It’s an unfiltered beer made with real raspberries. I was pleasantly surprised. There is a definite fruit presence, both in aroma and taste, but it’s not overwhelming. That hearkens back to Dark Horse’s own descriptor: “beer first, fruit second!” The fruit flavor did get more intense as the beer warmed, but in a good way. It has a very pretty, hazy sunset color. It’s not sweet, but not tart like some not-sweet fruit beers tend to be. It’s very light and easy to drink. I see it as an excellent intro craft beer (a gateway beer, as Jo likes to say).

Next up: Boffo Brown Ale. This beer is downright delicious. Jo and I (prior to becoming the beer Greeks we are now) used to drink a lot of brown ale, but have since moved away from the style—to the point of avoiding them entirely. This is not your father’s brown ale. While sharing this one with me, Jo said repeatedly (in a surprised tone), “This is REALLY good!” It’s super smooth, with caramel/toffee flavors, and very hearty for a brown ale. I see this pairing well with a bourbon on the side; in fact, it would make a great cigar beer. Regardless of your stance on brown ales, definitely give this a try.

Finally, the Crooked Tree IPA. While I stepped out of my comfort zone for the first two Dark Horse beers, IPA is my favorite style of beer, hands down. My first impressions were the beautiful deep sunset color and the aromas of citrus and pine, just as I like my IPAs to be. Based upon my first impressions, however, I have to say that I was a bit disappointed upon tasting it. OK, disappointed is a rough word. Let’s just say I was underwhelmed. Perhaps I am hypercritical of this style; it is a really “easy” IPA. If you enjoy IPAs, give it a shot—it’s totally drinkable; it just didn’t “wow” me.

Overall, I’d say Dark Horse is a thoroughbred. There are a variety of their beers now available in South Dakota. Some are only available on tap; others you’ll find in six-packs at your favorite bottle shop.

Make sure you seek them out.