Style: Sour Black Ale
I've been lucky enough to try a number of sour black ales in recent weeks — Hill Farmstead's Civil Disobedience #4, Captain Lawrence's Barrel Select Black, and Weyerbacher's Sour Black (and of course, there's also Jolly Pumpkin's Madrugada Obscura). I think it's safe to say sour black ales are becoming a trend, and I think for good reason: sour ales can definitely benefit from the added body and complexity of some dark malt, since so much malt character and mouthfeel is stripped out by the long, hungry souring process. You start with a stout, and however heavy it was to begin with, coming out of the bottle it's going to be as tart and dry as any Flander's Red ale. So that's how I look at the style: just a darker, roastier riff on Flander's Red ales.
But more than a clever name, "Tart of Darkness" is a warning. This beer is tart as hell, much more so than any other sour black ale I've tried. If you closed your eyes, you would never guess this was a sour of the "black" variety; the aroma is bright, sharp lemon-tartness, Brett and funk, and only hints of the relaxed maltiness underneath. After pouring with a great deal more head than the other sours I've had recently, it plows straight into your mouth like an acid dagger, hitting you with a double team of zippy carbonation and straight-up acidity. A hugely puckering, tart cherry fruitiness dominates your palate; oak slips in at the end, with a nicely drying finish typical of beers this sour.
The flavors here are so palate-destroying that Tart of Darkness maybe suffers, in the end, from a lack of complexity. It's nothing I would consider a fault, myself, as I think this tastes absolutely fantastic — but there are more complex sour black ales out there. If you're new to sours, or on the fence about sours, this probably shouldn't be your first stop (try a young-ish bottle of Madrugada Obscura). Silly people complain about IPAs "stripping the enamel from your teeth," and I laugh at them. But drink a bottle of Tart of Darkness, and that might be true.
Availability: Rotating release. 750 ml bottles.