Happiest Hour 

Slipping into Darkness Dark Belgian Strong Ale

At the Garden City Brewfest last weekend, Rick Dahlen, the homebrewer who made Slipping into Darkness Dark Belgian Strong Ale, was pouring passersby mini samples in hopes they'd find the beer worthy of one of their precious beer tokens. "Pretty much everybody who took that one little sip said, 'Fill it up,'" Dahlen says.

Homebrewers can't often oblige hundreds of Brewfest-goers, but Dahlen's ale won this year's Missoula Community Brew contest, meaning that Big Sky Brewing Co. brewed about 20 barrels of it and has it for sale, for a limited time, at its Missoula taproom.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MATTHEW FRANK

When Dahlen, a 50-year-old radiologist who's been homebrewing for about 20 years, learned that he won the Zoo City Zymurgists' contest, he says, "I felt like I was Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, and got the golden ticket and got to go to the big factory to see how things are done."

Dahlen describes Slipping into Darkness as having a dark fruitiness (think raisins and plums) with subtle notes of brown sugar and vanilla. "It's not bitter and it's smooth and easy to drink," he says. Big Sky used all the ingredients Dahlen originally used, right down to the Belgian candied sugar. It weighs in at 8.7 percent ABV.

Find Dahlen's beer at Big Sky's taproom, at 5417 Trumpeter Way. Growler fills are $12, with proceeds being split between the Zoo City Zymurgists and the Flagship Program.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email editor@missoulanews.com.

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