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Wedneday Food: Hier ist das Schwarzbier!

I hope to offer you an installment in Korean cuisine next week, but for now a review of one of my new favorite beer styles– the SCHWARZBIER– or black lager!  (“Black lager” sounds kind of pedestrian compared with the German.)

Schwarzbier describes a lager beer that is very dark in color.  The dark brown, reddish, or even black color is determined by the length of time and temperature at which the grains are roasted.  In other words, the same factor that makes a stout or porter dark in color, does so for this lager.

The difference between a Schwarzbier and its ale counterpart– stout or porter– is the yeast (Saccharomyces uvarum, a bottom-fermenting lager yeast), which imparts a milder roasted or burnt quality.  The lagering process, wherein one maintains a cooler temperature for fermentation than with ale, inhibits the release of esters and by-products of the yeast.  This means that bread, biscuit, and yeasty flavors are often absent in lagers.  Because the nature of a lager in body and mouthfeel is to be thinner and lighter, the weight and flavor are buoyed or minimized, rather than intensified.  It is a very sessionable beer  averaging 4-5.5% abv (with a few American exceptions).

In the last year Guinness released their black lager, cleverly christened “Guinness Black Lager” it’s watery, unnecessarily sweet, and sometimes tastes mildewy.  But not to fear… from East Coast to West superb examples of this style are becoming available.  Sam Adams has the best big batch instantiation, but not as good as that of The Duck Rabbit in North Carolina.  Readers in the Midwest should take pride in Sprecher Black Bavarian Lager from Wisconsin, while mountain drinkers enjoy Kidd Black Lager from Fort Collins, and Pacific dwellers will turn their nose up at us all with Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir (world’s best Schwarzbier according to Ratebeer.)

If you’re in Chicago you are welcome to a bottle of my Back in Black Lager (pictured) dutifully timed, stirred, and racked by one Doctor Kotsko and bottled by The Girlfriend.


March 9, 2011 - Posted by | Wednesday Food


  1. I’m normally not big on black lagers, but I have to say Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir is splendid. If it can be had beyond the West Coast, I highly recommend it.

    Comment by Brad Johnson | March 9, 2011

  2. I thought the Sam Adams brew was watery. The Sprecher is pretty good. Sadly (for me), a German restaurant in town is one of the few places in the States (so the owner claims) that imports Koestritzer. Comparatively, the Americans versions just don’t hack it.

    Comment by M. Showperson | March 10, 2011

  3. We had some this weekend, and it tasted remarkably well-stirred.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | March 10, 2011

  4. I’m also not big on black lagers, usually, but Duck Rabbit’s is exceptional. If I were in Chicago, I’d take you up on that offer.

    Comment by Dave Mesing | March 13, 2011

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