Friday, August 22, 2008

5 beer styles you've never heard of: Schwarzbier

Back in Black motha' truckers. Schwarzbier is a style that defies the stereotypes. Typically people bucket beers into two categories light and dark beers. Usually when I tell people that I am a beer enthusiast they say, "Oh, do you like those heavy dark beers?" I usually respond that the color of beer doesn't dictate the body of the beer. Schwarzbier is German for "black beer." Despite "dark beer's" reputation, Schwarzbiers usually are light bodied and 3.5% to 5% ABV.

Unlike other dark beers, like porters or stouts, Schwarzbiers are not overly bitter with burnt and roasted malt characteristics that the others tend to depend on. Instead, hops are used for a good portion of the bitterness. Very refreshing and soul lifting beers, they also make a great alternative during the winter months. Especially when you are looking for a lighter beer, but one with depth of color and taste.

In doing research on the origin of Schwarzbier I found a wonderful article written by Horst Dornbusch over at I was planning on paraphrasing some of his article, but he is such a great writer that instead I thought I would quote this paragraph and list the link to his entire article. Its definitely worth reading!

"Schwarzbier is arguably the oldest European beer style for which we have hard, scientific brewing evidence and, because of this, Kulmbach [Germany] is probably the place with the longest uninterrupted brewing tradition in the world. The evidence for these assertions is an amphora-shaped crock that was discovered in a prehistoric burial site seven miles west of Kulmbach, in 1935. The grave dates from the early Iron Age, around 800 B.C., and belongs to the so-called Celtic Hallstatt culture. The crock is now in the Beer Museum in Kulmbach. And inside the crock scientists identified residues of crumpled up, blackened bread - the standard raw material of ancient Germanic brews. In this particular instance, the bread was baked from wheat flour. It ranks as the oldest evidence of brewing in Central Europe. Because the beer made from such toasted loaves would be dark, too, we can reasonably assert that the Hallstatt crock contains residues not only of the first known beer in Central Europe, but also of the first Schwarzbier!"

One of the very first craft beers I fell in love with was Saranac's Black Forest. The beer pours a dark black color with a creamy light tan head that possesses good retention and lacing. The aroma is sweet with caramel and hints of roastiness. The mouth feel is smooth and creamy.

Similar to the Belgian saison, American brewers make more schwarbiers than the Germans. Great American versions of this style include Samuel Adams Black Lager, Saranac Black Forest, and Sprecher Black Bavarian. Some excellent Bavarian examples of this style are brewed by Köstritzer and Einbecker.

The natural pairing for Schwarzbier or any German beer really is sausage. A surprisingly delightful pairing is cajun food. Schwarzbier is great with blackened chicken or pork chops.

Drink your Schwarzbier!


PS- This concludes the 5 beer styles you've never heard of series. I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.

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