Tour of German Beer Styles Part Three: Dark Beers
This part of the Tour covers dark coloured beers. Learn a little about traditional German dark styles like Schwarzbier and Doppelbock, now being produced by craft breweries around the world.
By David Nuttall on Apr. 06, 2018
ICYMI Click below for the Intro to the Series
Through an amalgam of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and the American Brewers Association Guidelines, this series is exploring various beers styles which originated in different countries by examining their historical context and basic ingredients. This will also include a description of their various attributes of appearance, aroma, and taste plus a notation of the styles’ approximate vital statistics of ABV, IBU, and SRM.
Today Germany has over 1300 breweries and 7500 different brands available. They are the world’s fourth largest brewing country, and have created a large variety of beers which have become staples in breweries all over the globe. Previous articles dealt with pale and amber coloured beers. This column we will look at dark beers and some examples of Dark European Lagers, Strong European Beer, and the International Dark Lager.
International Dark Lager
IBUs: 8 – 20
SRM: 14 – 22
ABV: 4.2 – 6.0%
Similar in ingredients to its lighter cousins, the Pale and Amber International Lagers, with the exception of the addition of dark malts and/or caramel colouring agents to achieve the dark brown to black colour. Lacking the body and roasted malt flavour of the beer styles listed below, these mass produced beers are also sweeter (they often have added sugar), and are meant to be more accessible for those not normally used to drinking dark lagers. They have little malt or hop aroma, but are usually well carbonated with a caramel or molasses flavour. This style, while based on German dunkels, is now brewed almost everywhere except Germany.
IBUs: 18 – 28
SRM: 14 – 28
ABV: 4.5 – 5.6%
Born before the Reinheitsgebot, this historic Bavarian beer has become popular worldwide. Dunkel means dark in German, and the use of Munich and sometimes roasted malt provides the beer its dark brown or reddish/amber colour. German lager yeast, noble hops, and decoction mashing give the beer body and the malty and toasty aromas this style is famous for. It is a rich and complex beer, sometimes with a caramel flavour, sometimes with a tinge of chocolate. Some German domestic versions are cloudy, while it is often clear for exports.
IBUs: 20 – 30
SRM: 17 – 30
ABV: 4.4 – 5.4%
Schwarzbier (black beer) is also called black lager or black pilsner when brewed outside Germany. This is the darkest German lager, brewed with noble hops, but because of its large amounts of roasted malt, it has less perceived hop bitterness than light pilsners. While the coffee and chocolate aromas and flavours are what you’d expect from a dark beer, it has the clean, lighter body of a lager, with a dry aftertaste. Originally a regional beer in Germany, its popularity has begun to grow throughout the country and with craft brewers everywhere.
IBUs: 16 – 26
SRM: 6 – 25
ABV: 7.0 – 10.0%
The “double bock” was first brewed in the 17th century by the monks of St. Paula of Francis in Munich. Often coined “liquid bread”, its popularity has spawned many versions. The original was named Salvator (the salvation beer), as it helped get the monks through periods of fasting, and many breweries now use “–ator” as a suffix for their brand’s name. Different examples will use Munich, Vienna, and Pilsner malt in combination for the desired colour, which can range from reddish/amber to dark brown or black. It has minimal hop presence, but its flavour can range from caramel/malty to chocolate/coffee, depending on the malt used. The decoction mashing gives it a full bodied richness and higher alcohol content that separates it from other lagers. Some dopplebocks are purposely frozen with the ice removed to concentrate the flavour and alcohol, and then extensively lagered, resulting in a very full bodied beer called Eisbock. This rich, intense, beer can have an alcohol range anywhere from 7 – 57% ABV. No, that’s not a misprint – and it’s not for the faint of heart!
Thirsty for more? Check back for Part 4 of Tour of German Beer Styles coming soon!
David Nuttall completed the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) in 2012, has served as Epicurean Calgary owner and president since 2002 and is the current Judging Co-ordinator for Calgary International Beerfest. If you’re interested in learning more about beer, you can register for the 4 week ABF Brew Ed course at The Brewer’s Apprentice.
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