German Beer Styles – Dark Beers: Doppelbock, Dark Lager, & Schwarzbier
Dive in to Germany’s dark beer styles; from doppelbock and dark lagers to schwarzbier. A brief history and vital statistics about each dark ale or lager style.
By David Nuttall on Apr. 06, 2018
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.
About International Dark Lager
Vital Dark Lager Statistics:
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.
About Munich Dunkel – German Dark Lager
Vital Munich Dunkel Statistics:
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.
Schwarzbier – Black Lager
Vital Schwarzbier Statistics:
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.
About Doppelbock – German Double Bock
Vital Doppelbock Statistics:
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!
Next Up (part 4 of 5)
Continue Reading This 5-Part Beer History Series
Tour of German Beer Styles
Through an amalgam of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and the American Brewers Association Guidelines, this series will explore 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 basic notation of the styles’ approximate vital statistics of ABV, IBU, and SRM.
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. We will begin with those styles which are designated as “pale” in colour. While sometimes designated as “European” or “International”, because they are now brewed all over the world, their birthplace was Germany. This includes varieties within the International Lager, Pale Malty European Lager, and Pale Bitter European Beer categories. While all similar in colour, the main difference is the amount and kinds of hops in their recipe.
Continue Reading About German Beer Styles
Part 3: Dark German Beers *Current Post*
This Beer-Education series has been researched and written by David Nuttall.
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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