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All about Schwarzbier

What is a Schwarzbier

Schwarzbier is a smooth, dark lager that’s mighty drinkable. This classic style takes the best traits of a balanced German lager and adds a layer of complexity with a touch of dark roastiness. You could be forgiven for mistaking this ruby-black beer for a Stout, but look closer. Sure it’s dark, but Schwarzbier is clearer, smoother and lighter-bodied, thanks to its long, cool lager fermentation. In fact, we’re actually leaning closer to Pilsner than Stout in the beer family portrait. Like super-famous cousin Pilsner, Schwarzbiers are designed to be very clean and refreshing. The dark malt addition brings out marvelous hints of caramel, chocolate and coffee that you won’t find in Pilsner. It doesn’t bog you down with heavy or burnt flavors, though, and it certainly doesn’t make the beer too sweet or boozy, either.

What goes into a Schwarzbier?

Schwarzbiers aren’t overloaded in any department. They rely instead on the interplay of clean lager fermentation flavor, lush grainy malts, spicy, floral German hops and that crucial kiss of dark roast malt. That last ingredient completes the package and gives Schwarzbier its pretty brownish-black color and tan head. Alcohol content also stays moderate, hovering around 5%. It’s an exercise in balance, and the result is a beer that’s more fist-bumping than face-melting.

Schwarbier pairing and serving

Schwarzbier’s smooth character rides along with barbecued/roasted meats and root veggies, and its touch of roast can take a chocolate-based dessert to another level. With its moderate alcohol and Pilsner similarities, you wouldn’t be crazy to pair it with a ballgame, either. Serve it in a thin Pilsner glass, where light can shine through it a nice ruby red.

Schwarzbier history

Schwarzbier, straightforwardly translating to “Black beer” in German, is actually much older than Pilsner. Once popular in its own right, Schwarzbier had to wait out the storm while Pilsner hogged beer’s limelight for a century or so. Thankfully, the Germans and Czechs never really stopped loving, making and drinking it.

Now that the rest of the world is remembering the many ways to live the lager life and the drinkable potential of dark beers, Schwarzbier is gaining some ground on Pilsner. American craft brewers are turning to Schwarzbier to answer the renewed call for complexity and variety in lagers. Find some classic German or local examples here. Click these links to search  for Drizly in your city, and look for Drizly’s partner liquor stores near you.

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