Black Lagers Matter: 100th Blog Post!

To my devoted fans, my new fans, and future fans, welcome to my 100th blog post.  You didn’t think I’d make it here, did you?  Well, I’m happy to say, the time has arrived.  In honor of such a momentous occasion (in my head at least), I felt it only right and proper to do a beer review.  This one is partially in honor of my heritage, my fondness for dark beer, and of course, because my freakin’ awesome wife bought not just the beer, but the container in which this marvelous libation dwells (though soon, it will have a new home, in my stomach).  As her Valentine’s gift to me, she bought me a ceramic, 64 ounce growler from Barley Creek Brewing Co. and filled it with one of their year-round favorites of mine:  Angler Black Lager.  Below is the review:

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Angler Black Lager

On the docket:  Barley Creek Brewing Co.’s Angler Black Lager

Growler filled:  2/13/17

Poured into:  Lone Eagle Brewing Co. craft glass

Sight:  From a long way off, you’d swear the glass held the darkest stout in the world.  But come closer.  A more attentive inspection screams walnut hardwood or if you want to get esoteric, bistre (sooty brown) with reddish-orange highlights.  The head, though short lived is a quick-forming beige cap.  Lacing is braille-like and delicate.  The cap recedes into a swirl of suds and a small conclave of bubbles on one side of the glass.  The body is dark enough to prohibit the detection of bubbles rising to the surface.

Aroma:  Malt is definitely the star here, as this beer yields an aroma of darkish baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder.  There’s a slight suggestion of roasted coffee, and an earthiness that reminds me of either tobacco or leather.  Either is fine.

Taste:  Closely mirroring the aroma, is a malt-driven brew.  Chocolate, sweetish malt and a hint of brown or pumpernickel bread.  The slightest trace of caramel.  There’s a roundness here that’s appealing.  Only on the end do the hops make an appearance in the bitter balance to all the smooth, dark malt flavors.

Mouthfeel:  The commonly held misconception is that dark beers are heavy.  Well, some are.  But this?  This is light, elegant, and dances on the tongue, a medium- on the body.  Fine carbonation.  Crisp, smooth finish– just like a lager should have.

Overall:  Is it an imperial, barrel aged stout with vanilla, coffee, cocoa nibs, and blessed by a priest?  NO.  This is a fine example of a beer style that receives way too little attention in the beer world:  Schwarzbier.  For those that love lagers, for those that love German beer, for those that love dark beer, for those that love session-able beer (5.2% abv), this beer is for all of you.

Suggested food pairing(s):  banana chocolate-chip pancakes (beer with breakfast anyone?!), coffee-encrusted flank steak, smoked wurst, sharp English or Irish cheddar, chocolate-pecan terrine

 

 

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Six More Weeks?! Six More Beers.

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With the Super Bowl done and over, we can get back to our regularly scheduled beer drinking.  I mentioned at the start of the year I’d post about deep-winter beers.  Thanks to that miserable rodent, Phil, I guess we have more time to drink them.  Below are my favorite brews for those NW-NJ days with temperature highs in the teens.

Winter Warmers:  More a concept than a style, this one has English origins and typically sports a prominent malt profile coupled with balanced bitterness, and on more than one occasion, spices.  Samuel Smith Winter Welcome is a classic example, but there are plenty of U.S. breweries with their own take, such as Bolero Snort’s Frozen Pasture.

Belgian Strong Darks/Quads/Dubbels:  A good way to sleep the winter away, these brews are usually malty, dark, and strong in the alcohol department.  Beers produced by those magnanimous monks at Chimay are excellent in quality and easy to acquire.

Russian Imperial Stouts:  A favorite dark, high-gravity style of mine.  Roasty, malty, but intensely bitter, a great way to balance out a serving of cheesecake.

Doppelbocks:  The German way to celebrate those chilly nights.  Enjoy in a leather armchair in front of a fire, bearskin rug optional.

Though this makes #7, I feel remiss without mentioning Barleywine.  If you like them sweet and balanced, go for English.  Want something hoppy, and a bit more bitter?  Go American.  J. W. Lee’s Harvest, and a one-year old Sierra Nevada Bigfoot are great choices, respectively.

Come back in a few days when I opine about pairing adult beverages with chocolate, providing ideas for that most romantic holiday, 2/14!

 

May the Schwarz be with You: Saranac Black Forest

On the docket:  Saranac Black Forest Black Beer with a date of 1/25/15.  Pretty old, I blame the establishment from which I purchased it, and the fact I didn’t look until I got home.  Caveat emptor.

Poured into:  Sam Adams perfect pint glass

S: A deep, amber-brown body with violet highlights supports a dense, pockmarked beige head.  Tiny bubbles zip to the underbrush of the head’s bottom.  Eventually, the head subsides into a clearing, a small ring on top.  Lacing is sporadic due to the beer’s age, or a non-beer-clean glass, or both.

A:  Clean, with a hint of caramel, a touch of sweetness, and white-bready grain.  Subtle hop aroma of earth and a twist of lemon.

T:  Smooth clean malt, a dash of roast.  Sweet start but drying finish. Reasonably bitter and hoppy, with earth and lemon carrying through from the aroma.  There’s something a little off, I just can’t quite tell what.  DMS?  Am I crazy?

F:  Medium-light, persistent, tiny bubbles.  Sweet on the start, but chalky and drying on the finish.  Crisp, drinkable.

O:  Consumed fresh, I’m sure this one is fantastic, as evidenced by “the brothers.”  Old, it’s certainly drinkable, but not how the brewer’s intended.  It does, however, sport all the hallmarks of a well-made Schwarzbier.

Suggested food pairing:  barbecue pulled-pork, fruit tarts, Münster cheese

S:  4  A:  4  T:  4  F:  4.25  O:  4

Eine gute dunkle Bier: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel

On the docket:  1/2L bottle of Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel  5.3% abv.

Poured into:  Weizen glass courtesy of my ex-navy brother.

S:  Tawny, muddy brown body dwarfed by an immense column of tan, spongy, billowy head that lasts longer than a prog-rock guitar solo.  Lacing is delicate and even down the sides of the weizen glass.  Tiny bubbles shoot to the top to join their bandmates.

A:  Fruity esters of banana and bubblegum.  A subtle spice phenol, clove-like.  Malty sweetness with a very low hop presence.  Think banana runts candy, which I happen to like.  Inhale gently and you can also detect a little tang from the wheat.  One may also get a hint of brown bread and caramel.

T:  Much of the aroma is in the taste- notes of banana, malty sweetness, wheat-y tang.  There are also suggestions of caramel and brown bread.  Flavor wise, this beer boasts balance.  Nothing overpowers anything else, the elements work in harmony.  Hops take a back seat to the malt presence here, likely Vienna or Munich, or both.

F:  Quite enough tingle.  Overall, very smooth, rich, and coating.  Creamy, and yet fluffy.  Call it a medium-plus feel.

O:  A fantastic rendition of the style, one of those “go-tos” for artistically crafted dark German beer; always a pleasure to drink.

S:  4.25  A:  4.75  T:  4.5  F:  4.25  O:  4.25

Suggested food pairing:  braised venison, chocolate cake, banana bread, asiago cheese