For much of the population, dark beer is typically seen as a winter beverage. Some of the most common descriptors used for anything on the darker side of beer include heavy, thick, rich, acrid, coffee-like and burnt — not exactly the type of cold drink you’d associate with a hot summer’s day.
The black lager turns this notion on its head; it’s smooth, crisp and malty with a restrained roasty flavour that’s balanced by the hops.
Traditionally a German and Czech style, it’s a natural choice for lager drinkers looking for the chocolatey, dark fruit character often found in porters and stouts, but with a little less complexity and a lot more drinkability.
“If you have a dark ale, it’s heavier. The black lager is a clean, straight-forward beer,” says Tina Schoenwetter, brewer at Junction Craft Brewing in Toronto. Their Black Lager took home gold in the European Style Amber to Dark Lager category at this year’s Canadian Brewing Awards.
These days, more and more Canadian craft breweries are giving this style attention. It’s a popular headliner for breweries like Side Launch and Silversmith, and Junction just added it as an LCBO listing for the first time this month.
The base malt for this recipe is 2-Row, a little uncharacteristic for a style which almost always uses Pils. This likely results in a slightly more malty character, and a little extra body — a bonus when compared to the style guideline. The use of Chocolate malt is also a little unusual — most dark lagers use Carafa-style specialty malt to contribute dark colour and not much flavour — but it speaks to the emphasis on flavour in this particular recipe.
“In our beer, the dark malt is not just for the colour. It’s roasty and rich but still easy-drinking,” says Schoenwetter.
Black Lager (BJCP Category 8B – Schwarzbier)
(all-grain, 5.5 gallons)
8.5 Gallons Tap Water (treated with Campden Tablets)
Add 1 tsp Calcium Chloride and ¼ tsp Gypsum to mash water
1.35lb Chocolate Malt
0.4oz or 21 IBU Nugget (60mins)
0.33oz or 2.7 IBU Spalter (20mins)
0.33oz or 3.3 IBU Tettnanger (20mins)
0.33oz or 2.8 IBU Saaz (20mins)
0.66oz Spalter (0mins)
0.66oz Tettnanger (0mins)
0.66oz Saaz (0mins)
WLP 862 Cry Havoc Lager Yeast
Brew Day Instructions
Mash in grains with 4 gallons of water to reach 149F (65C) and hold for 60 minutes. Infuse with boiling water or use direct heat to rise to 169F (76C) and sparge with 169F water until wort runs clear and you have 6.75 gallons of wort in your kettle.
Remove wort from grains and bring to a boil for 60 minutes, adding hops at times directed by recipe above. At flameout, add 0 minute hops and whirlpool/hop stand for 20-30 minutes. At completion of whirlpool, rapidly cool wort to pitching temperature (55F-70F depending on your capabilities) and pitch yeast.
Ferment at 55F (13C), and free rise to 68F (20C) as fermentation begins to slow. Rest at 68F for at least three days or until final gravity is reached.
Lower temperature to 32F (or as cold as you can) and then rack the beer to a secondary fermenter or keg. Hold at 32F for anywhere from 3 to 10 weeks. This beer will be drinkable fairly fast, but like all lagers it will benefit from more time stored cold. Take as much time as you’re willing to wait, and enjoy!
(Note: If bottle carbonating, you’ll want to raise the beer to room temperature, pitch fresh yeast with your priming sugar solution and allow to sit for 1-2 weeks before cooling and serving)
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