Schwarzbier is a deceptively easy drinking lager, with a surprisingly light weight average 5% ABV. As you might expect with a name meaning black beer, the schwarzbier beer is the darkest of the lager family. With a light body, the schwarzbier is usually drier than a dunkel. A creamy head nestles atop a rich copper to chocolate colour beer. Check out examples of schwarzbier from five different countries, here at Beers of Europe.
Brewing of schwarzbier can be traced back thousands of years, making it possibly the oldest continuously brewed style of beer in the world. In a Celtic tomb, dated 800 BC, discovered in 1935, seven miles from Kulmbach in northern Bavaria, an amphora was discovered with the remains of a type of black beer. It has been speculated that this is an early ancestor of schwarzbier. By 1390 AD there is written evidence of this style of beer being produced. Fast forward to today and schwarzbier has crossed the pond and become a firm favourite with American craft breweries.
To match the rich, deep colour of a schwarzbier, the aroma is dominated by the sweetness of Munich malts; primarily of toast, but layered with secondary characteristics, which tend to be chocolatey through to nutty and caramel-like. This should be a fruity esters free zone. The Munich malts reign supreme in terms of taste; echoing the aroma, but no sense of burnt roast characteristics. Whilst there is very little in the way of hop flavour, the after taste can take on hop bitterness.
Due to the high level of unfermentables in a schwarzbier, there is a medium to full body, with a firm mouthfeel. A low degree of astringency and alcohol warming is to be expected. There is medium carbonation.