As winter inches closer, stouts and porters start returning to taps. But for those of us who want the flavor of these beers without their heft, I give you schwarzbier. Meaning “black beer,” schwarzbier is a light-bodied, low-ABV, roasty dark German lager that might just be your new winter day-drinker. While rarely seen on American taps, some craft breweries like Union Craft Brewing are bucking this trend. The Baltimore-based brewer maintains Blackwing Lager, an interpretation of the ancient style, as a regular in its year-round lineup.
Appearance and Aroma
Out of the can, Blackwing Lager pours an opaque black-brown with a fluffy tan head that lingers well after pouring. As I drink, it leaves a ring of lacing around the glass edge. Robust aromas of caramel malt and roast coffee notes mixed with a hint of sweet chocolate hit me in the nose as I take a sip.
Schwarzbiers combine the rich flavor of a porter or stout with the crisp, clean finish that makes a lager so refreshing.”
In my opinion, schwarzbiers combine the rich flavor of a porter or stout with the crisp, clean finish that makes a lager so refreshing. In this beer, in particular, strong notes of espresso and dark chocolate take center stage. This is mingled with a tinge of black coffee acidity and subtle herbal hop flavor. It all goes down with a roasty, dry lager finish.
Schwarzbiers are hard to find, so I can’t say I’ve had that many. But of the handful I’ve tried, Union Craft’s Blackwing Lager is by far the champion of flavor. It’s jam-packed with roasty, chocolatey rich goodness while still being super-light and crushable. This, combined with its 4.8% ABV, means I have no qualms about downing this tasty, dark beauty over and over.