Better Know Your Beer Style: Category 04 Dark Lagers

19 01 2010

Photo Credit: Busbeytheelder Creative Commons

Let’s face it, for the most part, Americans equate lagers with one thing and one thing only: pilsners. When they hear “lager” they think “medium bodied, light in color, fizzy and mild.” But there is so much more to a lager than that!

The word “lager” comes from the German word lagerung which means “to store.” It is fermented with top fermenting yeast at cold temperatures–about 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 Celsius)  and stored for three weeks at cold temperatures before drinking. This technique was created by German monks who brewed their beer in alpine caves. This technique became popular with many brewers in Central Europe; particularly Bavaria, Bohemia (modern day Eastern Germany and The Czech Republic), and Austria. We have already covered many of the more popular lager styles in the previous three entries of “Better Know Your Beer Style” but now we start moving into more unknown territory for folks.

Since lager is a technique, any beer can be lagered. The reasons for lagering are many. Perhaps, one lives in a colder region during the winter months and a lager would be easier to upkeep than an ale, which requires temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s to ferment. Or a brewer wants their beer to be cleaner, crisper, and have a more refreshing mouthfeel (what the advertising agencies would call “drinkability”). Whatever the reasons, any beer –regardless of color or hop content–can be lagered with rather predictable results.

So that is why the BJCP has created the “dark lager” category. It has three traditional subcategories which encompasses everything darker than a Vienna Lager and lighter than a bock (which we will go into next week).

BJCP Category 04-Dark Lagers

Subcategories: Dark American Lager, Munich Dunkel, Schwarzbier (Black Beer)

Aroma: Ranging to no or low maltiness for Dark American Lagers to rich, toasty malts for Munich Dunkels. Munich Dunkels can have chocolaty, nutty, and caramely aromas. For a schwarzbier, the malt should be toasty with hints of coffee but never burnt smelling. In all cases, hops should be light, spicy and floral if present.

Appearance: Dark American Lagers should range from amber to dark brown with a light tan head that dissipates quickly. Dunkles should be copper to dark brown with a medium tan head. Schwarzbiers should be deep dark brown with ruby highlights, rarely a true black, with a large, tan and persistent head.

Flavor: Dark American Lagers should be crisp with medium maltiness. Caramel, biscuit and toast should be present with low to no hops present. Dunkles should be rich in Munich malts with flavors reminiscent of fresh bread crust. Noble hop flavor is low to none. Schwarzbiers should be clean with low chocolate, coffee, and nut notes. Light to medium noble hop flavors. All should finish clean with lager-like astringency.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied. Clean, crisp, with moderate carbonation. Dunkles should have some dextrose-like fullness but never cloying or worty. Schwarzbiers should be smooth and a bit creamy.

Ingredients: For Dark American Lagers, 2 row and 6 row American malts should be used. Some cara pils and caramel can be used. For Dunkles and Schwarzbiers, Munich Malts should be the majority of the grist. Noble hops should make the majority of the hopping schedule.

Technical Notes:
Original Gravity:
Final Gravity: 1.008-1.016
IBUs: 8-32
SRM (Malt Color): 14-30
ABV: 4.2-6%

Commercial Examples:
American Dark Lagers: Dixie Blackened Voodoo, Shiner Bock, San Miguel Dark, Baltika #4, Beck’s Dark, Saint Pauli Girl Dark, Warsteiner Dunkel, Heineken Dark Lager, Crystal Diplomat Dark Beer
Munich Dunkle: Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, Hacker-Pschorr Alt Munich Dark, Paulaner Alt Münchner Dunkel, Weltenburger Kloster Barock-Dunkel, Ettaler Kloster Dunkel, Hofbräu Dunkel, Penn Dark Lager, König Ludwig Dunkel, Capital Munich Dark, Harpoon Munich-type Dark Beer, Gordon Biersch Dunkels, Dinkel Acker Dark. In Bavaria, Ettaler Dunkel, Löwenbräu Dunkel, Hartmann Dunkel, Kneitinger Dunkel, Augustiner Dunkel.
Schwarzbier: Köstritzer Schwarzbier, Kulmbacher Mönchshof Premium Schwarzbier, Samuel Adams Black Lager, Krušovice Cerne, Original Badebier, Einbecker Schwarzbier, Gordon Biersch Schwarzbier, Weeping Radish Black Radish Dark Lager, Sprecher Black Bavarian




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: