Schwarzbier (German for "black beer") is a dark lager that has its origins in the middle ages. Unlike most dark beers that are usually described as "heavy", schwarzbier is lighter bodied and refreshing despite its dark appearance (nearly opaque in colour). You'll find flavour notes of coffee and chocolate, but nothing too overpowering to take away from the beer's drinkability. It is light enough to be enjoyed on the hottest summer days.
Schwarzbier is the oldest European beer for which hard scientific evidence exists. According to a November 2002 BYO article, a crock from 800 BC was discovered in a prehistoric burial site that contained blackened barley, the standard raw material of ancient Germanic brews. Because the beer made from such toasted loaves would also be dark, it can be reasonably asserted that the crock contains residues of an ancient ancestor of schwarzbier.
The roots of 'modern' schwarzbier lie in the Thuringia and Saxony federal states of Germany with the oldest known black beer in that region being Braunschweiger Mumme, brewed since 1390 in the city of in Braunschweig located in Lower Saxony. The earliest documented mention in Thuringia is from Köstritzer brewery that produced schwarzbier at least as early as 1543 and still produces it today. The present-day East Germany has many unique varieties of this style from regional breweries. The style has also expanded to breweries throughout the world with many in North America and elsewhere now producing award winning schwarzbier variations.
This version of schwarzbier is an award winner from our favourite brewing recipe book: Brewing Classic Styles. It sits on the edge of the style guidelines as it is a little too roasty when compared to most classic commercial varieties such as Köstritzer. That said, this version has won more than 20 medals by professional and amateur brewers alike at both the AHA National Homebrew Competition and GABF, including Best of Show and at least one gold medal. This 'slightly too roasty' version is popular so don't be surprised if this is the sort of schwarzbier you receive when you order one at various breweries across the USA.
If you prefer to make something a little less roasty, more along the lines of a classic Köstritzer, make the following changes to the recipe:
For an interesting twist on the style, try serving your schwarzbier on a stout faucet pushed by 30/70 CO2/Nitrogen blend to get a nice creamy head and close to flat beer. One cheap and inexpensive way to (sort of) mimic this is to use a syringe. Pour the beer as you would normally and then suck up a syringe full and force it back into the beer, hard. Repeat 2-3 times and you'll knock most of the C02 out of solution leaving a nearly flat beer with a creamy head. Not quite the same texture, but it gets you part ways there.
Photos/videos from my brew day:
Hops and water additions measured out the night before brew day. Image (c) TheElectricBrewery.com.
Video of mash temp set to and holding perfectly at 154F with the electric brewery control panel, 30 minutes to go. Video (c) TheElectricBrewery.com.
Racking to secondary brite tank after fermentation is done. The beer is then cleared with gelatin for a couple of days, then kegged and lagered for a good month before going on tap. Image (c) TheElectricBrewery.com.
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Add 500mg potassium metabisulphite to 20 gallons water to remove chlorine/chloramine (as required).
Water treated with brewing salts to: Ca=51, Mg=10, Na=16, Cl=71, S04=71
(Hit minimums on Ca and Mg, keep the Cl:SO4 ratio low and equal).
For complete details on how to adjust your water, refer to our step by step Water Adjustments guide.
1.25 qt/lb mash thickness. Single infusion mash at 154F for 90 mins. Raise to 168F mashout and hold for 10 mins.
60-90 min fly sparge with ~5.6-5.8 pH water (measured at mash temperature). Collect 14.9 gallons in boil kettle.
Boil for 90 minutes. Lid on at flameout, start chilling immediately.
Cool wort to 48F and aerate well. Pure oxygen from a tank can help with lagers and is recommended.
Ferment at 50F until approximately 2-5 points from final gravity, then raise the temperature to 60F and keep it there to reduce diacetyl (a buttery flavour produced by some yeasts) until fermentation is complete. This will usually take 3-5 days, but don't be afraid to leave it an extra few days. Assume fermentation is done if the gravity does not change over ~3 days.
Rack to CO2 purged brite tank (secondary), crash chill to near freezing (if possible, but not critical), optionally add 1 tsp of unflavoured gelatin dissolved in a cup of hot distilled water per 5 gallons of beer, and let clear for 2-3 days.
Package as you would normally. I keg and carbonate at around 2.5 volumes of C02. The beer will improve greatly if kept near freezing for 2-4 weeks (1-2 months is better) before serving. I use a lagering/conditioning fridge that holds 6 kegs, set to just above freezing that holds a small 5 pound CO2 tank so that the kegs can condition/lager and carbonate at the same time. Avoid keeping the beer unrefrigerated for extended periods. It will remain clean and crisp for months if keep near freezing.
Link Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 1:44 am Post subject:
Is the wyeast 2124 a beast or something? It fermented out in only 7 days (1.054 to 1012). I guess I just expected it to take at least another week. It's my first lager, so I didn't know what to expect. It tastes great without taking back up to 60, but I'm going to do it.
Right now, it is pretty roasty like you said. It's not as malty as I expected due to the FG ending a little lower than I expected. Overall, it has a very clean taste to it. I can tell that it's going to be great with some age on it. Good session beer.
Link Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:36 pm Post subject:
Final review: It's been aging for 3 months now and it's damn good. When it was young, it tasted like a very clean stout or porter. Now, it's mellowed out. The german flavor has come threw. Still has a very slight roasted taste, but very clean, crisp, and remarkably light tasting for the black color. I'll be making it again or try the other version listed.
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