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Unlike dark ales, Schwarzbiers are more reminiscent of lagers to which this style perennially represents; there are no yeast derived flavours dominating while sometimes the body can be full or sweet. The spectrum reaches from black pilsners to darker and somewhat roastier Munich dunkels.
Schwarzbiers are bottom-fermented beers, though originally top-fermenting yeast was used in brewing them. The alcohol content usually ranges from 4.1% to 5%. They get their dark colour from the use of particularly dark malts or roast malt extract in brewing. The malt, in turn, gets its colour during the roasting procedure.
These beers are said to be often served with dark, chunky breads with cream cheese. In reality, they are also enjoyed with salads and soups by consumers who dislike hop-bitter beers like pilsner. They also pairs well with marinated meats like brisket and are an excellent companion to sauerkraut, sauerbraten and pretzels.
The roots of the Schwarzbier lie in Thuringia and Saxony; the oldest known black beer in that region is Braunschweiger Mumme, ("Brunswick Mum") brewed since the Middle Ages (the first documented mention is from 1390) in Braunschweig. The earliest documented mention in Thuringia is of Köstritzer brewery from 1543, a brewery which later started producing Schwarzbier and still produces it today. The present-day East Germany has many unique varieties of this style from regional breweries.
Modern commercial Schwarzbiers include:
Dark Czech lagers (Czech Černé), like Budvar Dark, can serve as a closely related style.