|Appearance:||Very reminiscent of Coca-Cola with a low, fizzy foamhead|
|Aroma:||Yeasty profile with restrained coffee and dark malt|
|Flavor:||Crisp & Smooth with rich hints of coffee|
|Pairs With:||Spicy meats, BBQ, Münster cheese|
Lagers are probably the style of beer I visit the least. Why, you ask. Well granted, America is known for its mass produced light lagers, but the American lager is also known as watery, characterless, and most anyone would laugh at “complex” being used in the same sentence with any of these beers.
I have tried a few good ones; mind you, I’m talking craft brewery lagers, not the mindlessly mass produced ones. But overall I have been more often disappointed by even the craft brew lagers I’ve tried, or maybe I just don’t have the right sensitivities for them. Who knows? Suffice to say my natural tendency is away from the lager and toward the ale.
Lagers are also inherently harder to get right then ales. Creating a good complex light lager might be one of the supreme tests of the brewer’s art. They require more refined and careful control of temperature during fermentation and maturation. There is nothing to hide behind. No complex, robust grain bill to make slight mistakes in the brewing process less noticeable. Everything is on the table, as it were. A black lager or Schwarzbier could be considered a step between the two (ales and light colored lagers) taste profiles.
The newly formed Resignation Brewery, an extension of Resignation Media (owners of theCHIVE.com) have teamed with Redhook Brewery to bring us their version of a Schwarzbier. I may be the only person in America that hasn’t been to, or even heard of the theCHIVE.com. But, just in case there are others as out of the loop as I am… Resignation Media was created in 2008 by brothers John and Leo Resig. They started a family of websites including theCHIVE, a photo-entertainment website, and Chive Charities, a not for profit organization created to inspire others to back orphaned causes. Resignation Brewery is just the latest extinction of the organization. The beer label sports the acronym for the website’s, now famous, motto “Keep Calm, Chive On.”
This black lager recipe started off as a homebrew recipe in the Chive Headquarters. Its popularity around the office started the idea that maybe it could be something more than a beer shared by Chive Employee’s. Thus, Resignation Brewery was born, the recipe got refined, and they started a hunt for an established brewery to collaborate with. Enter Redhook, and KCCO Black Lager became available in mass.
The Pour and Aroma
I’ve used Coca-Cola to describe the color and appearance of beer before, but man, with the extra carbonation of a lager, if I came across a glass of this away from any reference, I’d swear it was a Coke. Even the head is a low, fizzy, rendition of cold soda foam.
There is very little upfront aroma, a signature of the Schwarzbier style, and other German lagers. What little there is comes through as a muted telltale yeasty profile of lager strain yeast, and an added restrained sense of coffee and dark malt.
Mouthfeel and Taste
Mouthfeel is crisp and smooth with the lightness you would expect of a lager. Rich hints of coffee and bitter chocolate ride an elusive horse of smoke across the palate. There is some toasted-roasted notes here that aren’t quite right for the style. A Schwarzbeir calls for dark malts but care must be exercised in the selection.
Color is the main thing a brewer wants to gain from a black malt, when trying to replicate the Shwarzbeir style. Those black malts imparting intense roast/toast characters should be avoided; these flavors can overwhelm the more delicate flavors imparted by lager yeast, and are not authentic to the style. Not to say these flavors are intense in this beer, but they are present.
The finish is drying and crisp though slightly sweeter than expected, given the lager style. Aftertaste is nominal.
Finishing The Impression
Drink this one at cold temperature (39-45°F). Not only are lagers meant to be drunk at colder temperatures, but all those tastes that are nicely subtle when this beer is cold become exaggerated when it warms. It’s not a bad beer even then, but it starts to taste less and less like a lager. This is defiantly a good first outing for Resignation Brewery and you have to give them credit, deciding their first beer “on scene” would be a lager of any style. I will definitely file this one away as a lager worth visiting and a brewery worth watching.