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Thursday, September 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 50.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Beer Here: Black Bavarian from Sprecher Brewing
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Despite the dark and heavy appearance, I prefer a pilsner glass to appreciate the light texture and clean qualities of this dark German lager.
Credit:Robin Shepard

The beers from Glendale's Sprecher Brewery are among the most distinctive on store shelves around Wisconsin. The brewery's 16-ounce bottles, sold in four packs, often stand out among a sea of six packs in your local liquor store.

Randy Sprecher, a former brewing supervisor at Pabst Brewing in Milwaukee, started his brewery in 1985. At that time those large, wide-bodied bottles were being phased out by Pabst, and Sprecher found he could get a good deal on the distinctive packaging that has become part of Sprecher's identity. Bottle appearance aside, few dark-bodied beers have the solid reputation of Black Bavarian.

What is it? Black Bavarian from Sprecher Brewing Company

Style: Schwarzbeir, or dark German lager, with medium to light body and moderate maltiness. These intense, black-colored beers are actually cleaner and much lighter bodied than their appearance suggests. This beer has firm sweetness with hints of caramel and chocolate. You'll also find some dry roasted coffee tones but not a burnt taste. There's low hoppiness, and overall this is a well-balanced beer. It is closely related to, and sometimes confused with, the Munich Dunkel style. The Schwarzbeir is generally darker and drier.

Background: This is one of Randy Sprecher's long-standing brews. He first made it following a trip to Bavaria in 1969, and has offered it commercially since 1985. Its recipe showcases black patent, caramel and chocolate malts. Available year-round, it takes about eight weeks to make and is 5.8% alcohol. Black Bavarian is currently ranked as the number-one Schwarzbier on Beer Advocate.

Tasting notes:

  • Aroma: A light, yet firm, chocolate malt nose.
  • Appearance: Dark black color with a thick, soft, brown head.
  • Texture: Medium to light bodied. Some bubbly carbonation, but overall, incredibly smooth.
  • Taste: Solid maltiness, especially an assertive chocolate maltiness.
  • Finish/Aftertaste: Malty, with slight dryness from the hints of roasted malt.

Glassware: Despite the dark and heavy appearance, I prefer a pilsner glass to appreciate the light texture and clean qualities of this dark German lager.

Pairs well with: The caramel and dry chocolate tones of Sprecher's Black Bavarian cry out for warm German cuisine. Pork and venison are great companions to the Schwarzbier. It blends wonderfully well with sweet-and-sour flavors, such as liver and sauerkraut. Still, although these beers do have firm flavor, they are not tough enough to withstand acidity and intense fruity dishes.

Rating: Four Bottle Openers.

(I am using a one to four bottle opener scale: Four is a great beer, distinctive, you'll have this over others; three is a beer you enjoy, reliable, close to its described style; two is problematic, lacks distinction, but worth having again; one is a beer that isn't true to its style, you would not recommend it to a friend.)

The Consensus: A- (excellent) from Beer Advocate and a 95 from Rate Beer.

The Verdict: The smooth yet assertive chocolate malt and medium to light body really make this dark lager special. The color, texture and cleanness of this beer make it one of my refrigerator's constant companions, because it'll go with almost any meal, or "cap-off" a hectic day.

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