Schwarzbier – A Prehistoric Beer Style

SchwarzbierSchwarzbier, which means “black beer”, is a dark lager from Germany that has its origins in the middle ages, actually is the oldes European beer, dating back to 800 BC and belongs to the so-called Hallstadt culture. The oldest evidence of brewing in Kulmbach comes from an amphora-shaped crock that was discovered in a prehistoric burial site seven miles west of Kulmbach in 1935. Inside of the crock, scientists identified residues of crumpled, blackened barley bread — the standard raw material of ancient Germanic brews.

The Sumerians eventually taught the art of brewing to the Babylonians, who, in turn, taught it to the Egyptians. And by the time Caesar, the Roman conqueror, had his fling with the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, he found a thriving brewing industry up and down the Nile. However, when Islam became the dominant religion in the Middle East about seven centuries later, the breweries in the region had to shut down because the Koran demands total sobriety.

There is also substantial evidence that schwarzbier was brewed throughout the middle ages in Thuingia and Saxony. The Braunschweiger Mumme brewery in Braunschweig brewed the beer going back to at least 1390 and it was brewed in Thuringia at least as early as 1543. The style is still widely brewed today in Germany from Thuringen to nothern Franconia as well as many other countries throughout the world.

Schwarzbier is a medium bodied dark beer, nearly opaque in color and soft and mild despite its dark appearance. Its color ranges from solid black to almost deep sepia, depending on the choice and quantity of black malt in the grain bill. Like most traditional German lagers, schwarzbier has very little nose and up-front bitterness. It has a rich, malty, faintly nutty-sweet middle, almost no perception of diacetyl or fruitiness on the palate, very mild, almost bittersweet, notes of chocolate, coffee or vanilla.

 

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