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Schwarztastic Schwarzbier! A Balanced Approach to Black Beer.

January 20th, 2015 // By // Recipe of the Month // View Comments

Schwarztastic Schwarzbier RecipeHello everyone, and welcome to another recipe of the month blog post that I like to call Brew Along With Us! I have previously explored other black beer styles (like the Black IPA), and this month, I am going to explore another one: the traditional German Schwarzbier!

Schwarzbier is a time-honored beer style brewed in Germany for hundreds of years. Some research and historical evidence suggests that this style may have been brewed as long ago as 800 B.C. This style was once probably brewed as an ale (as lager brewing didn’t come into popular use in Germany until much more recently in history) but is now brewed as a lager.

So what’s the big deal with Schwarzbier? Well, as the title of this post implies, it is balance; a balance between the dark color, a light roasted note that is not overpowering or acrid, and clean hop character that is not blown out of proportion. Too roasted, and you approach a porter or a stout.  Too hoppy, and you might as well make a Black IPA. And if it’s not clean enough, it could be easily mistaken for an ale, with fruity esters and diacetyl. So the trick to schwarzbier is balancing all these elements perfectly, while maintaining a medium body that finishes fairly dry, without being cloying.

Are you up for the challenge?

Here’s how I’m proposing to make this happen: We use pilsner malt for the majority of the base. Pilsner is a light base used in making many fine German lagers. We may have to extend the boil when using pilsner to eliminate precursors to dimethyl sulfide (DMS), so in the all-grain version, we’ll go with a 90 minute boil. Account for extra loss from boiloff when brewing. For the rest of the base, we’ll use Munich malt to impart a rich maltiness that will give the beer a bit more body.

As far as specialty grains go, we’ll use just a bit of Caramunich for more body, residual sweetness, and head retention.  For color and that slight roasted note, we’re going to go with a bit of chocolate and Carafa III, the darkest of the dehusked roasted malts. We don’t need a lot, just a quarter of a pound and a half pound respectively, though less could be used.

Three additions of German Hallertau hops for bittering, flavor and aroma will help give a clean bitterness that is light and delicate, with a lager fermentation giving us the clean overall profile we’re looking for.

So there you have it! Let’s brew a schwarzbier, shall we? Remember to let us know what you are doing in your brews, and stay in touch if you have any questions or comments. Cheers!

Schwarztastic Schwarzbier Recipe! (for final volume of 5.5 gallons)

Estimated O.G. = 1.049
Estimated F.G. = 1.010
Estimated ABV = 5.1%
Estimated bitterness = 26 IBUs

Grain Bill
5 lbs. German Pilsner malt
4 lbs. Munich malt
0.5 lbs. Caramunich malt
0.5 lbs. Carafa III malt
0.25  lbs. Chocolate malt

1 oz. Hallertau hops (4.5% AA), added with 60 minutes left in the boil
0.5 oz. Hallertau hops, added with 30 minutes left in the boil
0.5 oz. Hallertau hops, added with 15 minutes left in the boil

4 packs (or make an appropriate starter) Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager, Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager yeast, or 3 packs Saflager W-34/70 dry yeast. If you do not have the ability to perform a lager fermentation, then use Wyeast 2112 California Lager yeast. This yeast can give a clean, lager-like profile, even when fermented at ale temperatures. Proceed as you would with an ale fermentation, skipping the lagering phase. You will still have a fine Schwarzbier in the end!

Brewing Process

  • Mash at 152F for 60 minutes. After lautering and sparging, Proceed with a 90 minute boil, accounting for addition losses for the 90 minute boil. Add the first hop addition with 60 minutes left in the boil, and continue following the boil schedule. .
  • Chill and pitch yeast, fermenting for two weeks.
  • A diacetyl rest at 60F for two days near the end of primary fermentation is highly recommended.
  • Lager at 34F for 4-6 weeks before serving.

Extract Version: Replace the Pilsner malt with 4 lbs of light dry malt extract, and replace the Munich malt with 3.3 lbs (1 can) of Munich liquid malt extract. Steep the specialty grains at 150-155F for 30 minutes using a muslin grain bag. Remove the bag, allowing the grains to drain into the boil kettle. Turn off the flame and dissolve the extracts in the kettle. Turn the flame back on, bring to a boil and proceed as normal. For the extract version, a 60 minute boil will be sufficient.

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