Do you know someone who says they don’t like dark beer? Put a blindfold on them and give them a taste of Czech Dark Lager, the newest Stag Series beer from August Schell Brewing Company. Although it’s nearly stout black, this beer has a pilsner-like character with just the slightest hint of roast. They’ll never know what hit ‘em, but they’ll like it when it does.
Czech-style black lagers are seldom seen in this country. I would wager a guess that they are seldom seen outside the Czech Republic. Probably the most famous version is the house beer at the 15th-century brewpub U Fleku in Prague. Not too dissimilar from a German schwarzbier, these lagers are deceptively dark, and the perfect example of why beer color is only a modest indicator of what a beer will taste like. As I am fond of saying, “Dark is not a flavor. Don’t be afraid of the dark.”
Here’s my notes:
Aroma: Subtly aromatic. A bit of bready pilsner malt provides a substrate for gentle roasted character. Floral hops just float over the top. Lager freshness.
Appearance: Dark mahogany or garnet. Clear. A modest, rocky, off-white head forms and then falls, remaining as a ring of foam around the edge.
Flavor: Pilsner-like with a kiss of roast. Low levels of bready-sweet pilsner malt. The roasty flavors start out dry, like roasted barley and take on a bit of bittersweet chocolate as it warms with faint woody notes in the background. Bitterness is medium, about to the level of a good Czech pilsner. Floral hop flavors add the finishing touch. It goes out dry with a bit of lingering sweet perfume.
Mouthfeel: Sharp and crisp at first, it takes on a creaminess as it warms a bit. Carbonation is medium to medium-high.
Overall Impression: At nearly 6% the ABV on this is much higher than I thought. Not that 6% is high, but this drinks much lighter. What I love about lagers is their subtle complexity. They don’t hit you over the head. They make you look for it, but reward your effort. This beer does all that. It’s light and easy to drink like a pilsner, but the touch of roast adds an extra layer of depth and intrigue. While I think I still prefer Schell’s Pils, this Czech Dark Lager is definitely worth seeking out.