In honor of Black Friday I thought I would write a review of a black lager. Now, you might think that today is Sunday and I am posting this a couple days too late, but according to the barrage of e-mails that have flooded my inbox all month it looks like Black Friday now lasts for a week or so. I could use this post as a medium to express my distaste in overblown consumerism or make fun of the people who camp out for a week to save twenty bucks on a crappy TV, but this is a beer blog, so I’ll just stick to writing about beer. Full Sail Brewing Company of Hood River, Oregon produces a series of Session lagers that you can quickly identify from their squat bottles (they look like Red Stripe bottles actually). One of their flagship beers is Session Black Lager, a dark beer that is designed to not drink like a meal. There is a common misconception that dark beers have higher alcohol, but many stouts, porters and dark lagers have lower ABV than some of their lighter colored counterparts. While the word “session” is on this label in large letters, at 5.4% ABV it isn’t a session beer by most definitions, but it also isn’t a boozy imperial stout or dopplebock. Full Sail Session Black is available year-round on draft and in bottles.
Full Sail Session Black Lager pours a deep cola brown with a mild off-white head. The scent is pretty mild, just a hint of toasty malt. The dark malts lead off the flavor, with hints of chocolate, coffee and raisin, but nothing overpowering. There is just a hint of hops in the finish, earthy with a touch of bitterness. The beer is very drinkable with a crisp and clean lager finish and just a bit of malty sweetness on the aftertaste. While this isn’t a session beer per se, it is still light bodied and easy to drink. Overall, Full Sail Session Black Lager is a solid take on a drinkable dark lager style, a good choice for a crisp afternoon or for someone without much experience drinking darker styles. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Jack’s Abby in Framingham, MA has gained a foothold in the local craft beer market by brewing a variety of creative takes on traditional (and not-so traditional) lager styles. One of their newest releases is a collaboration beer with Evil Twin Brewing. Evil Twin has been called a gypsy brewery, it was founded in Denmark, but now much of their beer is contract brewed in the US. Instead of setting up a brick and mortar headquarters, Evil Twin has an ever changing arsenal of recipes that get brewed and distributed to a wide range of locales. Evil Twin brews tend to be innovative and push the limitations set by style. It shouldn’t be surprising that a collaboration between these two breweries would be a schwarzbier, a German style dark lager. Schwarzbiers fill the lager-only rule that Jack’s Abby sticks to, while providing lots of possibility for the innovation that drives both breweries. Jack’s Abby and Evil Twin named their collaboration Jack’s Evil Brew, and it features locally sourced dark malts from Valley Malt.
Jack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil Brew pours a dark brown with a mild white head. The smell is pretty mild, but you get some hints of coffee and chocolate from the dark malts. These dark malts dominate the full flavor; mocha, dark chocolate, roasted barley and brown sugar with mild touches of smokiness and nuttiness. There is a mild hop bitterness that adds some balance, but the beer is very malt forward. While the flavor profile is similar to a stout the difference is in the finish. The lager yeast and cold fermentation temperature results in a very clean finish, with just a hint of black coffee in the aftertaste. The beer is medium bodied and very easy to drink for a darker style. At 5.2% ABV Jack’s Evil Brew isn’t overly strong. If you love the flavor profile of stouts, but get burned out by the high ABV stouts that many craft brewers put out, this is a great beer for you. No surprise that two talented teams join forces and make a well crafted and delicious take on a schwarzbier. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.