Duck-Rabbit – Schwarzbier

Is it winter yet?  I ask this clearly ridiculous question because for some reason I am already really loving dark beers.  Just the other night we went out for a few drinks, and I clearly had far too many different porters, stouts, and brown ales.  For some reason I spent a very short period of time truly enjoying lighter wheats and hefes this summer.  I guess I just can’t get enough of the good old roasted coffee flavor.

Duck-Rabbit is a brewery that I have very very little experience with.  Located in North Carolina, they are clearly the company for someone like myself (at least at the moment).  With the lightest beer on their portfolio being an amber ale, it is clear they solely specialize in dark beers.  I believe previously to this particular beer, the only beer I have had from their line-up is their milk stout.  A very fine beer I must say.

I believe I can truly say I have never had a schwarzbier before; however, after doing a little more research, I may have to change that to never knowingly had a schwarzbier before.  Schwarz is a German style black lager.  In the recipe they utilize lager yeast rather than ale yeast and also no roasted barley.  The darkness of the beer comes from the roasted malts.  It is a very old style of beer that dates back to 1390.

Duck-Rabbit aren’t the only ones on the market making a schwarzbier right now; however, they are one of the few that actually call it the original name.  Samuel Adams brews one that they simply call a black lager, Saranac produces one under the name “Black Forest”, and Broken Drum Brewery produces one called “Midnight Eclipse”.  Hence the reason I can honestly say I have never knowingly had a beer of this style.  Apparently most brewers like disguise the actual style by giving it an even more mysterious name.  I guess it’s less scary to consume something referring to it being dark than calling it something hard to say.

On to the tasting!

Like the stout that I reviewed the last time, this beer had an extremely dark color to it.  It seems nearly impossible to give a color description to something that comes out so dark.  There really was very little head development on the pour.  The head was a lot lighter than some of the other really dark beers I have had as of late.  Also, swirling the glass left a little residue and lacing on the glass, but it quickly disappeared.  It seems there are very little sugars in this beer.

The smell had a very earthy feel to it.  You could certainly pull out a heavy amount of roasted malts.  I was surprised that the coffee and chocolate scents weren’t more at the forefront of the smell.  Instead, they seemed to take a backseat to this oaky malt heavy scent.  Also, I felt that there were some very minor hops that could be hidden somewhere in there.  I wanted to tasting to confirm whether this was true or not.

I was surprised by how much coffee was in the taste.  From the research, I knew that there were coffee and chocolate flavors in this beer; however, the smell led me to believe that maybe they were more subtle.  The coffee especially just smacks you in the face.  It’s not coffee with cream and sugar either.  This is straight espresso that you taste right away.  As opposed to the smell, the oaky woody taste is more secondary to the taste.  It is definitely still there, but it has more of a back seat.  The roasted malts are extremely noticeable, and I have a feeling that’s part of the reason why the coffee is even more noticeable.  The end has an almost bitter flavor to it; however, it isn’t the same bitterness you get out of hops.  It is definitely closer to the bitterness you get from a strong cup of coffee.  There is also almost a clove flavor that comes as well.

Unlike a stout, the mouthfeel is not very creamy.  However, I also wouldn’t say this has a very clean crisp feel to it.  There is a moderate amount of carbonation that helps distinguish this from an actual cup of coffee, but the carbonation also only accentuates the coffee flavors.  There is a definite lingering of the after taste here as well.

All in all I really like this beer; however, I know this is not going to be for everyone.  Light beer drinkers beware, you may be able to handle the occasional dark brew; however, this is not your typical dark beer.  I love a good cup of coffee, so I couldn’t help but really like this one.  I also really couldn’t imagine drinking more than one bottle of this at a time though.

Teacher Grade: A


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