Beer Review: Chilton Mill Brewing’s Schwarzbier – Black Lager

Name: Schwarzbier – Dark Lager
Brewing Company: Chilton Mill Brewing Company
Location: Long Valley, NJ
Style: Lager – Dark | Schwarzbier
ABV: 5.6%

A delicious, elegant, dynamite Dark Lager from one of NJ’s smaller, yet more robust breweries.

ChiltonMill_Schwarzbier

From the untappd page for the beer:

This German style dark lager exudes smooth roasty characteristics, balanced by traditional Noble hops. Dark in color, while remaining exceptionally drinkable!

Chilton Mill Brewing is a “Pandemic” Brewery, having the unfortunate timing to open during the early days of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Their ability to pivot to crowlers for offsite consumption, coupled with the great beer they brew, allowed them to survive the pandemic and grow as the world recovered (and still is recovering) from the Pandemic. I visited once earlier in the year and made my way back because I wanted to try this beer in particular.

So…this beer, a Germanic Dark Lager. Three words describing a beer I very much enjoy. German Dark Lagers come in a few varieties, Munich Dunkel, Dopplebock, and this, the Schwarzbier which literally translates to “Black Beer” from the German language. The style has more roast/smokiness than most lagers and in some ways, could be considered the lager-cousin to the Porter of the ale family. There are also similarities between the German Schwarzbier and Czech Dark Lager, or Tmavé Pivo.

Mini-style lesson over, on to Chilton Mill Brewing’s Schwarzbier.

The beer I’m given is black, as black as any beer I’ve had. A nice, light khaki head about the thickness of my pinky sits atop the beer. Picture perfect, I would say.

I skip breathing in the aroma of the beer and take a sip. I am very pleased with my first taste of this beer. There’s a very nice roast character, which is a hallmark of the style. It isn’t overpowering to the point that it is a smoked beer, but just enough to make that element of flavor’s presence known. On my second quaff of the beer, I get something unexpected, yet pleasant – some kind of sweet fruit element. Not sure what specifically, but that element likely comes from the Noble hops. But that sweetness is a great level of complexity in this beer.

This beer, Schwarzbier – Dark Lager is one of Chilton Mill’s most popular beers, it has more check-ins on untappd than any other they have brewed. I was speaking to owner/head-brewer Mike about the beer and he said it was the first (or one of their first) beer he made available and it proved extremely popular. What I like about the beer is how elegant, well-crafted, and balanced the beer is. I have a very strong appreciation for the level of complexity especially considering the beer is only 5.6% ABV. This isn’t a very common/popular style and what I also appreciate about Chilton Mill is the dedication to these kinds of classic, flavorful styles, keeping them in rotation (the other beer I had on my visit was an excellent English Brown Ale).

This is one of the best Dark Lagers I’ve had all year and maybe even since I’ve been on untappd..

Recommended, link to 4.50 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Lakefront Brewery’s Eastside Dark Lager

Name: Eastside Dark
Brewing Company: Lakefront Brewery
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Style: Lager – Dark / Bavarian Dark Lager
ABV: 5.6%

“A flavorful, every-day, easy drinking lager. What’s not to like?”

From Lakefront Brewery’s landing page for the beer:

Honoring the eclectic East Side of the city, this Bavarian dark lager is a blend of three specialty grains, creating a rich, smooth, dark beer that anyone can enjoy. Our most award-wining beer of all time!

ABOUT THE BREW

Pours a clear, dark color with an off-white head. Hints of roasted malts find their way into the aroma, and form a pleasant background to the dark, rich flavor. The German lager yeast rounds out this brew with a smooth, complex finish. Winner of the 2014 and 2016 European Beer Star Gold Medal for Bohemian-Style Schwarzbier.

What is the most common image conjured for the word “lager?” I would guess in America, that image would be fizzy, yellow liquid. While understandable, that idea undermines the fact that long before Pilsners came to dominate the world, dark lagers were far more prevalent. In their Eastside Lager, legacy Wisconsin Craft brewer Lakefront Brewery looks to evoke that classic, old-world style. This beer would seem to land somewhere between a Schwarzbier and a Munich Dunkel, both of which are styles I like. How does the final result match up?

The beer pours a translucent brown, looking more the part of a Munich Dunkel than a Schwarzbier. Aroma doesn’t stand out too much, it smells like a bready lager.

There’s a very pleasant malt element in this beer that gives me bready hints. The malt gives a very balanced sweetness, it is far from cloying, but is definitely present. I don’t know if it is the color of the beer that has me down this path, but pumpernickel bread comes to mind as what the bready malts evoke in my palate.

While this beer does indeed remind me of a Munich Dunkel, I’m also finding similarities to an English Brown Ale. If you put this beer next to an English Brown, it might not be easy to correctly pinpoint the style of the beers from a visual standpoint. Some of the flavor elements are similar, but the lager yeast in this beer would be where the differences would be noticeable. This is not to knock Eastside Lager but what I’m saying, more or less, is if you enjoy English Brown Ales, you’d likely enjoy this beer.

One of the important characteristics of a beer is how it finishes in one’s palate. For me, Eastside Dark has a strong finish – the pleasant flavor makes me want more. The sweetness and refreshing elements often associated with lagers is on point here, I want to enjoy more of the beer..

Eastside Dark is a flavorful, easy drinking lager that would work well alongside any meal or anytime you’re in the mood for a no-nonsense tasty beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer (one of the cooler looking badges, in my opinion):

Schwarz-buckler (Level 3)

Ahoy schwarz-buckler! Beware of the evil Black Beerd, as you sail the dark sea of suds matey. That’s 15 different beers with style of Schwarzbier, Lager – Dark, or Lager – Euro Dark.