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Huntsville’s Yellowhammer Brewing describes its Midnight Special as “a dark lager crafted in the spirit of a German-style schwarzbier, blending German Munich malts and dark roasted malts for a smooth finish.”
As the days get shorter and the nights chillier, darker beers tend to come back into fashion. Pilsners and sours may rule the summer, but stouts and dunkels tend to reign in the colder months.
However, many people are intimidated by dark beers, worried they may be too strong or heavy for their tastes. But a number of black beers showing up this season seek to strike a balance between the malty notes of a dark brew and the lighter taste of a lager.
Black lagers seem to be this year’s seasonal style du jour this fall, with a wide variety of macro- and microbreweries putting out their own versions, including New Belgium (1554 Black Lager), Dixie (Blackened Voodoo Lager) and Shiner (97 Bohemian Black Lager), all of which can be found in grocery stores throughout our area.
I had my first black lager a couple of weeks ago at Serda Brewing during the annual “Woofstock” festival. While the temps were still summerlike, I had a hankering for something different, and the black lager intrigued me. I was not disappointed. It had some excellent roasted malt flavors with chocolate and coffee notes, like one would expect from a good porter, but was acidic, not creamy. It hit the spot. I don’t know how long it will be available down on Government Street, but it’s worth a try if you stop into the taproom.
A number of other state and local brewers are putting out their take on the black beer phenomenon. I found the Midnight Special black lager from Huntsville’s Yellowhammer Brewing in cans at my local Piggly Wiggly. It was similar to Serda’s, but a bit lighter and not quite as flavorful.
Fairhope Brewing Co. does not put out a black lager, but it does have a Black IPA in its taproom — the Painted Black IPA. A black IPA might seem a bit of a contradiction, as IPAs are known for their bitter, hoppy flavors, while darker beers are associated with maltiness and softer hints of chocolate, coffee and caramel. However, I found the Painted Black, while stronger than the black lagers I tried (at 7 percent alcohol by volume or ABV), to have a nice balance, as the hoppiness of the IPA was offset by coffee and malt hints.
If you’re looking to try the Painted Black and other dark beers, Fairhope Brewing is hosting its annual Black Friday celebration from 1-10 p.m. on Nov. 23. A dozen dark beers will be available on tap, including the debut of holiday brews such as the Gingerbread Stout and the There’s Something About Merry imperial stout.
Special peanut butter versions of favorites Judge Roy Bean and Long Handshake will also be available. There will be live music and a food truck, so take a break from your black Friday shopping (or, better yet, abandon it altogether) and try out some dark beers this Thanksgiving weekend.