Beer of the Week: Shiner Bock Bohemian Black Lager

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John Linn
Unrepentant beer drinkers, rejoice! Each week, Clean Plate Charlie will select one craft or import beer and give you the lowdown on it: How does it taste? What should you drink it with? Where can you find it? But mostly, it's all about the love of the brew. If you have a beer you'd like featured in Beer of the Week, let us know via a comment.

It's back! Though there was a solid stretch where Texas' oldest independent beer, Shiner Bock, was not available in Florida, it's back again and (hopefully) here to stay.

Not only can you get the original Bock but Spoetzl Brewing Co.'s other beers have started to show up around town. Shiner Bock Bohemian Black Lager is one of them, and I'm glad it is. This is one great example of a schwarzbier, or German black lager.

A refresher course on lagers versus ales: Lagers, unlike ales, are generally fermented at a much lower temperature and with slightly different yeast strains than ales. The result of that process is that the little yeasty buggers are generally less active. Think about it like this: When it's cold out, you generally want to hide under layers of blankets and clothes to stay warm. Yeast do the same thing... sort of. These bottom-fermenting yeast sink down to the depths of the brew tank, where their hunger is a little bit subdued. They eat up less sugars in the wort (that's unfermented beer), which in turn produces less alcohol and less flavorful byproduct such as fruity esters. This is the reason lagers take slightly longer to produce than ales (it's why they're called lagers, which means "to store" in German).

It's also why lagers typically have much less flavor than ales. Flavors like malty, nutty, roasty, and fruity are generally not associated with lagers. Depending on who you talk to, you'll instead hear words like clean, crisp, light, refreshing, skunky, piss-like... well, you get the point.

If a bock (as in Shiner Bock) is a dark form of lager made with more sugary malts, then a schwarzbier, or black lager, is a form of lager made with really dark, rich malts. But unlike other dark ales such as porters and stouts (think Guinness), black lagers are not necessarily super potent in flavor.

I like to think of it as more of a nice balance. Shiner Bohemian Black, for example, is a very mild dark beer in comparison to thick stouts. It's body is not heavy or thick; rather, it's light in texture with very little carbonation or head. The flavors are mild but still present: There are hints of coffee, chocolate, raisins, dark fruit, and vanilla. And at less than 5 percent alcohol, it won't put you under the table after the first pint either. You can drink a ton of these and still stay strong (unlike that other black stuff). It's a dark beer to drink when you don't want a heavy dark beer -- just a lager with a bit more flavor. Dig?

Find Shiner Bohemian Black Lager at Total Wine and Spirits.

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