When it was released in 2004, Samuel Adams Black Lager was a beer well ahead of its time. Though its early fans wouldn’t have known it during its first few vintages, the black lager style would go on to enjoy a high degree of popularity seven years later. And so Boston Beer founder and brewmaster Jim Koch can be again be credited for demonstrating pioneering vision, choosing to present a product that would be appreciated only by a knowing few many years before the general American public would discover it.
The beer itself is as solid a choice as its better-known big brother Boston Lager. It’s versatile, structured and easy drinking, a beer to drink with dessert by the fire or gulp down with burgers on the grill. It pours with a startling amount of foam that readily settles into a sturdy, even head, the color of sea foam that blows up from the water onto sandy shores. Held up to the light, you can glean sparks of a ruddy red sheen that glint through the almost impenetrable tar color that gives meaning to the moniker “black lager.”
An initial strong whiff subsides into a light bready aroma enlivened by a little bit of an alcoholic burn. Any unpleasant memory of this nose, however, disappears upon the first sip. The body is hearty for a lager, and it fills the mouth with an almost creamy texture. You could say this brew has the taste of a lager and the mouthfeel of an amber ale.
Chocolate and caramel malts and just the lightest touch of Noble hops means all malt flavor and no hoppiness, which is reflected in the low IBU measurement of 19. It’s smooth and drinkable, not what you’d call a complex beer, though a touch of smoke provides a pleasing surprise. The finish is just as smooth as the rest of the sip and leaves no aftertaste.
In sum, this is a good medium-bodied beer that, while relatively unremarkable in its flavor, would nicely pair with stews and hearty Continental foods that call for a moderate beer to meet them in the middle of the flavor spectrum. It would also do well with shellfish and would lend a rich, buttery flavor to hot or cold blue-crab backfin meat. If you want to stick with the brewers’ suggestions, try it with grilled swordfish or chili.
Top photo via Flickr user wannaoreo
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