Chicago's Metropolitan Brewing
is one of my favorite breweries. They brew tasty beers and refuse to populate their line-up with IPAs like a bunch of lemmings. Instead Metro offers fine beer of a more Teutonic nature. Last year they tweaked their line-up and started bottling seasonals with Magnetron, a schwarzbier, being the late autumn/early winter entry.
As far as I can tell, the difference between a schwarzbier and a Munich dunkles is that a schwarzbier goes easier on the malt and isn't as sweet as a dunkles – a milder dunkles, if you will. The thing is, I've had beers that are considered to be schwarzbiers that had had more malt flavor than some dunkles. The line between the two styles is a bit blurry for me. For instance, Sprecher's Black Bavarian is categorized as a schwarzbier yet it emphasizes the malt more than Capital's Munich Dark which is, taxonomically speaking, is a dunkles. Methinks only a trip to Germany can solve this conundrum. Since that's not going to happen in the near future, I will have to content myself with domestic brews like Magnetron.
Magnetron looks black from afar but closer inspection of the narrow part of the glass reveals it to be clear and a very deep reddish brown. I didn't get much of a head on my pour which may very well have been my fault. What foam I did get went away fairly quickly. The nose was fairly sweet – like apricots or plums – along with a bit of coffee from the roasted grains.
The beer tasted much like it smelled with some stonefruit-like sweetness sitting alongside the roasty chocolate and coffee flavors. Don't get me wrong here. These flavors are present but not strong. What we have here is very much like a pilsner – clean and restrained – but with some bonus features. The body is medium-light – a bit heavier than a pilsner yet lighter than something like an amber lager. You can taste the bubbles here so the mouthfeel is smooth and sprightly. There isn't much hoppiness to be had until the finish which was dry and featured a little bit of spicy noble bitterness.
While the Magnetron's dark color mirrors the short winter days, it's nothing like a stout or porter. It is not heavy, there is no burnt grain taste, and no single flavor towers over the others. This beer balances malt sweetness and roastiness in a smooth elixir with a bit of noble hops thrown in for good measure and a classic lager finish.
Junk food pairing: Drink Magnetron with Snyder's Bacon Cheddar pretzel pieces. This is a German style of beer so you are basically obligated to eat pretzels with it. But here you have bacon flavoring to complement the roasty grains and cheddar because, well, you pair beer with cheese, right?