Back in 2012 Kirby Nelson left Capital Brewery for the pastures of Verona. When Brian Destree took over Nelson's role, Capital was widely viewed as something of an Augean stable, littered with unfashionable lagers. Destree was charged with the Herculean task of turning things around and he did so by diverting rivers of IPAs into the brewery's portfolio.
Last year when Ashley Kinart was Capital Brewery's Assistant Brewmaster, she was given liberty to concoct a brew of her own devising. Rather than continue the march into IPA oblivion, she instead proved herself to be a recidivist by brewing Fishin' In The Dark
, an imperial schwarzbier. The idea came to her in a daydream
"'In the middle of this terribly long Winter I had this day dream that I was canoeing down the Wisconsin River with my boyfriend and we stopped on a sand bar to do some fishing. It was late in the day and we made our last cast while the sun was setting. We started humming the tune to 'Fishin’ in the Dark' and the idea just popped in my head,' said Kinart. 'That night I thought about what a beer with the same name would taste like, and the next day I pitched it to Brew Master, Brian Destree."
Dark lagers are amongst my favorite bier style so I was quite pleased to hear about this development although I was bit flummoxed at the notion of an imperial schwarzbier released just in time to greet summer and its attendant hot temperatures.
Trying to distinguish between a dunkles and a schwarzbier seems to be more art than science. There is the obvious difference of color. Science helps out here. "Schwarzbier" means "black beer" and thusly these beers are darker than their dunkles cousins. Beyond that, I'm not quite sure of just how different they are supposed to taste. It seems that your Munich dunkles is supposed to emphasize Munich malt and its attendant toasted flavors from Maillard reactions while a schwarbier aims for a lighter flavor involving dark malts that don't venture into the bitter/burnt territory like a porter.
Sprecher's Black Bavarian is generally classified as a schwarzbier. While it has an SRM of 40+ giving it the requisite color, it has a much richer malt flavor than, say, Köstritzer's schwarzbier. Black Bavarian has more alcohol and a heavier body too. Methinks this conundrum deserves more research. Preferably done in Deutschland. (I hear that schwarzbier is undergoing something of a resurgence in the former DDR, especially Saxony.)
Let's look at Ms. Kinart's creation.
As you'd expect, Fishin' in the Dark pours a deep, deep brown that looks very schwarz sitting in a glass looking licentiously drinkable. It’s quite opaque so I couldn't observe its clarity and was too lazy to pour a small amount in a separate glass to try and determine such. My pour gave me a nice tan head of about a centimeter. Because of that aforementioned opacity, I couldn't see inside the beer so there may have been effervescence of an Alka-Seltzer-like intensity and I wouldn't have known.
The aroma began with a sweetness like raisins before notes of coffee and dark chocolate enveloped my nose. Truly lovely even if the sweetness was a bit surprising. Those coffee and chocolate scents came through in the flavor with some slight bitterness as did a smidgeon of smokiness which was most welcome. There was also some sweetness here but the plum-like flavor was more subdued than the dulcet aroma. The overall flavor was clean with the emphasis on the malts. I also caught a little bite from the carbonation.
This being an imperial beer and weighing in at 7.5% A.B.V., the body was medium-heavy. It also means that I could taste a little alcohol burn in the finish as the coffee/roasted grain flavors lingered. Towards the very end a mild peppery hop bitterness kicked in to complete a dry finish. My glass was left with some nice Schaumhaftvermoegen as there were some nice tan webs left on the sides.
While having a heavier body than your typical schwarzbier, Fishin' in the Dark was not syrupy and retained a surprising amount of the nimbleness on the tongue of its non-imperial cousins. There is an intense maltiness to this beer which I loved. Slightly bitter coffee and dark chocolate flavors cozied up to a more mellow roasted grain taste in harmony. I buy Fishin' in the Dark in June and stash it away in my basement for chilly autumn days like today. Capital's Munich Dark is much better suited for summer.
Junk food pairing: While drinking Fishin' in the Dark eat some Baby Swiss Cheez-Its dipped in asiago-artichoke dip. The salt will intensify the malt flavors while the cheese and mayonnaise will provide a soft, mellow counterpart to them.
Labels: Beer, Capital Brewery, Madison, Schwarzbier