Silversmith’s brand new black lager is practically a porter in disguise. It’s also the ultimate dark summer brew.
“I’ll have the lager,” boomed a white-haired gentleman at the recent launch for Silversmith Brewery’s first two beers. The bartender pulled a pint of the espresso-hued beer and passed it across the bar. The gentleman looked at the glass doubtfully. “That’s like no lager I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Sorry, sir, but lagers can be black—in fact, the only things that distinguish lagers from ales are the colder temperatures and slower-working yeasts used to ferment them. For Silversmith’s schwarzbier (which translates to black beer), brewer Dan MacKinnon uses a German lager base, then adds a dash of black malt for a dark chocolate character, as well as sweeter, caramel malt for balance. The result is a beer that shares the look and aroma of a stout or porter, but goes down a little easier. While the toasty flavours of many porters and stouts linger in the mouth, the crisper, bubbly schwarzbier is like the perfect one-night stand: It does the job and gets out. It’s the ultimate dark beer for summer—a light-bodied, thirst-quenching brew, with notes of coffee and chocolate that’ll sing alongside a barbecued steak or burger.
Because many Torontonians haven’t heard of it, the black lager—available at Wvrst for a limited time—is a ballsy choice for a debut brew; a wheat beer, the blockbuster of warm-weather suds and Silversmith’s other offering, is a safer bet. At first, brewery owners Matt Swan and Chris Pontsioen were skeptical about the schwarzbier. “I wanted something more interesting than a lager,” Swan says. “But once I tried it, I was shocked by how similar the flavours were to a porter. I’d never tasted a lager like that before.” The pair hopes that their brewery, which they’re building in an old church in Niagara-on-the-Lake, will be open for business by September. (MacKinnon made this batch at Barley Days brewery in Picton.)
The schwarzbier is a rare style in Canada, perhaps because the East German breweries that pioneered it in the 1500s were forced to stop exporting under the Soviets in 1949. When the style disappeared from the market, it likely disappeared from some brewmasters’ minds, as well. But one of the original breweries, Köstritzer, started churning the stuff out again in the ’90s, and today, its version is available at the LCBO.
In fact, it was drinking a bottle of Köstritzer’s schwarzbier that inspired MacKinnon’s brew. “I had never heard of it before I went to Germany two years ago,” he says. “It was dark but so refreshing, and I thought, if I ever get a chance, I’d like to make that.”
Silversmith’s schwartzbier is available at Wvrst for $7 a pint. 609 King St. W., #KGW 416-703-7775.