The Schwarzbier and How to Brew It

Overview

Next up is the delicious dark and roasty Schwarzbier. This wonderful style is a dark German lager that has a low abv with a mild roasted malt character with little bitterness. The 2021 guidelines for this style of beer are below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.044 – 1.052
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.016
  • Alcohol by Volume: 3.8% – 4.9%
  • Bitterness: 22-30 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 25-40

Schwarzbier Ingredients

Malt

The Schwarzbier is somewhat like a restrained Dunkel, so for the base malt, instead of going with only Munich malt, you may want to consider splitting it 75/25 with pilsner malt. The Munich malt will give it the nutty, toasty character, and the pilsner will contribute the dry, crisp lager character. If you want one of these characters to shine more than the other, feel free to adjust the ratio. For the specialty malts, you can use medium crystal malts for caramel character, chocolate or pale chocolate malt for color and a mild chocolate/coffee flavor, and even some melanoidin malt for extra malt character. Last, but certainly not least, I highly recommend adding in Carafa Special II. Carafa Special is de-husked, so it will add the dark color, but it will not add the intense roastiness that other roasted malts such as roasted barley would impart.

Hops

The hops used in a traditional Schwarzbier are German noble hops. These include Hallertauer Mittelfruh, Saaz, Spalt, and Tettnang. If you are unable to get ahold of any of these, you can also use Fuggles, Liberty, or Mount Hood. I would add in about 20 IBUs worth of bittering hops at 60 minutes, and 5-8 IBUs worth at 5 minutes to get some of that noble hop aroma.

Yeast

For the Schwarzbier, :

  • German Bock Lager Yeast – WLP833 (White Labs)
  • German Lager Yeast – WLP830 (White Labs)
  • Munich Lager -2308 (Wyeast)
  • High Pressure Lager Yeast – WLP925 (White Labs)

Water

Last but not least, the water. For all beers I brew, I use a reverse osmosis filtration system and build up my water profile from scratch. For the Schwarzbier, I added Epsom salt and canning salt, as well as baking soda and pickling lime to act as a pH buffer for the dark grains. I aimed for a mash pH of 5.5.

Schwarzbier Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon batch of a Schwarzbier. The numbers for this beer are included below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.047
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.016
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.6%
  • Bitterness: 25.6 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 35.5

Grain Bill

  • Munich Malt – 4 lbs 12 oz (52.8%)
  • Pilsner Malt – 1 lb 12 oz (19.4%)
  • Carafa Special II – 12 oz (8.3%)
  • Caramel Munich III – 12 oz (8.3%)
  • Pale Chocolate Malt – 8 oz (5.6%)
  • Melanoidin Malt – 8 oz (5.6%)

I prefer going closer to the 75/25 ratio for Munich/Pilsner malts to get a little extra malty character. For my crystal malt I chose Caramel Munich III to add to the body and roastiness, pale chocolate to get a slight chocolate/coffee character, and melanoidin malt to enhance the maltiness. Finally, I added plenty of Carafa Special II to get that beautiful dark color, along with a nice roastiness.

Hops

  • 1.5 oz Hallertauer Mittelfruh at 60 minutes (21.4 IBUs)
  • 1.5 oz Hallertauer Mittelfruh at 5 minutes (4.3 IBUs)

Yeast

German Lager Yeast – WLP830

Mash

Add your salts and pH buffer if needed, and fill your mash tun to the required volume and temperature for your mash to drop to 152 degrees Fahrenheit. For me, it was 163 degrees Fahrenheit at 2.8 gallons. You can do a step mash, but simply mashing at 152 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes will work. After 60 minutes, raise your mash temperature to 168 degrees for mash out. After mashing out, begin to sparge until you reach a pre-boil gravity of around 1.041. For me, it was 5 gallons.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes. Add the hops in at 60 minutes and 5 minutes. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients and at 8 minutes I added whirlfloc tablets as my clarifying agent. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 48 degrees and then measure the gravity/pitch the yeast. My initial gravity was 1.047. I let this free rise to 52 degrees as fermentation starts. I kept it at this temperature for a little over a week. Once the primary fermentation was complete, I pulled off the yeast and let the temperature free rise up to 68 degrees. For me, this took about 5 days. I then held it at this temperature for 2 whole weeks to ensure that fermentation has completed. After the two-week mark, I lowered the temperature by 4 degrees a day until it reached 33 degrees. Once it reached 33 degrees, I transferred it to the brite tank and carbonated it to 2.8 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, I kegged it and let it lager for 12 weeks. Once the lagering is complete, tap it and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another Schwarzbier recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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