Dark lager: wonderful idea. When done well, you get the refreshing crisp qualities of lager but with much more going on in the nose and mouth. Simutaneously restorative and stimulating.
But when it’s done badly, it’s either indistinguishable from the pale stuff if you close your eyes, or worse, a sweeter version thereof. We had many disappointing dark lagers in Germany. Not so much in Franconia, where they’re not afraid of a bit of character in their brews, but certainly outside.
We decided to escape from the “eurowhiff” and have a tasting session at home of some dark lagers we’d picked up at Utobeer. And by dark lager here, we’re not talking about a strictly defined style, but rather anything that’s a lager and is dark.
Bohemia Regent Dark4.4%
One of the more commonly available Czech dark lagers (i.e. I’ve seen it in at least two places…)
This reminded me of a Franconian beer – refreshing, incredibly gulpable, but with interesting flavours to analyse. It has a good long aroma of treacle, which makes you think the beer’s going to be overpoweringly sweet, but it’s not. You get a soft burnt caramel flavour, with the hops adding subtle spiciness, although not much bitterness. It leaves a light roasted malt flavour on the tongue.
The Bohemia Regent site is here.
Hirter Morchl, 5%
This is from Austria, and that’s about all we’ve been able to work out from their website. It’s a similar dark red colour to the Regent, with a lovely toasty aroma with hints of smoke. It’s not particularly fizzy, giving it a richer, fuller body. It’s slightly on the sweet side, and gets sweeter as it warms up, becoming rather cola-like. Can’t really taste much hops.
Budvar dark, 4.7%
Well, it looks great, with a towering frothy head. Mildly smoky. It doesn’t have the same pronounced malty flavour as the others we tried today, but it’s got interesting sour notes, like a good stout, and very discernible, almost raw, hops.
We’d happily drink all of these, but we didn’t think any of these were as good as the Bernard dark beer we had in York last month. That was lovely stuff, with a full body and coffee bitterness, and yet incredibly drinkable. An exotic mild…?
What are your dark lager recommendations?