We have a special Brew Review on tap for this evening, but first a little bit of background. I have recently received a donation of money in the name of this website from a reader. Howie13 who lives in a suburb of Larksville, Pennsylvania, wrote to me and said, “I’d like to donate enough for you to do a beer review on my dime.” After a bit of email banter back and forth about what sort of beer he had in mind, I had a list of 5 breweries based on Howie’s recommendations.
Special people require special treatment. A beer run was in order, as I didn’t remember seeing any of those breweries having wares on the shelves of either of the two beer haunts in my local Morris repertoire, I had to go to a place where they sold beer with hundreds of different beers. So last Sunday, my son and I took off on a trek to Binny’s in Plainfield, about a 1.5 hour round trip.
What fun. Once there we were strolling the beer department (not just a shelf or two, but a whole department) ogling all the different brands, names and styles of beer. I wished I had brought an extra thousand dollars. (Pfft!) What a haul I would bring home, what great reviews of great beers I could write and drink… We’d probably have trouble finding a place to put it all.
I hit a dead end. I couldn’t find anything on the list.
I spotted the guy that I remembered from my last visit there not so long ago. That guy was The Beer Guy, the guy who knew everything about beer and everything about what was in stock at the store. I caught his eye and he ambled over. I presented him the list with an explanation and he made a beeline right to his computer tucked away in a nearby corner.
He checked his stock inventory versus the list. Abort. On to the Rate Beer website. Checking… checking… checking… “Sorry, all of these beers are east coast beers that we don’t stock here except for one. We have some Shiner over here.” We followed like sheep. Enroute he explained about beer distributors and territories and how they can’t sell beer that we could buy 6 miles up the road.
I’ve reviewed Shiner beer here in the past. Their Shiner Blond was an ok beer, but their Commemorator was pretty good, if my memory served me right. There, in a stack, was a ton of Shiner Bock beer. Hmm. Should I waste this special gift on a beer that I know I could get at the MBS? Wait a minnit… Just the next pile over, was a small stack of black twelve-packs. That beer was Shiner as well. In Raiders’ silver and black, the Gothic text on the carton spelled out Shiner Bohemian Black Lager. Bohemian? Black lager? So very interesting on different levels. That was the choice. I picked up the twelve Goths, and a couple of other beers and did the deed at the checkout. Howie’s money, I thought, was well spent. So far… we haven’t tasted it yet.
What is Bohemia? Are they still around? And how can this be a lager (usually light and refreshing) and yet be black (like a stout?)
Bohemia often refers to the entire Czech territory, including Moravia and Czech Silesia, especially in historical contexts, such as the Kingdom of Bohemia. Then Bohemia was absorbed into the territory of Czechoslovakia which is now called the Czech Republic. (Link)
Bohemian is also a crossword puzzle clue. The answer is always “arty.” The dictionary reveals it to be “a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.”
Ah. A Czech beer with a flair for anarchy. I think we’ll like this beer.
Saturday was a half day of work, hence no Friday Brew posting. The lack of a Friday beer would make tonight’s beer that much more special, as it should. At the appropriate time, I cracked open the twelvepack box along the perforations (which never work right) and grabbed the first bottle of darkness (“I’m Rick James, bitch.”)
The label revealed this interesting statement:
Don’t be afraid of the dark.
Here in Shiner, Texas (pop. 2,070) we’ve been handcrafting beer since 1909. The passion of our original brewmaster, Kosmos Spoetzl, continues to inspire our efforts today. First brewed to commemorate our 97th anniversary, this Bohemian Black Lager remains true to the old-world heritage of the German and Czech immigrants who settled Shiner. Imported Czech Saaz and Styrian hops, and select roasted malts make this “Schwarzbier” our darkest brew yet. PROSIT!
The first bottle was ready for the dump. I uncapped it and noticed the twist-off but let’s not get discouraged this early.
As I poured the beer from the bottle, at the neck, the liquid was a dark brown in color but filled the glass with blackness. However, in holding it up to the light, I could see that the liquid was in fact a very, very dark brown and the garage fluorescents shone through as a dark orange. The foam came up nicely, about an inch’s worth of beige, sudsy head. The carbonation was very difficult to see, but I did glimpse micro-bubbles on the rise. Alas, there was hardly any aroma to speak of.
The first sip was delightful, causing me to try to name the flavors from the get-go. Nope. Got to wait for the palate acclimation to set foot. I’d say there there were some interesting flavors here but none of them actually make this beer taste black, or even very dark.
As the flavors set foot in my mouth (!) the malts slowly came forward. A dark roasty tanginess manifested itself and a bit, not a lot, but a bit of sweetness came forward at the front of the sip. The middle was quite tasty and rather light. The ending held a moderate crispness that seemed to put the dot under the exclamation point coming as a nice combo of hops and carbonation. This beer did not taste like what I expected a black beer to taste like. Nice and easy, straight down the middle.
The maltiness was not as roasty toasty as a stout, but more like a porter. The sweetness was subtle and the entire drink was smooth. It was a well balanced taste, blending a bit of this and a bit of that to make for good manly quaff, perhaps one my wife would consider a little bitter or “drying”. *
This could be that beer that you have in your glass as the guest show up. I’d think that once anyone observed the Bohemian Black tags on the label, you would be instantly classified as being a very virile and hairy manly sapiens. Offer one of these blackies to your Bud/Miller/Coors buddies and watch the expressions on their faces. Just advise any takers that their opinion of the beer should be shared with only you.
This black lager is a pleasant way of tasting light and dark at the same time. Simultaneously. Together. Both at once.
Taste: B > Dark beer charged with hydrogen.
Smoothness: B+ > Like an ebony piano key.
Drinkability: B- > Your taste buds will want another coat.
Bang for the buck: B > Great taste for a moderate price.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sip) Hmm. Kind of, um, burnt caramelly. Not awful for such a dark beer. (sip) It’s not very bitter at all.* (sip) I think ya need to get it a little colder though. (sip) Not bad for such a dark beer. Not bitter. (sip) Mm hmm. Surprisingly pleasant for such a dark beer. Those Bohemians know how to make beer. (Her father was Bohemian. That should explain it.)
Once again, special thanks to Howie for providing the wherewithal to allow me to share this great beer with all of you. Sláinte! back atcha.