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It's back! Though there was a solid stretch where Texas' oldest independent beer, Shiner Bock, was not available in Florida, it's back again and (hopefully) here to stay.
Not only can you get the original Bock but Spoetzl Brewing Co.'s other beers have started to show up around town. Shiner Bock Bohemian Black Lager is one of them, and I'm glad it is. This is one great example of a schwarzbier, or German black lager.
A refresher course on lagers versus ales: Lagers, unlike ales, are
generally fermented at a much lower temperature and with slightly
different yeast strains than ales. The result of that process is that
the little yeasty buggers are generally less active. Think about it
like this: When it's cold out, you generally want to hide under layers
of blankets and clothes to stay warm. Yeast do the same thing... sort
of. These bottom-fermenting yeast sink down to the depths of the brew
tank, where their hunger is a little bit subdued. They eat up less
sugars in the wort (that's unfermented beer), which in turn produces
less alcohol and less flavorful byproduct such as fruity esters. This
is the reason lagers take slightly longer to produce than ales (it's
why they're called lagers, which means "to store" in German).
It's also why lagers typically have much less flavor than ales. Flavors
like malty, nutty, roasty, and fruity are generally not associated with
lagers. Depending on who you talk to, you'll instead hear words like
clean, crisp, light, refreshing, skunky, piss-like... well, you get the
If a bock (as in Shiner Bock) is a dark form of lager made with more
sugary malts, then a schwarzbier, or black lager, is a form of lager
made with really dark, rich malts. But unlike other dark ales such as
porters and stouts (think Guinness), black lagers are not necessarily
super potent in flavor.
I like to think of it as more of a nice balance. Shiner Bohemian Black,
for example, is a very mild dark beer in comparison to thick stouts.
It's body is not heavy or thick; rather, it's light in texture with very
little carbonation or head. The flavors are mild but still present: There are hints of coffee, chocolate, raisins, dark fruit, and
vanilla. And at less than 5 percent alcohol, it won't put you under the
table after the first pint either. You can drink a ton of these and
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still stay strong (unlike that other black stuff). It's a dark beer to
drink when you don't want a heavy dark beer -- just a lager with a bit
more flavor. Dig?
Find Shiner Bohemian Black Lager at Total Wine and Spirits.