Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review: Clancy's Black Beer (Ska Brewing)

The latest release from Ska Brewing Co. will not likely inspire jealous envy in beer geeks across the nation. Clancy's Black Beer was not brewed with a truckload of hops. It was not aged in oak barrels. It does not boast a double-digit percentage of alcohol.

No, Clancy's Black Beer is simply a very well-executed Schwarzbier.

This release is the result of the 2nd annual Snowdown Homebrewing Competition, won back in February by an Aztec, N.M., oil worker named Clancy Calhoun. His winning entry was a Schwarzbier, a German-style dark lager.

For his victory, Ska brewed his recipe for release as the 16th beer in the brewery's hallowed Local Series. The beer will also be entered in the Great American Beer Festival's Pro-Am Competition.

So what is a Schwarzbier like? I'll defer to the Brewers Association's style guidelines, written by homebrewing god Charlie Papazian:

"These very dark brown to black beers have a mild roasted malt character without the associated bitterness. This is not a full-bodied beer, but rather a moderate body gently enhances malt flavor and aroma with low to moderate levels of sweetness. Hop bitterness is low to medium in character. Noble-type hop flavor and aroma should be low but perceptible. There should be no fruity esters. Diacetyl should not be perceived."

And this closely describes Clancy's Black Beer (5.4 percent ABV, 19 IBUs). Ska Head Brewer Thomas Larsen says it was brewed with 100 percent Tettnang hops, a noble variety. The malt bill is heavy on two-row and dark Munich malts, enhanced with Caramel 120, chocolate and DehuskCarafa III malts, finished with a pinch of Carapils malt.

It pours black, with a substantial light tan head of foam that lingers long. Malt dominates the smell and taste, with a bit of chocolate and perhaps some nuttiness. It is medium-bodied, with little discernible hop taste. The effect is rich, heavy, dark and a little sweet.

This is a welcome entry in Ska's Local Series, available for less than $5 per 22-ounce bottle at Durango-area stores. While it's not the rarest style, it's uncommon enough that you can't simply pick up a sixer of Schwarzbier at the ol' beer store. It expanded my beer horizons.

Clancy, and Ska, have done well. A-

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