Across the border in the Czech Republic, brewers often make a dark lager to accompany their golden-hued beers. Similar in strength to the German counterparts, they may in fact be made from dark versions of the renowned Moravian malts used to produce full-bodied pilsners. Hopped with the noble Saaz variety of Czech hops, these beers tend to be a bit more multi-dimensional in their aroma, with the Saaz taking a step farther forward than German dunkels.
On the exports, the label may be a little more cryptic but should say “dark” somewhere on the tag. Samson Diplomat, Lev Black Lion, Lobko Dark Lager, and Rebel Garnet are just a few that this writer has sampled. All fit the dunkel profile deftly. Herold Bohemian Black Lager is labeled as a schwarzbier, with roasty notes reminiscent of a porter.
Made in America
North America is not bereft of dark beers, with some areas producing them as a matter of local history. Pennsylvania is the origin of several tasty dunkels, among them the award-winning Pious Monk Dunkel from the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh. Penn Dark from the Pennsylvania Brewing Co., also in Pittsburgh, is a rich, chocolaty dunkel that also has an impressive résumé. At the Baltimore Brewing Co., the DeGroens list of German-style beers is impressive, with 10 different offerings. Their dunkel doesn’t disappoint. The Gordon Biersch brewpubs, whose chain is now several links strong, produces a wonderfully dry-finishing, malty, unfiltered dunkel, also available in bottles.
Along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the Weeping Radish in Manteo produces several great German brews. The Black Radish is a very Bavarian dark lager, not surprising, as owner Uli Bennewitz hails from Bavaria. The state of Wisconsin, with its rich German heritage, has a nice selection also. Milwaukee boasts two outstanding versions: the very dark Black Bavarian of the Sprecher Brewery, and Eastside Dark, smooth and creamy, from the Lakefront Brewery. In Madison, Capital Brewery offers Capital Dark, a malty and dry quaff. In the north woods, Leinenkugel’s fairly new Creamy Dark Lager is aptly named, and thoroughly enjoyable.