This category is legally mandated in states where any lager stronger than 5 percent alcohol by volume cannot call itself a lager beer. There are a number commercial brands that have been created to fill this category, many of which do not have great merit from the connoisseur’s perspective. Many malt liquors achieve their greater alcoholic strength through the use of adjunct grains—corn or rice—that add little flavor. Some strong European lagers are forced to adopt this labeling moniker for the U.S. market.
Originally brewed in Thuringia, a state in eastern Germany, these lager -style brews were known to be darker in color than their Munich counterparts. Often relatively full-bodied, rarely under 5 percent ABV, these beers classically feature a bitter chocolate, roasted malt note and a rounded character. Hop accents are generally low. This obscure style was picked up by Japanese brewers and is made in small quantities by all of Japan’s major brewers. Schwarz beers are not often attempted by U.S. craft brewers.
These are the recently popular brews in a figure-conscious society. Essentially, these are pale lager styled beers with fewer calories. Like all other “diet products,” the objective is to maintain flavor while minimizing calories. This achieved quite successfully by some brands, despite the implausibility of the proposition.
Dunkel is the original style of lager, serving as the forerunner to the pale lagers of today. They originated in and around Bavaria, and are widely brewed both there and around the world. This is often what the average consumer is referring to when they think of dark beer. At their best, these beers combine the dryish chocolate or licorice notes associated with the use of dark roasted malts and the roundness and crisp character of a lager. Examples brewed in and around Munich tend to be a little fuller-bodied and sometimes have a hint of bready sweetness to the palate, a characteristic of the typical Bavarian malts used.