Thanksgiving is a time for family, feasting and gratitude, and for many the holiday also heralds the start of the holiday shopping season. Black Friday, as the day after Thanksgiving has come to be known, is one of the busiest shopping days of the year with early store openings and heavy promotional sales.
Last year, we explored beers to pair with Thanksgiving dinner; this year, with Black Friday in mind, I thought it would be fun to explore “black”-themed beers.
Schwarzbiers are among the original black beers, tracing their lineage back to 16th-century Germany, according to beer writer Jeff Alworth. (“Schwarz” means “black” in German.) This lager originated as a dark ale brewed by monks. By the late 19th century, it was brewed as a lager, characteristically a lighter, drinkable style with subtle roasted malt flavors and a dry finish. Despite the nearly black appearance, a modern schwarzbier should never taste burnt or harsh.
Of course there are other midnight-hued styles that vary widely in character from their German counterpart. In particular the porter and stout family of styles, as well as black IPA (also known as American black ale), range in color from very dark brown to jet black.
While stouts and porters hail from 18th-century England, black IPAs are a more recent arrival. First brewed commercially in Vermont in the early 1990s, these beers became popular in Southern California and the Pacific Northwest in the early 2000s. Sometimes called Cascadian dark ales, they pack all of the punch of an IPA into the appearance and light roastiness of a porter.
With these styles in mind, here are eight “black” beers to seek out and enjoy this Friday — black in color, name, or both.
Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter — Bend’s original black ale — is still going strong after nearly 30 years. Not only is it Deschutes’ flagship beer, it’s also the brewery’s oldest recipe: Black Butte Porter was on tap when the brewery opened its doors in 1988. Dark chocolate blends with coffee with a light char of black malt in flavor, and it finishes smooth and mellow.
Bend Brewing Company. Black Diamond Dark Lager — The color of Black Diamond isn’t really black, but more of a deep ruby brown in the tradition of German dunkel lagers. The beer is named for the Black Diamond difficulty rating in skiing (another favorite Bend pastime), referring to steep slopes that may be ungroomed.
10 Barrel Brewing Sinistor Black Ale —The black, dense appearance with Sinistor is a bit deceiving, as this beer drinks light bodied and sessionable. Essentially an ale version of a schwarzbier, the dark malts impart hints of roasted coffee beans and chocolate without the overly bitter, burnt roasted notes of stouts and porters.
Boneyard Beer Black 13 — Boneyard’s played on the number 13 in this dark ale, which includes 13 total ingredients and has 13 IBUs. The brewery leaves the overall style open to interpretation, and to my tastes the deep and rich notes of roasted malts bring to mind dry stout.
Sunriver Brewing Motorhead Black Barleywine — Sunriver has taken the American barleywine style, a strong, intense, hoppy malt-driven ale with rich layers of complexity, and tweaked it with dark malts to give it a black color. Hints of roast and rye bread spiciness complement the barleywine intensity.
RiverBend Brewing Black River Oatmeal Stout — The oatmeal gives this ale a creamy texture, supporting flavors of roasted malts and nutty chocolate. Black River drinks a bit like a dry stout with a splash of dark roast coffee, and if you get the nitro version you’ll be treated to a velvety-rich treat.
Kobold Brewing Kobalos Imperial Black IPA — Big and hoppy and full of herbal and citrus character, Kobold’s imperial version of a black IPA offers up a lightly roasty and complex malt body behind the hops. The resinous pine and grapefruit pith notes marry well with the dark strength of this beer.
Atlas Cider Blackberry — Of course the “black” in “blackberry” is really a purple, but that has not slowed Atlas down. Their best-selling cider combines a blend of blackberries and elderberries to craft a sweet and slightly tart treat with a lip-smacking jammy quality.
Personally, I prefer to avoid the mad Black Friday shopping rush entirely, and instead settle in with a suitably black beer to enjoy.
— Jon Abernathy is a Bend beer blogger and brew aficionado. His column appears every other week in GO!