Suggested Glassware: Flute, Pilsner Glass, Mug or Stein
If you think dark beers are all big and heavy, Köstritzer will challenge those notions. Not only is its level of alcohol relatively low at 4.8%, it is not a thick, chewy beer; in fact, a beer’s color actually has nothing to do with its body. Nor does this brew present a particularly bitter, overly-charred character. On the pour it certainly is dark, with some garnet flashes when held to the light, and a rich, creamy looking light brown head. But sample the aroma and notice how delicate the character. There are some chocolaty notes along with bread dough, and a lightly sweet creamy impression. There’s a hint of an almost lactic note which makes the chocolaty character seem more along the lines of milk chocolate than bitter dark chocolate, and additional impressions of leather, tobacco, and cola peak in and out of the malty background. While the hops are mild, they do offer a lightly spicy quality that brightens the aroma. On the palate, Köstritzer is light-to-medium in body, with a pleasantly clean and crisp character. Notes of brown bread are prominent, with an excellent roasted malt flavor than never comes across as acrid or gets out of hand, and a Tootsie Roll impression that appears on the mid palate as the beer warms. Finishes balanced with a toasted grain character and a nice light spicy hop note. Prost!
“Schwarzbier” is German for “black beer,” and is the specialty and chief product of the Köstritzer Brewery, which has been in operation since at least 1543, and possibly several decades or even centuries before (making Würzburger just a young whippersnapper by comparison). At one time, the brewery was owned by royalty; the counts of the House of Reuss, who ruled over Köstritz, took ownership of the brewery in the late 17th century when it was known as the Knights’ Manor Brewery. The name was updated to the Princely Brewery in 1806 when the counts were promoted to, you guessed it, princes. A century later in 1906, the Köstritz Brewery (whose name now reflected the name of the town, as is common among German breweries) saw construction begin on a new brewhouse building. The current brewery still sits on the same site.
When one of Germany’s oldest breweries can survive almost five centuries on the back of one signature product, it’s a sign that the recipe is good. In fact, Köstritzer Schwarzbier is the benchmark, quintessential version of the style and its popularity has done much to promote the style throughout Germany and throughout the world. It’s been said that the famous German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a fan of the beer and in fact drank Köstritzer to survive a period of illness that prevented him from eating (his image appears on the label – covered in a sheet with a glass of Köstritzer at the ready!).
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