Beer Collab Release: “The Schwarz” by Savage Brewing

Here is the route:

Beer Collab: Savage Brewing and BeerNav

We are back with you for our final installment of the “Road to Munich”. Over the last six months we took a road trip across Germany to highlight six of the most influential, historical beer cities and beer styles. The primary focus of the series was to celebrate the long lead up and kickoff of the Oktoberfest season by showcasing how a select few Washington breweries are influenced by these destinations, their respective brewing traditions, but also how the breweries add their own take on each historical style.  

Last week, we finally made it to Munich in time for Oktoberfest. We did a deep dive into Schwarzbier; a black German lager, and a style that often gets overlooked on the taps lists this time of the year when Festbier, Marzen, and Helles are commonplace.  Also announced was a new beer release from Savage Brewing in collaboration with BeerNav.  “The Schwarz”, a German-style Schwarzbier will become available at the Savage taproom next Saturday, October 1.  

Today, we will discuss “The Schwarz” release, and explore Schwarzbier through the lens of Savage Brewing. We will look into the backstory of their brewery, why they decided to brew a Schwarzbier, and how history, tradition and science played part in recipe development to produce something one of a kind. 

For those that have never been to Savage Brewing nor heard much about them, here is the quick backstory. Founded in October 2020, by husband and wife couple Will and Layken Savage, the doors opened, and the culmination of a shared dream came true. Will, owner and head brewmaster began his brewing career in his garage as a homebrewer.  Refining his craft over a few years time, Will parlayed hard work, determination, and creativity into a dream employment for any aspiring homebrewer.  Moving to Kirland, WA to open a full scale production brewery and taproom at the peak of the pandemic might seem to many to be a big gamble in strong favor of the house, but the Savage family stuck to their guns, business process, and vision.  A few years later, the taproom is jam packed on the weekends and the highest quality, and creative expression of craft beer is flowing from the taps and on the shelves. 

For Savage, brewing “The Schwarz” was all about celebrating the Oktoberfest tradition, and wanting to shine a spotlight on one of the most underrated lager styles.I think Schwarzbier can be misunderstood amongst craft beer drinkers in the US. Being complex, it looks like it should be a stout, but when you drink it, it is actually really light and easy”, says Will Savage. Not just in Washington State, but across most of the country, you will only see Festbier, Marzen, and Helles lagers on tap this time of the year for Oktoberfest season. Rightfully so, but it is quite unfortunate given the countless other German styles that are also available in Munich during Oktoberfest. 

Savage predominantly stays true to the classic German Schwarzbier style  for “The Schwarz”, but with the help of the BeerNav team, the two found areas where it made sense to put a twist on the recipe, and make something completely unique and their own. 

Whereas many traditional Schwarzbier recipes hold back on the malted barley and chocolate malt, we added a larger dose of that in that grain bill as supporting elements. The intent here was to play up the smokey, coffee and espresso notes that are derived, but still achieve a dark body that is crystal clear if you peer through the glass. For the base malt, nothing fancy here, just a traditional combo of Munich and Maris Otter malts. To round out the supporting cast, additions of Carahell and Carafoam add a complex caramel note and improved head retention respectively. With the final product, you have a beautifully clean, crisp body, with chocolate, coffee and roasty notes that are not overpowering by any means. Leaving you an amazing, easy drinking lighter black lager at just 5.0% ABV.

Though Savage and BeerNav took a few creative liberties with the grain bill to spruce things up a bit, the remainder of the recipe development follows the German playbook for what is the perfect Schwarzbier.  “We wanted to still pay attention to what makes a Schwarzbier and Schwarzbier”, says Savage. This was accomplished by sticking with traditional German nobel hop additions of Hallertauer Mittlefreuh at the beginning and end of the boil to give us the expected earthy, slightly spicy hop character of a German lager, and balance out the entire beer’s flavor profile and aroma.  For the yeast, Savage’s German house lager yeast did the trick for a clean fermentation with no sulphury characteristics that can commonly be found in other German lager yeast strains. Last but not least, and arguably the most important part in designing a beer, the water profile.  Here, BeerNav and Savage called upon a water profile from the Kulmbach region of Bavaria, Germany; the birthplace of Schwarzbier. We covered the history of Schwarzbier in detail within our previous installment (If you have not yet read that post, you may do so here).

The collaboration for “The Schwarz” with Savage brewing was an incredible experience. Both of us had a ton of fun back in August on brew day, hit every brewing metric we set out to, and hope the final product is thoroughly appreciated by many.

About “The Schwarz”

Style: German-style Schwarzbier / ABV: 5.0% / IBU: 24

Hops: Hallertauer Mittlefreuh

Grain: Munich, Marris Otter, Chocolate, Malted Barley, Carahell and Carafoam

Yeast: Savage’s house German lager strain (TOP SECRET)

BeerNav would like to thank Savage Brewing personally for their willingness to collab with us on the beer, and hope to do it again in the future. Check out the BeerNav Instagram for some pictures of the brew day. 

Well that’s a wrap for the “Road to Munich”, we hope you learned a thing or two, and enjoyed the celebration of WA and German beer with us along the way.

About the Road to Munich 

Hop into your Bimmer and merge onto the Autobahn (rather your Subie and I-5 since we live in WA), and let BeerNav lead you on an educational beer journey to Oktoberfest“The Road to Munch” is our new blog and social media series that will run monthly from May until the beginning of October. BeerNav will highlight six of the most influential, historical beer cities and beer styles across Germany, and how Washington Breweries are influenced by tradition but add their own unique twists to each beer style.