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Back in the very early ’90s I was toiling in the inky fields for a daily newspaper in Oshkosh, b’gosh. The craft beer industry was just starting to arrive in northeastern Wisconsin.
I used to frequent a well-known blues club on Oshkosh’s main drag, where on a particular night the bartender told me as soon as the keg of Huber was emptied, the bar was going to install a new beer from a Milwaukee brewery. The name of the brewery was Sprecher and the beer was Black Bavarian.
Being a homebrewer, I was already well aware of Sprecher and especially of its delicious Black Bavarian Lager. So I proceeded to do my part to empty that keg of Huber lager. I recall adding salt to my glass each time I ordered one, just to help get it down (now, had it been the delicious Huber Bock, no problem).
It took most of a week, but we finally got that keg emptied and the Black Bavarian went on tap. Today with so many craft options available, it is hard to understand what a revolutionary thing it was a mere two decades ago to have a craft beer on tap. There was another joint in town that had its own beer – Lizard Lager at the Lizard Lounge – but it was contract brewed by Stevens Point Brewery, and Point just was not considered a craft beermaker at the time.
All these years later, Sprecher’s Black Bavarian remains one of my favorite beers. It has never let me down.
Black Bavarian is modeled after Kostritzer, the Schwarzbier (black beer) of the Kulmbach Brewing Co., which has more chocolate and coffee notes than other Bavarian Schwarzbiers.
Black Bavarian has lagery softness but with deeper dark notes imparted by roasted malts. Unlike its German counterparts, which weigh in around 4.5 to 5 percent alcohol, Sprecher Black Bavarian is a respectable 6 percent.
On the Sprecher website, founder Randy Sprecher notes about Black Bavarian: “I have been brewing this lager since my return from Bavaria in 1969…” And it has been brewed continuously since the brewery opened in 1985.
In April, Black Bavarian took the gold medal among 47 entries in the German-style Schwarzbier category at the 2014 World Beer Cup (a German beer called BraufactuM Darkon from Frankfurt took the silver medal and Black Thunder from Austin Beerworks took the bronze). That is a huge and well-deserved win.
Don’t be afraid of the dark!