Part of why we enjoy the changing of the seasons is that we can finally drink darker beers. And while we’re very close to going all-in on stouts, porters, and scotch ales, we can still get behind lagers during these late-fall days. Especially dark and black lagers.
In the simplest terms, dark lagers (also known as dunkels) are darker than regular lagers and get their color and flavor from dark malts. Black lagers (also known as Schwarzbiers) are black in color and primarily have strong chocolate, coffee (and sometimes smoky) flavors. Similar to stouts, they draw those flavor notes from roasted malts.
To help us get the most out of our late-fall beer-swigging, we went to the experts for help. We asked a handful of our favorite bartenders to tell us their favorite dark and black lagers for fall drinking. Check out all of their answers below!
Blue Stallion Dunkel
Dante Wheat, bartender and founder of Raw Pineapples in Louisville
Blue Stallion Dunkel. I am not the biggest fan of dark lagers. However, I had too many of these at a fall beer festival in 2017. I can’t remember the flavors, but I do remember refusing to drink anything else.
Take from that what you will.
Randall Restiano, beverage director of Eataly NYC Flatiron in New York City
Baladin Leon. We work with a lot of Italian beer and Baladin is always around, downstairs in our restaurants, and even on the rooftop bar. This particular beer uses whiskey yeasts in the fermentation and is only made during the winter solstice. The result is what they call a Belgian Dark Ale and the flavors of toasted nuts and a variety of fruits, along with its warming full-bodied 9% ABV, makes it perfect for the winter months.
Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
I’d have to go with Yuengling for this one.
Even though it’s not technically a “dark lager,” it’s much darker than most lagers. America’s oldest registered brewery is not only inexpensive and readily available anywhere East of the Mississippi River, but it may also have the largest cult following in the beer world. Expanding distribution nationally soon, it has a light lager body, toasty and roasty barley tones, and a dry finish that might rival some Champagnes.
Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
Perrin Black. Rich, dark flavor but a crisp, lighter than expected body. This beer is awesome with its rich, hints of bitter chocolate and roasted malts.
New Belgium 1554
Nick Cole, bartender at Kimpton Sawyer Hotel in Sacramento
I’ve only had a few black lagers in my time, but the best one would have to be 1554 by New Belgium. It’s simply the easiest to drink and easiest on the palate. Think of a porter but way lighter, from the light lager yeast they put in it.
The coffee notes are amazing.
Small Beer Dark Lager
Roberto Berdecia, bartender at La Factoria in San Juan, Puerto Rico
There is a new company called Small Beer that makes beers with low ABV and their dark lager is very good. It’s vegan and low in carbs, but heavy on flavors like roasted coffee and chocolate.
Guinness Black Lager
Nestor Marchand, director of food and beverage at Plunge Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Guinness Black Lager is a newer brew from the historic Guinness Brewery in Ireland. This one is flavorful and lighter than the stout that they are famous for.
Eli Gay, taproom manager at NOLA Brewing in New Orleans
Breweries are in a constant struggle to stay relevant. Try staying relevant for 477 years.
Köstritzer was founded in 1543 and still makes one of the best examples of this clean, flavorful session beer. If you have not already, you owe it to yourself to try one of these.
Jack’s Abby Smoke and Dagger
This one might raise a few eyebrows. While it’s partly a dark (or black) lager, it’s also partly a smoked porter. It’s a lot darker than most of the lagers on this list and it’s full of chocolate, smoke, and vanilla. It’s pretty much a s’more in a glass.
Uinta Baba Black Lager
With a name like Baba Black Lager, you kind of know what you’re in for. It’s complex, rich, full of roasted malts, and hints of chocolate and ends with a subtle flourish of smoke.