Twisted Schwarzbier

I have brewed schwarzbier once before, and it came out pretty good. I wanted to revisit the style as a warmer-weather dark beer, and so picked out a second recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. This version differed from the last in that it emphasizes pilsner malt more than Munich.

I am contractually obligated to use Space Balls references in any schwarzbier name, with zero apologies from doing so. Thank you.

Twisted Schwarzbier

  • 9 lb. Viking Pilsner Zero malt
  • 1 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 11 oz. Carafa Special II malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 oz. Vanguard hop pellets (6.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • Repitch of Harvest lager yeast (Imperial L17)

Target Parameters

  • 1.049 o.g., 1.013 f.g., 4.7% abv, 30 IBU, 24 SRM
  • 60 minute infusion mash at 152°, full volume
  • Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet


  • I mashed in with 7.5 gallons of water at 158°, to hit my mash target of 152°. After adding 5 mL of 88% lactic acid, I held the mash at 152°, with recirculation, for 60 minutes. I then raised the mash to 168°.
  • After the mash, I removed the grain basket and collected 6.75 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.041, for 69% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled it down to 70°, before transferring to the fermenter and chilling down to 52° in the fermentation chamber.
  • After the wort hit fermentation temperature, I oxygenated with 30 seconds of pure O2, and then pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 6 February 2021. It had a starting gravity of 1.048.
  • I started fermentation at 52°, held it here for three days, raised to 54° for three days, and then finished at 56° for three days, before cold crashing.
  • I kegged the beer on 27 February 2021. Final gravity was 1.014, for 4.5% abv.


  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, deep brown beer, pouring with a persistent tan head.
  • Aroma
    • Roasty and coffee aroma, at a moderately high level.
  • Flavor
    • Roasty malt and coffee flavor, with a bready malt character in the background. Moderately high level of bitterness. Clean yeast character. Extended bitterness on the finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Perhaps? It’s a good, clean beer, but if feels like I could dial back the roast/coffee character a touch and move the base malts (especially the Munich) more to the forefront. I think if I were to rebrew this, I would add a bit more Munich, or maybe add in some Vienna, and reduce the percentage of pilsner malt. That said, this beer is very drinkable, so I wouldn’t make it too heavy for the base malts. Based on the BJCP written descriptions, it seems to be a great example of the schwarzbier style, but just isn’t to my taste.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

Beer Tasting: Dark Helmet Schwarzbier

My schwarzbier has been kegged for over a month, and seems to be at its peak. Tasting time!

20170903_151314Dark Helmet Schwarzbier

  • The Basics
    • 1.046 o.g., 1.014 f.g., 4.2% abv, 26 estimated IBU, 28 SRM
  • Appearance
    • Clear brown beer with a slight ruby tinge. The head is a light tan color and persistant.
  • Aroma
    • Light chocolate aroma with a slight roastiness; very nice!
  • Flavor
    • Clean and smooth, with a nice bready maltiness backed up with a bit of roasty chocolate and slight coffee notes. There is a modest bitterness, which melds quite well with the malt.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Smooth, light, and crisp; moderate carbonation and a gentle bitterness to the moderately dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Indeed! This beer has matured into a delicious and very drinkable lager. I feel like I nailed the style pretty well. Although we are squarely in the heat of summer, this is one dark beer that I don’t mind having around. It’s surprisingly refreshing! Overall, there is very little I would change about this beer. It’s nice to have another reliable session beer in my portfolio, too.
  • Overall
    • 10/10

Dark Helmet Schwarzbier

As I continue to work my way through lager styles, I also realized that a lot of my recent brews have been fairly light (at least color-wise). This generally fits my summer drinking preferences, but I’m starting to get the itch for something with just a touch more robustness. Now, I don’t want anything too dark and filling (after all, it’s still hot here!), and I’ve been doing a lot of amber type beers recently, so schwarzbier sounded intriguing.

To sum up the BJCP 2015 style description, schwarzbier should be roasty yet also highly drinkable. That’s intriguing! I’ve maybe only sampled one or two in the very distant past (if ever), so I was a bit in the dark (no pun intended) as to how I should craft the recipe. So, I turned to the ever-reliable Brewing Classic Styles by Zainasheff and Palmer. With a few minor adjustments for ingredients, I was ready to roll. Following the lead of Gordon Strong, I elected to add all of the dark and crystal malts at vorlauf. This is supposed to impart a smoother character, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

As for the name of this brew, I’m not the first to be so clever, but that didn’t deter me. The schwartz is strong with this one.


Spent grains after the mash

Dark Helmet Schwarzbier

  • 4.5 lbs. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 4.25 lbs. Château Pilsen malt (Castle Malting)
  • 6 oz. chocolate malt, added at vorlauf (Briess, 350 SRM)
  • 6 oz. crystal 40 malt, added at vorlauf (Great Western)
  • 3.5 oz. black barley malt, added at vorlauf (Briess)
  • 3.5 oz. Carafa Special II, added at vorlauf (Weyermann)
  • 1.25 oz. Liberty hop pellets (4.9% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Liberty hop pellets (4.9% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. SafLager West European Lager yeast (S-23)
  • 1 pkg. SafLager Lager dry yeast (W34/70)

Target Parameters

  • 1.046 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.6% abv, 26 IBU, 28 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter
  • Water built from RO and tap water to hit target of 67 ppm Ca, 7 ppm Mg, 27 ppm Na, 30 ppm SO4, 89 ppm Cl, 126 ppm HCO3, 103 ppm alkalinity, and 51 ppm RA.
  • 60 minute mash at 152°, batch sparge, 60 minute boil


  • For my mash water, I used 3.25 gallons of RO with 1 g table salt and 3.5 g calcium chloride. For the sparge water, I treated 5 gallons of Claremont tap water with a quarter of a Campden tablet. All together, this should hit my general brewing water parameters as outlined above.
  • I mashed in with 3.25 gallons of water at 162.6°, to hit a mash temperature of 153.5°. This was down to 150° after 35 minutes.
  • I sparged with 1.5 gallons of water at 175°, let it sit for 10 minutes, added the dark grains, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • Then, I sparged with 3.5 gallons of water at 175°, let it sit for 10 minutes, and collected the second runnings.
  • All together, I collected 6.8 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.039, for 72% efficiency.
  • I started the boil, and added all of the hops, etc., per the schedule in the recipe.
  • After 60 minutes, I chilled the wort to 80° and put it in the fermentation chamber to chill for a few hours, until the beer was down to 48°.
  • I pitched the two packets of S-23 into a slurry of distilled water, which did show appropriate activity. But, I also noted that they were expired by 10 months.
  • There wasn’t any real activity visible in the fermenter after around 24 hours, so I opted to pitch in some extra yeast. Luckily, I happened to have a few packets of W34/70 on-hand. Fermentation was underway visible around 48 hours after the initial pitch. Perhaps I was being overly cautious, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.
  • I am fermenting this at 50°. Starting gravity was 1.046.
  • I brewed this batch on July 3, 2017.