Sam Adams, Black Lager


Boston Beer Company
Grade: B-

Appears black at first, but when you hold it up to the light, it becomes a deep blood red. A tan head tops the beer, falling to a thin layer fairly quickly. Dark brown sugar, molasses, bread and toast all come up from the aroma. It's very well hidden, but there's a slight element of sulfur that tells me this is indeed a lager. Roast and sweetness battle it out on the first sip. There's a definite coffee/dark chocolate flavor, indeed it finishes relatively dry with a bit of that roasty bitterness left on the tongue. The caramel and toffee are there as well, lending a sweet counterpoint only slightly less forward than the roast. There are a tiny bit of spicy hops in there as well, but it's barely noticeable.

This beer drinks a lot like a stout, and if you poured this for me I'd probably say that's what it is. There are certainly some lager elements here, the smoother body and overall clean profile are the most obvious. The sweeter flavors are also something I'd be used to finding in a lager, like a bock. But those roasty, coffee and chocolate flavors are not subtle here at all. They're playing a major role, and while some traditional shwartzbiers (as the style is known in Germany, where it started) certainly do have those elements, they don't have them in this magnitude.

But while this beer isn't exactly what it claims to be, it doesn't make it a bad beer. It's expertly brewed, very clean, and I can tell that the flavors in this beer are intended, a specific recipe decision. While I may not agree with those decisions, I think that the brewers achieved the flavors they wanted. It drinks like a stout...but a good stout. A nice, smooth, sultry stout. A stout that you'd pick up in a bar and bring home. A stout you'd play Barry White for. A stout you'd want to pop open only to realize, all too late, that it isn't a stout at all. It's a lager.

I don't know, some people are into that.