Back in Black

Black lagers are bold without being heavy.


Faction Brewing's Black Hoodie is a prime schwartzbier.

Photo by Lori Eanes

Porters and stouts have long been a favorite with beer enthusiasts for being large on flavor yet easy to drink. They are heavy, however, and sometimes you just don’t feel like drinking something so thick. Enter the black lager.

Black lagers, or schwarzbier, date to the Middle Ages and have a rich, coffee color similar to a stout, which comes from using dark or roasted malt during brewing. Many black lagers contain notes of coffee and chocolate, with a mild hoppy bitterness at the finish. The defining characteristic of black lagers, though, and the reason for their growing popularity, is that their flavors are big and bold like a porter or a stout, without the heaviness. This has made them uniquely appealing to light and dark aficionados alike. Black lagers are delightful on their own and pair well with anything roasted or barbecued. These places can hook you up with some great black lagers.


Oakland United Black Lager from Oakland United Beerworks at Juhu Beach Club

Oakland United Beerworks is the new face of Linden Street Brewery. Linden Street formed in 2009 and reinvigorated the beer trade in Oakland, a city that, in 1890, boasted more than 40 breweries. Despite the name change, Oakland United Beerworks' core offerings will remain the same, including Oakland United Black Lager, one of the brewery’s most popular beers. A classic schwarzbier, this lager is light with notes of roasted coffee and German noble hops. It is smooth, slightly sweet, and a little nutty, and complements meats and roasted vegetable dishes. Available at Juhu Beach Club, 5179 Telegraph Ave., Oakland,,


Faction Black Hoodie at Faction Brewing, Alameda

Housed in an old airplane hangar, Faction’s tasting room offers one of the loveliest views  of the San Francisco skyline in the East Bay. And the beer’s not bad, either. Faction’s beer menu is expansive, with a little something for everyone, including Black Hoodie Lager. Hoppy and light, this beer has undertones of burnt sugar and pairs well with everything from the rotating cast of food trucks that regularly park at the Faction tasting room. Available at Faction Brewing tasting room, 2501 Monarch St., Alameda,


Blak from Ol’ Republic at Hog’s Apothecary

Ol’ Republic is probably best known for Dead Canary Lager, a first-place best-in-show winner at the 2016 California State Fair. But this versatile brewery, set in the heart of Gold Country in Nevada City, has a number of other award-winning lagers, including Blak, a Bavarian-style schwarzbier. Mahogany-colored with notes of coffee, chocolate, and toasted bread, Blak is a beer that Ol’ Republic guarantees finishes clean and will change your perspective on black lagers. Available at Hog’s Apothecary, 375 40th St., Oakland,,


Baba Black Lager from Uinta Brewing Company at Mua

Pitch-black in color, this exceptionally smooth and smoky lager comes from Uinta, a Salt Lake City, Utah, mainstay for 24 years. Baba Black is a robust beer with hints of molasses, roasted malt, dark cola, and caramel. This beer complements rich meat dishes and braised vegetables. Available at Mua, 2442a Webster St., Oakland,,


Published online on March 31, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.