San Diego’s Coronado Brewing Company makes some tasty West Coast-style IPAs, but their Black Perle was something a little different – a schwarzbier from the other coast. It’s evident from many online reviews of this beer that even many beer geeks don’t come across schwarzbiers terribly often, so perhaps a brief introduction to the style is in order. Yes, it’s a dark beer, but (as with many darker beers), it’s not heavy by any means – it’s a lager, and it should have a clean lager finish, without the heavier mouthfeel of something like a Baltic Porter (which, despite the name, is also a lager, and is much heavier/more alcoholic than a schwarzbier) . In relatively normal English, a schwarzbier should have dark, toasty malts, but it features a light body and is usually under 5% ABV. It’s a versatile style – eminently sessionable, but also quite satisfying. Germany’s Köstritzer tends to be the most easily-found example (and that typically involves locating your friendly neighborhood German beer hall), so it’s nice to see American craft brewers taking it on.
While it’s something of a wild overgeneralization, the truism that the East Coast makes the best lagers and the West Coast returns the favor with IPAs does have some validity; Coronado does, indeed, make some fabulous IPAs (notably Idiot) – but I’m happy to report they can doing things German-style equally well. The beer is, as the name of the style suggests, black as a Spinal Tap album cover (note that TJ’s pleasing exposed brick wall isn’t visible through the beer in the photo); there’s a thin tan head and a pleasant bready/toasty aroma. The toastiness (and even a bit of smoke) carries on in the flavor, along with a good amount of hoppy bitterness. One presumes that the beer’s oddly-spelled name comes from the hop variety employed – Perle hops are a German-bred variety that is now widely grown in the Pacific Northwest – and they are used to good effect here.
On the whole, Black Perle is a very solid beer, quite worth sampling.