We’ve been enjoying Black Steam for months now, and I realized that I oughta’ write up a review before it’s all gone.
For a kinda’ haphazard recipe, this beer came together really nicely. It is at once super crisp AND pretty rich… walking the line between a dry porter and a dark lager thanks to the hybrid steam beer yeast. It has been a great beer to pair with BBQ.
Appearance: Black that fades to chestnut around the edges with a 2-finger light tan, latte foam head. The head is nice and creamy right to the end of the glass.
Smell: Rich, mild, lightly toasty malt out front with lots of eucalyptus woodiness in that background that I’m going to say has as much to do with the CA Lager yeast as it does with the Mt. Hood hops (the yeast profile is very similar to Anchor Steam). The background has a faintly sweet and piney smell with maybe a touch of sulfur from the otherwise very clean yeast.
Taste: Richer than the nose suggests, with a silky-smooth roast and a very light toasted bread character. The eucalyptus effervescence is there just as the aroma suggested and lends to a nice crisp finish. Some faint roast and malty-sweetness from the carafa and vienna malts help to balance the woody yeast and hops for an overall impression that is very crisp and clean for such a dark beer. The woody hops combine with the yeast and black malt for an almost smokey impression (as opposed to coffee, prune, or chocolate-like dark malt flavors). It is surprisingly refreshing for how dark and creamy it is thanks to the clean base malt and piney hops that make for a light, lager-like balance.
Mouthfeel: Carbonation is pretty low, which gives it a heavier feel than you would expect from the otherwise medium-dry and light body.
Overall: Super drinkable. I will most likely brew this one again as I reckon it is quite a crowd-pleaser thanks to its mellow flavors and easy balance.
Next time I’ll only make a few tweaks to the recipe to really dial it in as a crisp, dark lager. I think I’ll shoot for a bit more assertiveness in the malt by using pilsner instead of American 2-row, and removing the wheat and subbing either some rye or just more pilsner and mashing higher to boost the loss of body. I think all Mt. Hood hops will be the way to go, and the CA lager yeast is awesome with the carafa malts. Again, this is a great BBQ beer.