First Draught: a black lager from a wine country brewery
By David Ort
It can be tough to remember what Niagara’s wine scene was like before Inniskillin’s icewine won the big prize at Vinexpo in 1991. It was certainly a far cry from the 75-plus wineries that there are today. And now, as of this summer, two breweries have joined Niagara-on-the-Lake’s beverage business. Silversmith Brewing Company is slightly further along in development, with two products on the market: a wheat beer and a black lager.
At events, some of the brewery’s staff members have promoted the black lager as a lost, East German-style that didn’t survive the sink-or-swim test of reunification. That’s not strictly true (the LCBO has a German schwarzbier on the shelves), but pale lagers vastly outnumber their darker counterparts in Germany. The style in general, and Silversmith’s in particular, is to add dark malt to a traditional lager foundation.
From the malt, this beer looks like black Turkish coffee. It tastes like dark chocolate and bread that is a shade away from burnt. The stronger, more open carbonation means that this black lager can be served at a cooler temperature than its English porter cousins. That — and the fact that it goes so well with dark, rustic bread and hot, salty pork — makes the black lager an excellent gateway beer into cold weather.
In September, at the Savour Stratford Culinary Festival, the Silversmith Black Lager won the award for best alcoholic beverage. It’s not the Grand Prix d’Honneur, but between that well-deserved attention and a pair of interesting beers, Silversmith has a strong future ahead of it. It also can’t hurt to be surrounded by winemakers who, after a day of checking Brix or crushing grapes, like nothing better than a cold pint of beer.
As kegs run dry, supply can vary, but the best places to look for a pint of Silversmith Black Lager are Wvrst, Tequila Bookworm, The Only, Thirsty & Miserable, Grapefruit Moon and C’est What.