Watts Blackjacket Schwarzbier Can


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Some people think all wasps are yellow. And some people think all light beers are yellow. Neither is true.

Blackjacket is named after the blackjacket wasp (Vespula consobrina), a close relative of the yellowjacket (V. maculifrons) that happens to be all black, without the yellow stripes. It’s our take on a schwarzbier, a close relative of light German lagers, and just so happens to also be black instead of yellow. This beer is yet another reminder not to judge a bee by its cover.

These days, schwarzbiers are a black style of lager, light in body, with dehusked black malts to contribute the dark color without the harsher roasted flavors of a porter or stout. However, before Emil Christian Hansen isolated the first pure culture of lager yeast in 1883, the beer would have been fermented with whichever blend of ale (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and lager (S. pastorianus) yeasts resided at the brewery.

For our rendition, we take inspiration from this extended historical perspective, choosing our signature Kölsch yeast: a hybrid S. cerevisiae strain producing flavors halfway between what we expect from the cleaner lager and fruitier ale yeasts. We then build a light bodied base of authentic pilsner malt, with a hefty dose of the classic dehusked black malt, a dash of brown malt to layer in depth to the roast profile, and some Munich to round things out.

The Blackjacket that emerges from the fermenter is a fascinating bundle of contradictions. Dark in color, but bright in flavor; coffee in the aroma, with a champagne-like mouthfeel; vibrant flavor yet finely balanced; it’s a beer at once historically inspired and reinventing the style from which it sprang.