Kostritzer Schwartzbier

June 2, 2010

Memorial Day was Monday and I, like so many others, reflected on the ways those in the armed services have affected our lives. I currently have only two family members in the military: my little sister’s and my oldest niece’s husbands, both Marines. My closest blood relative to have served was my late grandfather, Herb Dohms.

I think of Granddad often. The Old Sea Dog, as my grandmother affectionately referred to him, came from what Tom Brokaw calls “our greatest generation”; the men and women who defended our country in World War II. Granddad joined the Merchant Marines and saw action patrolling the vast stretch of the Atlantic from Ireland to Brazil. They were always a U-boat away from never coming home.

I always say that he accomplished more in his life by the time he was my age than I’ll accomplish in my lifetime. He was honorable, hard-working, funny and direct. Full of stories both humorous and educational, Herb taught me how to play poker; told me about the war; how he chased his future wife down to Rio de Janeiro to convince her to marry him and how to treat others with honor and respect. For these and many other reasons too numerous to mention here, I always regard him as the most important person in my life.

A good German beer is in order to honor his family’s heritage. I chose Kostritzer’s schwartzbier, or black lager, for this occasion. It pours up darkest mahogany with a tall head of foam dissolving into a pale cap of micro bubbles. Brilliant lacing clinging to the insides of the glass.

Full of malt, caramelized sugar, anise… even hints of pumpernickel bread, this beer smells like a German bakery. A slight smokiness lingers around the scents, as well. The flavor is nothing short of wonderful. Toasted cashews, light touches of coffee, a faint whisper of liquorice and caramel-flavored malted grains dance around the palate. It’s probably just me but I even pick up a taste of bananas Foster here. Kostritzer’s texture is liquid silk and feather-light. Incredibly clean finish.

Happy Memorial Day, “Ralph.” “George” misses you and wishes you were here to share one of these excellent beers.