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Is Schwarzbier the oldest known beer?

Schwarzbier on a dark wooden table

The oldest evidence of brewing in Central Europe was in Kulmbach, Northern Bavaria - and the beer was black. In 1935, an Iron Age Celtic tomb from about 800 B.C. was discovered. It contained an amphora with some residual brewing material and the burnt crumbs of partially baked wheat bread. This lead some historians and archaeologists to the assumption that the world’s oldest and still-produced style of beer was Schwarzbier.

Other roots of Schwarzbier [German for black beer] point to the Middle Ages in Thuringia and Saxony. It traces as early as year 1390 in Braunschweig, where the oldest known black beer called Braunschweiger Mumme, ("Brunswick Mum") was made. The earliest documented mention in Thuringia is of Köstritzer brewery from 1543, which later started producing Schwarzbier and does so to this day.

The Style of Schwarzbier

Today a typical Schwarzbier has an almost black colour, is very clear and contains around 4.1 - 5% alcohol. Its colour comes from very dark roasted malt and this makes them similar to Porter ale, but the cool fermentation method places them among lagers. The taste reveals hints of chocolate, caramel or coffee flavours, but the use of hops maintains its refreshing bitterness. Smooth and full-bodied and with a fascinating history, it is certainly a unique experience for every beer explorer.

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