Harvest Schwarzbier | Fresh-hopped Dark Lager

Month before last, I set out to brew a dark beer suitable for our upcoming summer wedding. Something digestible, relatively dry, and on the refreshing side is what I had in mind. A dark lager seemed the way to go, though with 10 kg of Gladfield ale malt lying around waiting to be used, a German Pils was off the cards. Hence this batch was inspired by Jamil Zainashef’s American Schwarzbier ‘Doing It In the Dark‘.

So noble right now

The home-grown hops had done much better this year, with nearly unfathomable quantities busting from my four plants. Desperate to find a way to use some of my bounty, I wondered how a fresh hop addition at kegging would go. Dry hopping with fresh hops? Fresh keg hopping? Unsure how to describe the process, I decided it was still worth a shot.

Ready for the keg

Hort 9909 is a relatively new hop to the scene – a Hersbrucker Pure variant currently being trialled by NZ Hops. Hersbrucker Pure , I’ve learned, is a cross of Hallertau Mittelfrüh, Saaz, and a wild German hop.  Despite its excellent lineage, Hersbrucker Pure itself was relatively unsuccessful commercially worldwide. That being said, this variant is described as throwing off notes of citrus, spices, and sweet hay. This sounded perfect for the beer I had in mind.

My bittering hop addition for this recipe was ”The Bruce’ – a T90 pellet blend of Nelson Sauvin, early Motueka, late Pacifica, and mid Pacific Jade. Purported by Freestyle Hops to exhibit “aromas of fresh gooseberry, citrus peel, ripe tropical fruit, and orange blossom”, I snapped up a kilo some months back from a local brewer.  Inherently, I’m drawn to beers using entirely NZ ingredients. With a NZ bittering hop blend, a noble NZ addition, fresh homegrown hops, and entirely NZ malts, we were right on track with my brewing philosophy.

Harvest Schwarz

American Schwarzbier
Batch Size (L): 45
Total Grain (kg): 11.17
Anticipated OG: 1.050
Anticipated SRM: 30.8
Anticipated IBU: 30.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65%
Wort Boil Time:  60 minutes

83.3% 9.30 kg. Gladfield Ale Malt
6.30% 0.70 kg. Gladfield Wheat Malt
4.00% 0.45 kg. Gladfield Dark Chocolate Malt
4.00% 0.45 kg. Gladfield Dark Crystal Malt
2.40% 0.27 kg. Gladfield Light Chocolate Malt

28.00 g. ‘The Bruce’ (Pellet, 9.60% AA) @ first wort.
38.00 g. Hort 9909 (Pellet, 6.90% AA) @ 10 min.
39.00 g. Hort 9909 (Pellet, 6.90% AA) @ flameout.

To Ben’s batch:

1 x full hop tube (weight unknown) of fresh whole hops @ Keg Hop

Saflager W-34/70 – four packets

Water Profile
Profile: Ca 62 | Mg 13 | Na 6 | Cl 110 | Bicarb 51

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest – 60 min @ 69 °C (intended)

21/01/2020 – Brewed with Dany.

Initial mash temp settled at 74 °C! Suspect this was due to having grain and fermenter temperature set to 14 °C in Beersmith, though was actually 24 °C in garage. Ice cubes added, settled to 68 °C and slowly fell to around 64 °C over the 1 hour 10 minute mash.

Forgot to add salts and lactic acid to sparge water, hence added to boil kettle. OG 14.1 Brix (1.050) at end of boil – higher extract than projected.

Chilled to 30 °C then transferred to fermenter. Splashed during transfer to aerate. Pitched yeast following morning 0900hrs at 10 °C.

23.1.20 – CO2 seen at 48 hours.

29.1.20 – SG 1.021 (>50% of expected attenuation), hence ramped to 12.5 °C

30.1.20 – Ramped to 14.5 °C

31.1.20 – Ramped to 18 °C

4.2.20 – Gravity stable at 1.016 for >48 hrs. Crashed 5 °C every 12 hrs to 3 °C with CO2 balloon attached.

6.2.20 – Temperature down to 3 °C. 5mL Biofine Clear added to fermenter.

7.2.20 –  Kegged with hop spider full of fresh hop cones. Set to 14 PSI to carbonate.

Tasting Notes 7.3.20


Very much in-keeping with traditional German schwarzbiers, this beer is fairly dark in the glass, though has very good clarity and a dark caramel hue when held to the light. The head is off-white, and fairly persistent.


Prior to the keg hop addition, this beer had a nose reminding me of medium roast coffee and a touch of milk chocolate. Once the fresh hops were in and the beer carbonated, the maltiness dropped back, leaving more of a fresh noble aroma at the fore. 


Overall – a success! I was a touch concerned on initial tastings, as the fresh hops dominated the scene early on. A slight vegetal note thankfully didn’t linger, and after a couple of weeks the beer became a lovely refreshing blend of malty, biscuity notes and palate-cleansing citrus hop. Bitterness is moderate, with the beer leaning towards the sweeter end of the scale, consistent with its intent as an American schwarzbier.


There’s a touch more body here than one would find in the German variant, though I was pleased to find that the slight acidity from the fresh hops paired with a fairly bright carbonation struck a lovely balance between body and dryness. 

Drinkability and notes

This beer really balanced the extreme end of each scale for flavours – sweet vs bitter, malty vs hop-driven, and roast vs crystal. Having tasted Dany’s version where a whole cone dry hop addition was used in the keg instead, I can confidently defend keg-hopping with fresh hops as a great option for adding a fresh, crisp, rustic note to a dark beer.

The big question remains though – is it good enough for the wedding? Thankfully, Sophie seems to think so, but I think I’ll try my hand at a German rendition before I make the final call.




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