As brooding as Kylo Ren on a bad day with a depth of melodic flavours as rich and layered as Pink Floyd through the best headphones money can buy, Akasha presents our discerning drinkers with Dark Side Schwarzbier. Born from our collective desire to explore the world of great beer styles from every angle, it’s an obsidian ode to a classic German lager with a signature Akasha twist – and it’s utterly seductive.
“The reason we decided to make Dark Side was two-parted,” says Head Brewer Gareth Bowen. “Dave said, ‘Let’s make a Schwarzbier, and as it turned out there’d been existing conversations between the brewers about doing more dark beers.”
A style that dates back to the Middle Ages of Saxony and Thuringia, the earliest recorded
example of such a dark lager is the Braunschweiger Mumme, or “Brunswick Mum” from 1390. Suffice to say it’s a beer with a bit of history behind it, a fact that was not lost on the brewing team when it came to Akasha’s interpretation of an icon.
“Everything we do is normally hops-forward, whereas Schwarzbier traditionally is very malt- driven,” says Gareth. “We ran a pilot test between more heavily hopped and less, and to our taste the hops driven version was simply better – they rounded out and balanced the malts, which still shine but which are not overpowering.”
Founder Dave offers his perspective. “A few years ago we would have gone straight for the hoppier version without a second thought,” he says. “As a group we said, ‘We all love hoppy beers’, but some of us wanted to work in the more traditional style as well, so we really wanted to try a version without the hops – we did both to see which we liked better.”
“We ran a pilot test between more heavily hopped and less, and to our taste the hops-driven version was simply better – they rounded out and balanced the malts, which still shine but which are not overpowering.”
As Dave explains, “a lot of the beers we brew now together, and it creates a situation where
everyone comes together to contribute to the best beer possible – It’s a cultural way of
doing things that’s yielding fantastic results.”
Gareth comments on how the finished product presents an historic style through the prism of Akasha’s eye for beautiful, balanced beer. “In trialling it this way we created a little more restraint. We saw that without the extra hopping it felt like it was missing something. It’s not an IPA-level lager but the hops are there and play a role. Dry hopping it, dry hopping it again, allowed us to see how much hops might be too much.”
SET YOUR CONTROLS FOR THE HEART OF THE CRAFT
This collective approach to Dark Side is indicative of the shared passion Akasha brings to each and every beer in its portfolio, and especially Akasha Project releases. “It’s leading into what we’re trying to do at the moment,” says Dave. “One of the decisions we made was to really lean into the pilot process on a small scale available at the taproom, go through a proper pilot process to make sure the beer is the best beer it can be.”
Dave continues. “It’s important to highlight that the process not only ensures the best beer we can make, it also embeds the process and introduces something new, cool and fresh that we’ve piloted, that people can enjoy and giving feedback. We want everyone to be part of this community of making the beer.”
“It’s meant to be interesting but not so unapproachable that newcomers won’t want it,” says Gareth. “It’s kind of like how Guinness can be so polarising. If people come to the Taproom they’re more likely to try the Schwarzbier than, say, a pastry stout. German-style beer is usually pretty prescriptive bout what goes in there, but this is a bit of a deviation – a safe adventure, you could say.”
A DIVINE DANCE OF MALT AND HOPS
As to the beer itself, Dark Side is brewed on a base of Pilsner malt from the Riverina with Munich malt and others accompanying for an almost sweet, bready element with preserved fruit characters evident. Roasted wheat adds to the colour, and also the dark chocolate and coffee undertones. “We use it fairly lightly to avoid astringency,” explains Gareth. Motueka and Superdelic hops from New Zealand are then added to bring a light citrussy, limey character to the beer. “The first sip or sniff is Superdelic red lolly and berry aspects, which couple with the malts creates a kind of chocolate berry dessert quality to it,” says Gareth. “Because it has that roast and bitterness, it finishes quite clean, but doesn’t linger – it’s quite moreish with a relatively crisp, dry mouthfeel that still conveys those heavier undertones.”
Dark. Delicious. Delightful. That’s Dark Side – surrender to its seductions and get yourself some while you can.