Lager than life

It looks like stout – jet-black and topped with a white foamy head.

But this is where the similarities between black lager and stout end.

Stout, a dark ale, is known for its full-bodied and pronounced roast notes with a bitter aftertaste.

On the other hand, black lager has a crisp and light-bodied taste with a mild finish.

Black lagers are not an entirely new product here – restaurants such as The Boiler in the Tai Seng area offer Coedo Shikkoku by Coedo Brewery in Japan. It is a German- style Schwarzbier, known for its smooth flavours with notes of cocoa, liquorice and coffee.

Asahi Super Dry Black Lager is said to combine the roasted malt flavours of a stout with the soft, elegant flavours of a lager. ST PHOTO: DON CHI

The latest brewery to join the fray is Japanese brewery Asahi, which introduced the Asahi Super Dry Black Lager here on tap in restaurants and bars in February last year.

According to Carlsberg Singapore, the exclusive distributor of Asahi here, distribution for the black lager has since quadrupled.

Its sales have also gained traction in the past year, with about 100 eateries and bars serving it.

They include Loof in Odeon Towers, No. 5 Emerald Hill Cocktail Bar in Emerald Hill Road and the District 10 Bar&Restaurant chain. The beer has also been made available in pint bottles in bars and restaurants from April last year.

Spurred on by the burgeoning demand, Asahi started selling the black lager in 350ml cans at 7-Eleven stores here in September.

The Asahi Super Dry Black Lager is the ebony-hued sibling of the popular Asahi Super Dry Lager, which has been available here for the past three decades.

The black lager is said to have the best of both worlds, combining the roasted malt flavours of a stout and the soft, elegant flavours of a lager.

The aromatic beer has a sweet, nut-like flavour with mild vanilla notes and does not leave a bitter aftertaste.

It also has the brewery’s trademark “karakuchi” taste. Karakuchi is a Japanese term that is used to describe the dry and light characteristics of sake.

To achieve it, Asahi developed a lager yeast, called No. 318 yeast, which converts sugar in the wort (a sweetened liquid made from water and barley) into alcohol and carbon dioxide effectively during the fermentation process.

With sugar content kept to a minimum, the beer develops a clear and crisp taste. Rice and corn are also added to the brew to smoothen the lager.

Stout gets a bitter aftertaste from a more robust roast of the malt and from the types of hops used.

Mr Jimmy Toh, 40, general manager of Carlsberg Singapore, says that black lagers have piqued the curiosity of consumers here.

He says: “Consumers today are adventurous with a more sophisticated palate and willing to try something new and different from regular lagers.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 13, 2016, with the headline 'Lager than life'. Print Edition | Subscribe