Craft Beer 101: The Dark Side of Lagers

We're in week 4 of our Craft Beer 101 series and this week we're covering Dark Lagers. We're just going to give a snapshot of some of the more iconic styles of the category. Again, this list is in no way comprehensive, just a good starting point

American Amber Lager

Amber Lagers are characterized by their balance between hops and malt. These beers tend to be a middle ground in every way. Roasty but not dark, refreshing but a little more body, hops presence but not "hoppy". Thought some are starting to lean that way. 

  • Malt: Low to medium-low caramel-type or toasted malt aromas are often present
  • Hops: Hop flavor and aroma are very low to medium-high. 
  • ABV: 4.8%-5.4%
  • Pair With: Grilled Meats/veggies, fruit desserts
American Amber Lager.jpg


The Marzen style is a toast, malty heavy style with a light hop bitterness. Made famous for also being called "Okcoberfest" style, it's one of the most famous styles of dark lager in the world. The word Marzen actually means "March" in German as this beer has been traditionally brewed in March due to a very old German beer law outlawing brewing from April to September. The beer would be store over the spring and summer and consumed in late summer/early fall. 

  • Malt: Heavy, toasty malt goodness
  • low to medium hop bitterness and aroma
  • ABV: 5.1%-6%
  • Pair With: Kielbasa, Jalapeno Jack, Pizza (Seriously)


German style Dunkels, AKA Munich Dunkels, are a more balanced beer than the Oktoberfest with some darker, chocolate like malt with a biscuit like aroma. They are less sweet than they are balanced between the malt characteristics with a light hop bitterness. 

  • Malt: Malt aroma is low to medium, with chocolate-like, roasted malt, bread-like or biscuit-like notes
  • Hops: little to no hop aroma and flavor but a light hop bitterness
  • ABV: 4.8%-5.3%
  • Pair With: Sausages, Munster Cheese, Candied Ginger


Bock's are tricky thing in Texas, most of us have all had a Shiner Bock or a Ziegenbock, but the issue is, that those aren't actually Bock's at all, it's technically a "Dark American Lager" as it doesn't meet the guidelines to be a bock. If you want a real bock however, there are plenty to choose from. Bock's have a toasty, malty sweetness with very little hops and a fairly high ABV. 

  • Malt: High malt character with aromas of toasted or nut-like malt
  • Hops: Hop flavor nd aroma are low but can have some hop bitterness.
  • ABV: 6.3%-7.5%
  • Pair With: Steak, Chocolate, Aged Swiss

Some good Dark Lagers styles that aren't listed are Schwarzbier, Vienna Style Lagers, Dopplebocks, and Dortmunder (if you can find them). Try out some of the ones listed or seek out some new ones. Next week, we'll be taking a break from Beer 101 to talk about Deacon Baldy's Summer Cocktail List.