Sapporo has become synonymous with sushi or Japanese Hibachi grills or steakhouses. Rightfully so, as Sapporo Premium is a very clean and crisp Lager that pairs very well with most of the dishes offered at the aforementioned restaurants. What most may not know is they also have another beer under their Premium label, Premium Black, which is what I’ll be discussing in this article. So grab a tasty beverage from the fridge or cellar, if you have Premium Black you get bonus points but not required, sit back and relax as I take you through this lovely Dark beer.
Sapporo Brewery has been around for literal centuries. Founded in 1876 and led by Japan’s first German trained Brewmaster, Seibei Nakagawa. He left Japan at the age of 17 and his travels landed him in Germany where the training he received in the art of brewing, was brought back home in 1876 to begin the history of what we know Sapporo brewery.
Sapporo Premium Black is a 5% abv dark beer brewed in the style of a German Dunkel(pronounced Doonkle). The translation for Dunkel is “dark” in English. “Dark” beer. Now, some of you may be thinking “eww dark beer” or “dark beer is heavy and feels like I’m eating a meal” and you are not wrong if it’s a personal feeling, which is subjective. There are some dark beers in the world that do feel like eating a meal in a glass or that are not very good, “eww”, even. Sapporo Black may surprise most as it isn’t a meal in a glass and, in my opinion, isn’t “eww”. It’s pretty tasty when you understand what it is at its core. Just a dark beer or a German Dunkle.
Before we begin with the aromas and tastes and appearance of the beer, I’d like to cover what types of glassware I would recommend you drink this beer in. Yes. You read that right. Glassware. It’s more important than you may think. Luckily for you, this beer doesn’t require any pinky up level of glassware, but please do so at your leisure. Premium Black, being a simple style, loves simplicity in glassware so a very nice Willi Becher glass, a good thick half liter German Stein like the kind you see at Oktoberfest, or even a semi fancy tall Pilsner glass. If all you have in the cabinet is your shaker pint glasses, that’s fine too, we won’t judge. Proper glassware will provide a better avenue for the aromas to jump out of the glass and into your nostrils. Aromas help prepare our taste buds for what’s about to hit them and just makes the experience that much better.
What you will discover upon cracking open the can is very well carbonated dark beer that will pour out with a lovely off white 2 to 3 finger head, not as black as like a Guiness Stout or even a well crafted Porter, but more like a deep brown ale or a very dark red ale. It is filtered, so you will be able to see through it at the right angle. After you have gently poured the beer into your glass, take a nice big whiff to really get your senses going. Subtle aromas of caramel, coffee, or even chocolate may be present for you. Toffee comes to mind as well but not always. We give a cheers or Prost to the beer gods and any loved ones we have currently or lost along the way. We celebrate with them in spirit! Cheers! Take that nice first sip, have it rest for about 1 second in your mouth, and take it back. Clean, actually crisp, even refreshing with these nice undertones of coffee, chocolate maybe or caramel. The bitterness you are tasting is not from the hops which do provide bitterness to beer, but rather from the roasted malts used to make this beer dark.
Roasted malts, not only provide color to every beer they are used in, they also provide layers of complexity and flavor that otherwise could not be achieved without roasting them. The process takes your normal harvested barley and maltsters use their Kilns in drying out all their malts. Once the level of drying is achieved, some malts are then roasted even further to certain levels of taste and flavor to achieve the various types of roasted malts that exist for the brewing industry. I won’t get into how many there. I’ll save that for another article. For Premium Black, without truly knowing how many they used, I’m going to guess from my brewing knowledge that they used 2 to 3 types of roasted malts to achieve the level of darkness and flavor in this beer.
Back to the tasting.
The finish should be semi dry when cold but as it warms up, it becomes very dry. Which just makes you want to take another lovely sip to quench that palate. Rewinding back to the “crisp” taste you could get. This is one of the main points of this beer. It is designed to be easy drinking even though it is a dark beer. The crispness of it makes it so. The clean flavor does as well. Clean flavors mean there are no “off” flavors that can plague a lot of delicate beers. Delicate meaning simple styles, or “old world” styles. Dunkle or Dark beer being one of them. The style dates back centuries in Germany and is still a staple at almost all Germany breweries to this day.
So now we’ve had a nice taste and smell of this nice dark beer. What’s next? Well, naturally food comes to mind. What type? That’s the fun part. Sapporo’s website cites “a variety of hearty and spicy dishes from around the world, including traditional German, Asian, Cajun and latin cuisines and creme brulee”. I’ll cover each one below.
German. Yes and all the yes. This beer being built like a German beer style will pair with a great variety of German dishes. I’d say the best pairing would be boiled and grilled Brats. Bonus points if you use this beer to boil the brats FIRST, then finish them off on the grill for the nice grill marks and the caramelization of the sugars left behind from the beer or the meat of the brats. Schnitzel with a creamy white or dark mushroom sauce would be fantastic as well. Creamy and hearty Spaetzle, if the fat element is kept in control, would even work. Spaetzle can be very very greasy from the amount of cheese and butter used which would over power this beer.
Asian dishes. Seeing as Sapporo is found at just about every Sushi restaurant in the US, I’d say it’s a yes as well. Sushi of any type, even some of the medium spiced kind, pairs real nice. Again, a clean and crisp dark beer just provides another layer of flavors to the fresh sushi on your plate. Even with dishes prepared on a grill or served hot like Chicken Teriyaki, lend very well to this beer. The sweetness of the teriyaki sauce lends to the sweetness you find in the beer and the grilled meat would amplify the roasted malts as well.
Are you hungry yet? What? You don’t have Grubhub on speed dial?
Cajun cuisine gets a little tricky in my opinion. I say that because some Cajun foods are spicy where the levels will overpower this beer. But there are some dishes that are nice and rich without being too spicy. Shrimp etouffee, crawfish etouffee, mild jambalaya, crawfish boil, cajun spiced shrimp off the grill, seafood off the grill, all will pair real nice with Premium Black. The weather may be muggy 100% of the year but the clean and crisp nature of the beer will aid in relieving that muggy feeling. Not necessarily the best beer to do it but if you want a dark beer that does that, this one will fit the bill real nicely.
Latin cuisines. Again, can get a little tricky. Some are very spicy with the use of chili peppers to enhance the flavors, but others are rich and hearty and fatty. If we’re talking street tacos of carne asada with chopped onions, cilantro and lime juice, yes 100% or even carnitas tacos. Grilled meats or seafood kept to a “mild” heat level are a nice pairing as well. Spicy mole though, may be too strong and too spicy which would dominate the flavor palate but if the mole can be kept more on the milder side, the dark nature of the mole will pair real nice with the beer. It should amplify those dark malt flavors of coffee or chocolate.
Then we have dessert and the site names a specific one, creme brulee, which I found interesting. It’s not a wrong pairing but it goes right to the point, whereas with all the food pairings, it was left as more of a generalized suggestion. For desserts, aside from creme brulee, chocolate cakes, bread puddings, and even cheesecakes would lend very well to the beer. Those dark sugary malts help enhance the sweet desserts to another level. The fattiness of cheesecakes gets cleansed with the good carbonation of the beer and the bread pudding sweetness or richness get turned up to 11 with semi sweetness of the beer.
In the end, Premium Black from Sapporo, is a very well done beer. It has the pedigree to stand toe to toe with styles it was derived from over in Germany. It can pair real nice a variety of foods and desserts. It can also just be a blue collar beer for the working person across all walks of life.
I’m really glad I was able to take this deeper dive into this beer and I’m also very grateful you came along for the ride. I hope this review helped you in any way understand the beer and the style of this beer a little further and hopefully dark beers don’t scare you as much as they used to.
If you would like to catch me talking about a particular beer, beer style, beer region or suggestions from friends, you can watch my #BeerswithBorrie show, live every other Friday at https://www.twitch.tv/borrietheblade. The next scheduled show is set for August 7, 2020 at 7:30pm PST.