Last year, to some degree of fanfare (and TV commercials), Anheuser-Busch InBev debuted its Budweiser Reserve Copper Lager, a new product whose relevance was tied to the other name in its collaboration—the whiskey giants at Jim Beam. That beer was more or less a pretty standard Budweiser offering at its core—a toasty, slightly more malty amber lager—but the just-announced second entry in the Reserve Series is looking to move into significantly more novel territory. Budweiser Reserve Black Lager will likewise bear some Jim Beam barrel influences, while weighing in at a pretty robust 7.1% ABV. That will put it among the highest gravity lagers ever to emerge under the Budweiser banner. It will be released from October through December, joining a re-release of Copper Lager, both under the “Reserve Series” name, in the more distinctive-looking 12 oz stubby bottles.
According to the company, “Budweiser Reserve Black Lager boasts a dark auburn color, an oaky aroma with coffee and chocolate notes, a toasted malt taste, and a deliciously smooth finish. Black Lager is aged on six-year Jim Beam bourbon barrel staves for a bolder taste that’s perfect for the holiday season.”
As for the truth of that description, we’ll let you know when we taste Reserve Black Lager for ourselves, but we have our doubts about any kind of pronounced oak presence. It should be noted also that “aged on barrel staves” presumably means that pieces of bourbon barrel were added to large black lager holding tanks, rather than being aged inside individual bourbon barrels, which would have contributed much stronger impressions of wood and whiskey, as this is largely a factor of wood surface area in contact with the beer.
“Budweiser Reserve Copper Lager proved that when Budweiser and Jim Beam collaborate, good things happen,” said Ricardo Marques, VP of Marketing Core & Value Brands at Anheuser-Busch. “For the second collaboration between Bud and Beam, we wanted to brew something unique that would excite both beer lovers and bourbon aficionados. Budweiser Reserve Black Lager is a bold, bourbon-forward beer that’s perfect for the holidays.”
Still, a genuinely dark-in-color lager is something of a fun novelty, coming from the likes of AB InBev. You’ll probably be disappointed if you’re expecting this will somehow be an immaculate German schwarzbier, dunkel or rauchbier, but the results might be interesting nonetheless. Also amusing: Budweiser Reserve Black Lager will also be sold in “premium 22 oz. bomber bottle gift boxes,” like an anachronistic throwback to the era of craft beer that was dominated by large volume bottles for special releases.