Blackheart Schwarzbier

Blackheart Schwarzbier
1 22 oz bottle, $6, 6.2% ABV

Purchased at the brewery, Plainville

blackheartDid you know that this beer is currently (February 2014) in the top 10 schwarzbiers on Beer Advocate? Well, now you do. Relic’s owner/ brewmaster/ everything else Mark would be the first to admit that it’s a fairly limited category and his run(s) of Blackheart have been limited as well, but whatever. I’m confident in saying this beer deserves the accolades.

For it’s just straight up delicious.

Back when Mark first brewed this, I’m going to say I was rather unfamiliar with the style. “If lagers are the crap beers I kinda sorta hate, what’s a black lager?” It’s very different, that’s what. I first had the Blackheart early on in Relic’s now two-year existence. Back when Relic only had a few offerings and the vision of how Relic will rise to the top in labeling was just being formed.

I think this was the first label done by Gary at gariphic in West Hartford. I’ve no idea how many Relic labels he’s done, but I think there have been a lot. (And since everyone loves Relic labels, props to Gary.) By the way, his website says that “gariphic” is a fusion of “Gary” and “Terrific” while playing on the term “graphic.” Now you know.

So why am I spending time on this stuff? Because I LOVE the Blackheart label. It’s probably my favorite Relic label – and that’s saying a lot.

However, there’s also something interesting on the first generation of it:

Relic Says:

This easy drinking black lager engages the palette (sic) with bittersweet notes of roasted coffee and chocolate alongside a dark Munich malt backbone. Complimentary (sic) hops contribute hints of fruit and help round out the finish. Special thanks to for label design.

blackFor one, the description of the beer thanks the label designer. This is rare. But moreover, this description sort of forged my friendship with Mark at Relic.

How so? Because when I transcribed it and noticed the two homophone errors, I emailed Mark to let him know. What’s funniest about this is that the Palette/ palate and complimentary/ complementary errors are probably the most common in food writing. I think my friend Leeanne, who is a professional food writer, has said that the palette/palate error is the one that drives her most insane.

So anyway, I emailed Mark (whom I didn’t know very well at the time) to let him know about these errors and he was cool about it. He thanked me for pointing it out and vowed to have it corrected for the next run. I think at that point, we both realized that being honest with each other was better than not. It sort of opened up the channel between us wherein if Mark brews an experimental batch of something that I didn’t particularly like, I could tell him.

What I’m saying is, this label let Mark know I can be kind of a jerk. High-five. And that, my friends, is the story of how and why being honest in your opinions about beer – hell, about anything on your blogs – trumps being a suck-up. You may actually be helping a small batch brewer by being forthright.

Am I inflating the importance of an 18-month old email exchange about a couple misspellings on a label? Yes, of course, but my main point remains: Friendships are built on honesty and integrity. Not on butt-kissing and Instagram shout-outs.

Now, on to the butt-kissing. Blackheart is a wonderful beer. All of the classic schwarzbier components are there: coffee, roasty malts, chocolate, caramel and other hints of sweetness behind the overall bitter profile. (Bitter in a good way, of course.)

Maybe I like the Blackheart so much because of my own cold black heart

My favorite part of the Blackheart is that it drinks so smoothly. Almost creamy in a way, with soft carbonation. Like a Guinness somehow, but Blackheart is just carbonated with the regular carbon dioxide and not Nitrogen like Guinness.

As with all Relic beers, who knows when you’ll see this made again, but I’m sure Mark will make it an annual release. At least I sure hope so.

Overall Rating: A
Rating vs. Similar style: A+

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