I always like a good “Black Beer” when I find one. Usually they entail a rich, roasty, and hearty beer with lush flavors and cocoa and coffee aromas. The Xingu Black Beer though was a different beast, and I really was not expecting it.
Xingu, pronounced shin-goo, is a recreation of a black beer produced in the Amazon rainforest dating back to 1557. It was beer historian Alan Eames who was intrigued by the idea of recreating this beer. His search brought him to Brazil, and after considerable time and effort working with breweries was finally able to convince someone to create this ancient black beer – one that has been awarded 2 gold medals by the Beverage Testing Institute of Chicago, and has taken several awards in international competitions over the years.
This beer is now sold widely in the U.S. and Brazil, and is also starting to spread across Australia and England. Its closest definable style would be a Schwarzbier; however several characteristics about this beer set it apart for me.
I opened the Xingu cool around 10C (50F) and poured it into a stemmed beer glass. It was definitely a black beer. But I still didn’t know if I should be expecting a schwarzbier or not. Given the beers history and creation I was really anticipating something else – but so far it fit the bill.
The pour was smooth and very light building a deep back beer with hints of amber red and deep brown that pierced the edges of the glass. Initially no head was created, and I had to raise the bottle higher to evoke some excitement. Eventually, a barely 1 inch dense and creamy medium brown head build on top the crimson black beer.
The nose was very interesting and certainly was not what I expected. Smooth pale malts show up like a freshly lagered German beer, then fresh fruit aromas follow in behind with whiffs of herbs, apples, honey and dried fruit candy. Where was this sweetness coming from? There was little to no roast to be found, and the malt, as I said, was light and clean with no deep malt flavor – just light airy pale malts. I had no clue what to think of this.
Taking a big sip was very exciting actually. The beer washed over my palate with a cool, and very fresh wave of fruity sweet pale malts and a very apparent apple flavor. Some reviews I have read about this beer claim the apple flavor to be a common off-flavor found in many beers called acetaldehyde. I’m not quite sure that this is an off flavor in this case though, I believe it is here intentionally.
The beer is brewed with corn an manoic, also known as cassava, which is a woody shrub filled with carbohydrates and is typically quite sweet. The use of manoic in the brewing process in order to recreate this ancient brew is most likely what is providing this ripe apple flavor.
In any case, I was enjoying it. It brough a fresh and quenching character to the beer which fit it very well. Little to no hops were noticeable, juts a light herbal flavor in the back on the beer. The mouthfeel was smooth and elegant showing a light body leaning towards a lager. The finish is dry with a slightly sweet after note of apple peels and grapes.
I don’t really know how to properly classify this beer – it definitely does not belong as a Schwarzbier, thats for sure. Regardless though, I will most likely find another bottle so that I can make a final conclusion on this beer. Right now it is sitting as very interesting, but probably not something I will buy often. As far as quenching goes, there are better; same with sweet. And it is certainly not roasty or creamy. So I still don’t know where to put this beer.