In a move that I know will please a lot of Texas beer drinkers, the Spoetzl Brewing Company has revived Shiner 97, which it has rechristened Shiner Bohemian Black Lager. Dig the new bottle. Perfect for Halloween.
In case you don't remember, Shiner has been doing a series of limited-edition brews to celebrate the approach of Spoetzl's 100th anniversary – Shiner 97 marked their 97th year. I kept hoping that they would make one of the beers from this series a permanent part of the lineup, but actually I was hoping more for a revival of the 96 (an Oktoberfest marzen) or that they'll keep the 98 that's currently out (a Bavarian amber, and the best thing Spoetzl has ever produced). However, the buzz I keep seeing on the Internet is that 97 is the one that's been the big hit, so I guess I'm out of step with my fellow Texans.
Don't get me wrong – this black lager is pretty good. But as I wrote when it first came out last year, my main problem is that there are other breweries who do this style better. New Belgium's 1554 was my first intro to the style and still my favorite. And Xingu, from Brazil (no, seriously) is also great, as is the one produced by the North by Northwest brewpub.
If you're not familiar with black lager, it's not a stout or a porter — it's lighter, despite the appearance. This is definitely best if you let it warm a bit. Right out of the fridge, and you get this sweet effect that's kind of nasty. After letting it get to the right temperature, the roasted malts really come out. Unfortunately, it finishes kind of thin.
Here's my assessment: If you can get one of the other brands I mentioned (the 1554 is most likely), go for it; but if not, Shiner Bohemian Black Lager will make a fine introduction to the style.
(UPDATE: Okay, I'm starting to warm up to this a little more … by letting the beer also warm up. I find if I let it get up to almost room temperature, it's much, much better.)