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Daniel Drinks the Styles: Cushwa 56 Nights Munich Dunkel

Continuing to leverage my time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, I am studying for the second level of the Cicerone Certification Program for beer professionals. To stay honest in my studies, I am publishing reviews of DMV beers brewed in the classic styles and comparing them to the official style guidelines. While I recently took my online exam, I am continuing to do so to a) keep myself informed and b) I have actually really been enjoying this.

All beer used to be dark, and the Munich Dunkel represents one of the oldest beer styles around. Before brewers knew how to correctly kiln malted barley, pale beer didn’t really exist, and most beers would be smoky. While Cushwa does away with the meatiness, let’s see if 56 Nights matches up with modern Munich Dunkel guidelines: 

Munich Dunkel Guidelines from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP): 

Deeply bready-toasty, often with chocolate-like flavors in the freshest examples, but never harsh, roasty, or astringent

Appearance is deep copper to dark brown, often with a red or garnet tint.

Aroma is a deep malt sweetness, typically like bread crusts (often toasted bread crusts). Hints of chocolate, nuts, caramel, and/or toffee are also acceptable.

Flavor is dominated by the soft, rich, and complex flavor of darker Munich malts, usually with overtones reminiscent of toasted bread crusts, but without a burnt-harsh-grainy toastiness. 

Mouthfeel is medium to medium-full body…soft mouthfeel without being heavy. Moderate carbonation.

Vital Statistics: IBUs 18-28, SRM 14-28, ABV 4.5-5.6% 

Cushwa 56 Nights
Sorry, only can art this week.

The beer pours a deep copper brown, with some reddish tones coming out when scrutinized closer to light. The nose is pumpernickel bread, the dark bagels that are always left when someone picks up a mixed dozen for the office, and a little caramel. There’s an incredible toasted bread crust flavor flowing throughout, with a real deep malt sweetness that recalls well-seared beef or pork. I drank this after a meal and had a 30-second daydream about cooking sausages, it was so reminiscent. Reaching deeper, I get some vanilla, caramel honey, and toast. Despite the “dark” flavors, this beer is light on its feet. Lightly carbonated, this is a driller. Not cloying at all, the lack of sweetness leads to a lighter body. There is little to no hop flavor or aroma to get in the way. 

If the doppelbock didn’t exist this Dunkel would easily qualify as liquid bread. Fulfilling but not too filling, I could see writing this off as acceptable for a fast, as the monks did. Despite the prominence of Guinness, there still exists some underlying belief that dark beers are inherently heavy. This can scare consumers off from lighter-bodied dark lagers like Schwarzbier, Dunkel or Tmavy, as their dark color can still indicate a heftiness they may not be seeking. Education is key for the consumer, as these styles aren’t quite household names. For fall, however, you can’t beat the crossroads of dark flavors and crisp drinkability. 

Overall, this is an excellent representation of the style, though (and I never thought I’d say this about Cushwa), it could use some extra hops for balance. A little bitterness would go a long way here, I’d call the IBUs as on the lower end of the guidelines. Cushwa makes some of the best NEIPAs in the area, so it is especially exciting to see them nail a more traditional yet less popular (in the US!) style.

56 Nights pairs well with any sausage, spicy wings, Indian food, and the Future mixtape from which the can art is cribbed. I should also note that I hope it pairs itself with due payment to the POC artist whose work it has appropriated. 

Next week – Silver Branch Gold Line!

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