Unanswered Question Black Lager

Inky yet crisp, this lager has a restrained bitterness, a clean finish, and traces of fresh tobacco.
  • Grain bill:  Bohemian Pilsner, Munich, Carafa Special III, Crisp Malting Black, Belgian Aromatic Malt, Carafoam
  • Hops:  Santiam
  • Yeast:  Wyeast Bavarian Lager 2206


Origin Story:

This one really started with the name.  After I brewed Turangalîla-Hefeweizen, Hal was asking me for other contemporary classical music picks and I recommended Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question, a bite-sized piece which is both mysterious and really funny.  It immediately struck me that would be a great name for a black lager—one that was totally opaque but had a snap.

Goal of the grain bill:  get it black but not heavy.  I felt like anything less than a tan head wouldn’t do the name justice.  Just under 9% roasted malt did the trick, with a bit of aromatic malt on top of a more traditional pilsner malt blend.  I decided to go with a single hop for a change of pace—Santiam seemed an interesting candidate as an American hop that had the appropriate noble heritage.  Also, the name reminded me of all the Oregon skiiing I did as a teenager.  I chose the Bavarian yeast strain to amp up the malt flavors.

This ended up being a delicious beer, with a toasty top end that just floats fragrantly on top of a smooth, unobtrusive base.  In the waning minutes of my brew day I forgot to put in the last hops addition and wound up dry-hopping with that addition instead.  I think this is part of the success and I’d do it again.

For the label, I wanted to continue with the theme of interrupted communications.  On the bucket-list Antarctica cruise Lauren and I took just before the pandemic we spent a lot of time in the wasteland with Adelie penguins.  Not as much with octopuses.  There are no breweries that I know of in Antarctica, but a real British Survey outpost served as the model for the label.  The art style was intended to give off Doubtful Guest vibes – you can tell me whether artist Wonderchaines was successful.

Music Pairing:

Among his other qualifications, Peter Blegvad is the cartoonist responsible for the mind-blowing Leviathan and president of the London Institute of ‘Pataphysics (an organization which does not exist).  Even when he writes a heartfelt pop song, there’s a little bit of a puzzle to it.  Kew.  Rhone., a collaboration with John Greaves and Lisa Herman, is mostly puzzles with a little bit of pop music thrown in here and there.

In “22 Proverbs” he explores the hypertextual linkages between bits of received wisdom.  In “Pipeline” he muses on the futility of inferring a complete object based on the examination of an isolated part.  “Catalogue of Fifteen Objects and Their Titles” argues that a name in no way captures the nature of a thing.

“Gegenstand” is German for “object” (or “subject”).  The piece posits that the stream of human experience will try but always fail to penetrate the essence of that around which it circulates.


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