This is the earliest:
"There are also many good beers in Prussia, particularly Danziger beer, which, in its amiability, passion and strength can, not unjustly, be compared with a wine; since one ounce of Danziger Doppelbier is stronger and more powerful than two mass of any other common barley beer."
"Der Vollkommene Bierbrauer oder kurzer Unterricht all Arten Bier zu brauen" 1784 (Reprint Verlag Leipzig, ISBN 3-8262-0201-5), page 131.
Thick and treacly. Well you'd expect that from a beer with an OG of 1198.
"Dantzig was associated with a variety of products that were either produced in the district, or were exported thence. One, not found in the Dictionary Archive, is Dantzig BEER, otherwise known as BLACK beer, which Ogilvie described as 'a kind of beer manufactured at Dantzic. It is of black colour, and of a syrupy consistence, and is much prized' [Ogilvie (1865)]."
Yes, it really was black and treacly.
"Black Beer or Dantzig Beer is a very dark, syrupy brew first made in Dantzig."
"The Grocer's Encyclopedia" New York, 1911, page 64.
"Formerly a strong medicinal beer was made in Dantzic from the berries of the sweet-brier, which was found both salutary and agreeable; another description of liquor, called black beer, is made in that city and held in considerable estimation: it is a species of spruce beer, and is made in a manner similar to that practised in Canada."
"A Philosophical and Statistical History of the Inventions and Customs of Ancient and
Modern Nations in the Manufacture and Use of Inebriating Liquors" by Samuel Morewood, 1838, page 463.
"In England, malt liquors are, in general,'properly fermented; and when intended for warm climates, the grain is twice mashed, and twice boiled. In German ales, on the contrary, little or no fermentation is permitted to take place; and in the Dantzick black beer, in particular, only a half fermentation is allowed."
"The Code of Health and Longevity" by Sir John Sinclair, 1807, page 338.
"X porter has of late years become of nearly the same colour as Dantzic black beer, which is, perhaps, another improvement of the present day. This alteration in the colour is said to have been adopted merely to humour the public taste."
"A Practical Treatise on Brewing, Based on Chemical and Economical Principles" by William Black, 1849, page 246.
Black beer was brewed in Britain, too. Here are the rules:
"An Act to continue certain Duties of Customs and Inland Revenue for the Service of Her Majesty, and to grant, alter, and repeal certain other Duties. [3rd June, 1862.]
. . . .
9.Provided always, that brewers of beer, known as spruce or black beer, for sale, shall continue to pay for their licenses only the name rates of duty as are imposed by the act passed in the 6 Geo. 4, с. 81, on brewers of beer other than table beer only, for sale: provided that any such brewer shall not brew on the same premises beer of any other description than spruce or black beer, nor use in the brewing of the same, or add thereto, any hops or other bitter, or any yeast or other matter to produce fermentation, and shall not brew, or sell or send out, any of such beer of a less specific gravity than 1180 degrees."
"The Jurist", 1863 , Page 9.
I wonder if the address of Dantzic Cottage of theis Leeds Black Beer brewer was just a coincidence?
"Plowman John, black beer brewer, Dantzic cottage, 46 Regent st [Leeds]"
"History, gazetteer, and directory, of the west-riding of Yorkshire" by William White, 1837, page 592.
One of Black Beer's main uses appears to have been medicinal:
"Porter is recommended by the medical world to their convalescent patients in poor families, in lieu of port wine, which antidote is exclusively appropriated to the wealthy. Here we may take the liberty of suggesting, that both classes of such invalids may advantageously now avail themselves of a yet simpler, more nutritious, and less alcoholic renovator than either, merely by a temperate imbibition of a moderately attenuated fresh pale beer, of about 20 or 24 lbs. gravity, or such as is retailed at fourpence or sixpence per quart. This beer contains the essentials required by both doctor and patient, and which may be looked for in vain in either wine or porter; for besides containing water, gum, alcohol, and carbonic acid gas, in common with black beer, it possesses some glutinous matter and a fair proportion of nutrimental sugar; and its gum is rendered digestive by retaining its vigour and original elements; it is also better suited to weak stomachs and to medicinal and strengthening purposes than any black beer can be, since it contains less carbonaceous matter, and consequently more nutritious food, and is easier of digestion ; whereas porter contains such a large share of this heavy mucilaginous matter, that it is better fitted to hardy and healthy constitutions, such as workers in metal, soil, or mortar, whose exercise enables them to carry it advantageously through the physical system; and, as regards port wine, little or perhaps none that reaches this country is free from adulteration with foreign alcohol, which is added to it either at the close of the fermentation, or immediately prior to its enshipment, and is never completely incorporated with the natural juice of the grape and its native spirit, notwithstanding all the art of "fretting in," of which the exporters are masters as adroit as they are fraudulent. However desirable the tartar of grapejuice is, as a component of wine, so little of it remains after bottling, that it cannot avail as medicine; whereas the tartar or gluten of malted barley answers the desired purpose, because it exists in sufficient quantity, and partakes of the same essential properties."
"The Theory and Practice of Brewing Illustrated" by William Littell Tizard, 1846, page 509.
"She had not been under proper medical treatment. A few days before my visit she partook plentifully of a mixture of black beer and whisky, with a view to promote sweating, but this evacuation did not take place, and her symptoms were much aggravated by the dose."
"Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal" 1827, page 79.
"'I have had a bad cold,' said the merchant, 'and I got my feet bathed, and had a drink o' hot Dantzig black beer; and this rising oot o' my warm bed at this time o' nicht will he the death o' me! What do ye want?'"
"Tait's Edinburgh Magazine" 1852, page 492.
That was fun, wasn't it? What next? I've been reading some fascinating stuff about Berliner Weisse. You interested in that?