German breweries tend to get a lot of flak from craft beer drinkers here in the States because of the perceived lack of variety in their beer portfolios (and because they tend not to brew IPAs at 50+ IBUs). I think that most of the criticism is deserved but I have to say that Neuzeller Klosterbrauerei bucks the stereotype of light lager-dark lager-weissbier with a porter, an apple beer, and this, a cherry beer. They also have a Kartoffelbier, which is a potato beer, under the Fritzens label. (I am afraid to try it.)
This kirsch bier is a gorgeous reddish amber and quite effervescent. The head was moderate and had a lovely red tint. So far, so good. Putting my nose to it, I immediately smelled sweet'n'sour cherry followed by a sour chemical/plastic kind of aroma. I am at a loss to explain what this was. The smell wasn't off-putting in the sense that it made me recoil in horror, but was rather a neutral scent that had me saying “What the hell is that?” With beers imported from Europe, you never know how long it sat in transport or in an importer's warehouse and at what temperatures it was stored at. Things were not looking good.
The taste, however, exceeded my expectations and then some. That odd chemical smell wasn't discernible on my palate. Instead I tasted the sweet and sour cherries. The carbonation tingled my tongue and the whole experience finished slightly on the bitter side. I was rather surprised at how sweet it was but the sweetness wasn't cloying. It was balanced by the sourness of the cherries and swept away in the finish by the hops. Plus the carbonation provided further contrast. Frankly, it was a lot like a New Glarus Belgian Red but without the sourness from bacteria. The beer tasted like the sour came from the cherries. Oh, and it left some nice Schaumhaftvermoegen on the glass. This is a bier you'd be proud to have sitting in front of you.
It also had a really nice mouthfeel. Not too heavy and it didn't transmogrify into this thin, soupy dreck once the cherry flavor had passed. I never tasted much in the way of malt but it was there in the backbone throughout.
Junk food pairing: Soft pretzels (no salt, thank you) with a generous portion of brown mustard.
Labels: Beer, Kirschenbier, Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle