Fearful Symmetries

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08 October, 2015

Drinker Easy With the Beer That Really Fits You: Kölsch from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.



Woodman's East is doing its level best to rid itself of Sierra Nevada's summer beers. The brewery's summer variety packs have been callously riven asunder so that the bottles within can be sold individually. (Perhaps tellingly, their Oktoberfest was getting the same treatment.) I've already tried the variety pack's Nooner Pilsner and now it's time to investigate the Kölsch-style brew.

Ah, the Kölsch. The official bier of Köln (Cologne), Germany. From what I've read, the Kölsch as we know and love it today originated in the early 20th century. It's a light beer brewed with a top fermenting yeast but fermented at temperature slightly lower than normal for an ale. It is also lagered, i.e. – stored for a few weeks at cold temperatures. The appellation "Kölsch" is protected and defined by the Kölsch Convention which states that, if it ain't brewed in Köln, it ain't a Kölsch.

The beer's ale-lager hybridization seems to stem from both Köln's 17th century Reinheitsgebot laws which banned bottom-fermented beer and the rise in popularity of the very same. Hence the beer has one foot in each world.

Sierra Nevada's take on the style pours a lovely light straw color and is as clear as the day is long. I got a fine, fluffy white head in my stange that would not quit. There's wheat in the beer and I do believe that there are proteins in wheat which help keep the head on your beer longer. It is my understanding that wheat is not a common ingredient in the Kölsch over in the Fatherland. My stange had a modicum of bubbles making their way up.

The aroma was at once familiar and inviting yet also novel and intriguing. As expected it had that light cracker smell as well as the distinctive fruitiness from the yeast which comes across to my nose as being a berry-apple hybrid. I was not expecting, however, the piney hop notes to be accompanied by floral and citrus ones. I presume the floral ones come from the Strisselspalt hops which I'm seeing used more often as of late, while Simcoe provided more the citrus notes.

The beer's taste just smacked of summer. It had a light body that never tasted thin. It yielded a clean cracker taste with the apple-berry yeast flavors from the aroma making a return engagement. The carbonation added some dryness and the beer had a moderate bubbly taste. The novel floral hoppiness was present on the tongue as well with no small amount of pungent flavor and paired nicely with more subtle citrus ones.

On the finish the beer proved moderately dry with more bite from the carbonation and some peppery hop bitterness joining its floral cousin. My stange was left with a goodly amount of Schaumhaftvermoegen in thick webs.

Sierra Nevada has done themselves proud with Kölsch. The floral and fruity hop aromas and flavors add a nice new twist without overshadowing the traditional grain and yeast elements. Carbonation and some more traditional German hop bitterness gave the beer some bite. On the other hand, the clean, crisp malt flavors and the floral & citrus hops made for a brisk, fresh adventure on the palate. At 5% A.B.V. the beer is deceptively quaffable so it's best drunk from the traditional stange.

I've not drank much Sierra Nevada the past several years until quite recently. I used to drink their Pale Ale quite frequently back in the early and mid-1990s and still do occasionally when it's the least hoppy offering at a party. But their recent takes on German styles have been quite impressive and I'll definitely be giving them a second look.

Junk food pairing: Pair Kölsch with Cheez-It Zingz Chipotle Cheddar. They're made with corn masa flour for authentic Mexican Crunch™ and the subtle smokiness makes for a nice counterpoint to the cheesiness of the underlying cracker and contrives to sublimate the fundamental botanical-grain dichotomy of the Kölsch.

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|| Palmer, 11:15 AM

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