My first encounter
with a Schlafly beer was quite impressive. It was a very tasty Kölsch and gave me my first hint that there's more to St. Louis' beer scene than foreign conglomerates making watery garbage. In addition it demonstrated that Schlafly was adept at brewing Germany styles of bier. This autumn the brewery announced a new winter seasonal - White Lager(PDF)
- a zwickelbier. The idea was to offer something lighter than the more typical winter fare of doppelbocks, imperials stouts, and the like.
The German zwickelbier, a.k.a. - kellerbier, is an unfiltered pale lager. I think of it as an unfiltered helles with more hops. "Keller" means cellar while a "zwickel" is a little valve on a fermentation tank used to sample the brew. The idea behind the style is that you are drinking very fresh bier from a fermentation tank still sitting in the cellar. Thusly drinking a zwickelbier from a bottle seems to be a bit contradictory to the premise behind the style. And so the treat here is the yeast that remains in the bier as opposed to the freshness. For the record, my White Lager has a date of 13 October 2015 on it. I purchased the six-pack in late November and had my tasting a couple weeks or so later in mid-December.
White Lager pours a dark yellow color. With the yeast not having been removed, the bier is hazy, though just slightly. My understanding is that while zwickelbiers and kellerbiers are essentially two words for the same bier, the zwickel usually has more carbonation. In this case I got a small white crown in my glass that dissipated quickly. However, inside the bier itself were many a bubble.
The aroma was equally fresh bread and grassy hops. Test batches of the brew contained orange peel but I didn't smell any citrus which leads me to believe that this ingredient was left out of the batch or batches that were bottled. While White Lager doesn't have the most complex aroma you'll ever wrap your nostrils around, the breadiness here was rich and inviting.
As it was in the taste. It had that wonderful melanoidin/Maillard reaction toasty bread goodness in spades as well as some yeasty dough flavor as well. I personally love the helles/zwickelbier/kellerbier because it's those toasted grain tastes that are most prominent. White Lager didn't rock the boat with malt sweetness being minimal. The hops were grassy to the tongue but took on a floral side as well which was quite tasty though there was little bitterness. Carbonation added a little dryness in lieu of bitterness.
As the malt fades on the finish, the hops come to the fore. They lose the floral notes and take on Noble spicy ones along with a liberal dose of bitterness making for a rather dry conclusion.
THIS. This was a very tasty bier. I applaud the paucity of sweetness which allows the clean toasted grain flavor to really shine. And it is these melanoidin/Maillard reaction flavors that I crave in bier. The hops give their all and manage to offer a nice balance. I appreciated how they changed through the tasting process taking on floral and spicy qualities at different stages. White Lager is 5.5% A.B.V. and has a rather light body so it's not going to warm you up this winter. On the other hand, I can certainly imagine it as being a crisp, refreshing drink for quaffing after snow shoveling or other outdoor activities.
Junk food pairing: I like potato chips with my zwickelbier. For a traditional take, try some kind of dill-flavored chips. But don't be fooled. White Lager can handle something a bit spicier such as Jay's Hot Stuff chips too.
Labels: Beer, Kellerbier, Schlafly Bottleworks, Zwickel