Fearful Symmetries

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02 December, 2015

Out of the Cellar: Kellerweiss by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company



As I noted yesterday, I've been sampling some weissbiers lately in memory of my brother who passed away earlier this year and was a fan of the style. Unlike me, he enjoyed the lemon that commonly garnishes glasses of weissbier here in the States. For many years I've been under the impression that slapping some citrus onto the glass was a misbegotten practice that originated here in America where the mantra "more is better" is an almost ineluctable part of life.

I haven't found anything to indicate when or where the practice started but Michael Jackson encountered glasses adorned with lemon slices in Germany during the mid-60s so it seems unlikely that we Americans can take credit for the innovation. (After all, lemon slices also garnish schnitzel in Germany so it's not like there's a great anti-lemon sentiment over there.) However, it seems that the practice has fallen out of favor in the beer's homeland while it remains strong on this side of the Atlantic. Indeed, it is so ingrained that I was given a slice of lemon when I ordered a Schlenkerla Rauchbier Weizen a couple years ago at the Essen Haus. My brother, on the opposite end of the table, was enjoying his unsmoked weissbier mit lemon.

My foray into the world of weissbiers continues with Sierra Nevada's Kellerweiss.

Kellerweiss pours a light gold. (My photograph makes the beer appear a bit darker than it really is.) As to be expected, the brew is turbid with all the yeast having been left in. Also expected was the large white head. Wheat is laden with proteins which are dragged kicking and screaming out of suspension by the carbonation. I love the foam on weissbiers. It's rather thick – almost like meringue – and it sticks around until the last of it slides into your gaping maw. Weissbiers should be effervescent and my Kellerweiss had lots of bubbles going up the glass.

The beer's aroma was instantly appealing with a delicate lemon-citrus scent stealing through pungent banana phenolics. Underneath the fruity bouquet was also some grain that was cracker-like. Kellerweiss has a medium-light body and I was happy to find that the banana-like scent came through in the flavor. This is strictly a personal preference of fruitiness over clove-yness or bubbleguminess. There was a hint of clove, however, which is well and good and probably a necessary accent to keep the flavor from becoming overly fruity.

Also handy in keeping the taste on the straight and narrow is carbonation. One can definitely taste it in Kellerweiss. Rounding out the flavors was more cracker-like graininess. Not very strong but definitely there beneath all that the yeast had wrought.

Dryness from the carbonation overtook the lingering banana in the finish. It was abetted by a small dose of spicy/peppery hops. Schaumhaftvermoegen was plentiful with strands of it lining my glass.

I praised Saint Francis' Lust weissbier yesterday for being fairly substantial. Kellerweiss has a lighter body (4.8% A.B.V.) and slightly less intense flavors overall. This in addition to the drier finish from more piquant hops yields a beer that I can imagine would be quite easy drinking in warmer weather. Mind you, I don’t mean to imply that Kellerweiss is lacking because it isn't. It is flavorful and delicious and I'm sure my brother would have enjoyed it.

For a brewery whose reputation, as I discern it, rests on hoppy pale ales, Sierra Nevada superintends an array of fine German-style biers. They brew a wonderful pilsner, an Oktoberfest conceived with a German brewery, a great Kölsch, and a very tasty weissbier. To top things off, they are introducing a gose next month. I regularly drank Sierra Nevada Pale Ale back in the first half of the 1990s but eventually my tastebuds wandered as microbreweries sprang up. Rediscovering the brewery over the past few months has been a real treat.

Junk food pairing: On the savory side, pair Kellerweiss with some Wasabi & Soy Sauce Pringles. For dessert, pair it with dark chocolate covered pretzels.

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|| Palmer, 12:46 PM

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