Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

15 December, 2015

Spröcketbier Black Rye Kölsch by Stone Brewing Company

Stone helpfully put the words "DRINK FRESH" on this bottle in nice, friendly letters. Sadly, I did not heed their admonishment and I thank my lucky stars that there was no enjoy by date on the bottle to really induce a guilt trip. I gave my beer cellar a thorough sorting this past weekend and came across several beers that shouldn't have been cellaring. Alas, some were too far gone and met a less than dignified fate. Thankfully, some of the beers, while past their primes, were still drinkable. This is one such brew and here is its story.

Spröcketbier won the first Stone Spotlight Series competition. I am not exactly sure what this competition entailed but, since the architects of this brew are both employees of Stone, I presume it was some kind of intramural thing. The beer was released in the spring of 2014. I honestly am not sure when I purchased it but I can say that it has been in my basement ever since hidden away from the damaging rays of the refulgent orb in the sky.

Spröcketbier is a black rye Kölsch the likes of which I am sure would throw the signatories to The Kölsch Convention into apoplectic fits. It's bad enough to add rye to the bier but to compound the horror by making it black is surely beyond the pale, so to speak. Personally I think it sounds amazing even if I am to sample but a shadow of the beer's former glory.

The stuff appears as the Stygian gloom of an H.P. Lovecraft story in a glass. Sure, if you hold it to the light just right you can see that it's a deep chestnut but, if approached like a normal person, the bier is black and opaque like the heart of Cthulhu himself. My unsuspecting stange, accustomed to white, pillowy heads instead got about a quarter inch of tan foam. It dissipated rather quickly. I saw no bubbles inside the bier. On the other hand, my vision was unable to penetrate the murk. It seemed so very odd to think that this was a Kölsch and not a schwarzbier or stout. But it was in a stange so it had to be a Kölsch, right?

Before I proceed I'd like to remind the reader that this bier was from 2014 and beyond its prime. How would this bier have tasted if I had heeded Stone's advice and drank it fresh? I'll never know. Thusly I am like a beer archaeologist, uncovering old beer and trying to piece together how it tasted when it was young all those years ago.

Spröcketbier's aroma was redolent of a stout with roasted grain smells most prominent including coffee. There were also some hops here that were mild and grassy. It seems likely that, when fresh, these hops would have been much more pungent. Although Spröcketbier looks not unlike motor oil, it has a medium body that leaned towards the lighter side. The roasted grain and coffee from the aroma were present in the taste as was a slight smokiness. I could taste the spiciness offered by the rye as well, though it was the flavors of the darker malts that carried the day. Kölsch biers are known for a certain fruitiness from the unique yeast used in fermentation. I taste it as being berry-like and I was happily surprised to be able to taste it amongst all the grain flavors. It was a mild flavor but it was there. Rounding things out were a bit more of those grassy hops, which were not very bitter, and some carbonation.

The coffee flavor faded on the finish to a moderate bitterness courtesy of the carbonation and the hops which had some spiciness added to the grassy flavor. My stange was left with only a few specks of Schaumhaftvermoegen.

Despite this bier's age, it didn't taste oxidized. Stone says it has 40 I.B.U.s, well had, which would put it in the range of a Czech pilsner. My bier certainly wasn't that bitter as one would expect. Nonetheless I very much enjoyed Spröcketbier as I love the flavors of rye as well as darker malts. To best of my knowledge, the rye flavor wouldn’t have diminished with age so I will opine that even more spicy rye goodness would have been optimal. On the other hand, I would guess that the fruitiness of a Kölsch fades as the bier ages. I suspect that fresh Spröcketbier would have been a fairly intense brew with some big roasted grain flavors taking on a liberal dose of hop bitterness as the rye and yeast fruitiness did their best to accommodate them.

Junk food pairing: Normally the Kölsch is a bright, crisp bier with delicate malt and fruity yeast flavors. Spröcketbier is more like that bier's darker, Falstaffian cousin. Ergo it can stand up to heartier fare such as Flame Grilled Steak Ruffles or Herr's Baby Back Ribs chips.

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|| Palmer, 11:51 AM


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