Fearful Symmetries

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29 February, 2016

A Singularity of Tastiness: Apparent Horizon by August Schell Brewing Company

Schell, whose motto is "German craft beer", is well-known for its selection of German bier styles that are familiar to craft beer drinkers – hefeweizen, pilsners, bocks, et al. Back in 2013 the venerable brewery jumped headlong into the sour trend with the Noble Star series, its take on the Berliner Weisse, a light, bubbly, tart wheat bier. The Berliner Weisse was extremely popular in its native city in the early 19th century but its popularity was on the wane a hundred years later as lagers were ascendant. A couple world wars, economic hardship, and Germany being riven in twain all led to the near extinction of the Berliner Weisse in the latter half of the 20th century.

As a couple German brewers kept the flame alive, American microbrewers discovered the style and have slowly but steadily resurrected the Berliner Weisse on these shores. Schell brewmaster Jace Marti has also resurrected a couple of cypress lagering tanks dating back to the mid-1930s for fermenting his takes on the style.

Although I have described the Berliner Weisse as being a light, bubbly, and tart – the "champagne of the North" according to Napoleon and/his soldiers – the style has changed over the centuries. The proportion of wheat to barley has changed over time, for example, and smoked wheat used to be standard. And the bier has been brewed to various strengths over the years. Today in Germany it is not uncommon for a Berliner Weisse to be served mit Schuss, a.k.a. - with a shot of fruit syrup, Himbeere (raspberry) or Waldmeister (woodruff). I've read that this practice started in the early 20th century but cannot find that website at the moment.

Today we have Schell's Apparent Horizon, a Berliner Weisse brewed with 35% of the grain bill given over to rye as well as lactobacillus bacteria and brettanomyces yeast, the latter known for the funky, "barnyard" aroma and flavors it produces. At 5.1% A.B.V. it is known as a vollbier or full beer in German, quite a bit higher than the more common 3.5-4%. The label says it was bottled in August 2015 and is, to best of knowledge, the latest bier in the Noble Star line.

Hopefully as the days grow longer and warmer my photographs will get better but, for now, all I can do is apologize. Apparent Horizon poured a lovely yellow gold and was slightly hazy. However, the bier got cloudier with each pour and it was quite turbid by the time I got to the bottom of the bottle. My initial pour produced a small white head but a second more aggressive one gave a larger one. It dissipated quickly just like champagne. And just like champagne there were veritable armies of bubbles inside the glass going upwards.

The bier's aroma had a fairly potent dose of that lemony lactic acid tartness. But there were also earthy, woody smells as well which came from the cypress tanks and the not insignificant amount of rye in the bier. Oddly enough, my nose also caught some sweetness which was more like honey than fruit.

My tongue could not help but notice all those bubbles that caught my eyes attention. Light and bubbly are two wholly appropriate words here. The wheat stood out as did the lemony lacto tartness. While some Berliner Weisses present the drinker with enough sourness to strip paint, Apparent Horizon was more temperate. You couldn't miss the tartness but was also moderate enough to allow a host of other flavors to come through including more subtle ones like the woodiness from those cypress tanks. There was some rye spiciness as well as a semi-sweet floral taste. Topping things off was a moderate wet blanket funk from the brettanomyces.

The finish had some lingering lemony tartness which, when it finally gave way, left my palate to enjoy a woody/floral afterglow. My glass was left ohne Schaumhaftvermoegen.

Apparent Horizon is the eighth entry in Schell's Noble Star series and Jace Marti is at the top of his game. This is a complex bier yet every flavor was in its place with none being overpowering. As a lover of rye in beer I was excited to drink this brew and was not disappointed. The rye was quite tasty and lent a little dryness. While the bier was tart, it was not overly so which meant that it was only mildly acidic. Again there's that moderation and balance at work. Besides the rye, I especially like the woody notes from the cypress tanks and that mysterious floral taste. They really pushed an already wonderful blend of grains, yeast, and bacteria over the top and made the bier even more complex yet retained a wholly approachable character.

Junk food pairing: I highly recommend pairing Apparent Horizon with some dill pickle potato chips.

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|| Palmer, 6:10 AM


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