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08 March, 2016

Please See If Her Green Neck Is Long: North Country Brünette by August Schell Brewing Co.



While I cannot recall exactly when and where I was introduced to the Berliner Weisse, it was certainly presented as a light, fizzy, sour wheat bier. A Berliner Weisse was yellow and somewhere from 3-4% A.B.V. or so the stylistic piety went. However, back in Germany in the 19th century you'd find breweries making them to various strengths including Märzen which was about 5.5%. I'd never heard of such a thing until a couple years ago when Schell introduced the third in its Noble Star series of Berliner Weisses, North Country Brünette.

As the name implies, the bier is not a bright, hazy yellow and it is 5.4% A.B.V. instead of 3.7% as the first couple Noble Stars were. My bottle was filled in March of 2014. I've had good luck with aging Berliner Weisses, intentional or not. I won't claim letting one sit in your basement for a couple years will yield a bier superior to one uncorked fresh from the store soon after release, but I've never been assaulted by bad flavors.

North Country Brünette pours a fairly dark auburn. It appeared to be clear which I took as a sign that there's less wheat in this bier. Maybe I need to learn to pour but I never seem to get a big head with these Noble Star brews. Here I got a small one that was off-white and, just like others, dissipated rather quickly. However, there was plenty of bubbles inside the bier going up the glass.

Taking a whiff, I got the usual lemony/citrusy lactic acid smell along with some subtle barnyard brettanomyces funk and some even more subtle hints of leather and perhaps cherry. I think the latter two scents were from the malt. Never having had a Märzen Berliner Weisse, I wasn't sure exactly what was typical for the aroma. Add to that the bier's age and I was clearly in terra incognita. Well, for me, anyway.

An insistent lemony lacto sour was first in the taste and its potency didn't diminish very much as I went along. Schell has, for my taste, really hit the sweet spot as far as making the Noble Stars sour. So far they've had a consistent level of sourness which is perfect for me. The Noble Star biers are aged in reconditioned cypress lagering tanks and I could really taste that here. It seems that the woody flavor gets lost when there's fruit involved. There was also a little brett funk which grew as the bier warmed. North Country Brünette tasted less fizzy than previous Noble Stars but I suspect that's due to its slightly heavier body.

I couldn't taste anything typically malty, if you will. The heavier body betrayed more grain but I didn't discern any caramel or roasted grain flavors. I thought it tasted fairly dry but not particularly acidic. The bier also had vinous flavor to it which reminded me of vermouth. I highly suspect this to be an off flavor due to age but it wasn't an unpleasant one as it went well with the woody notes.

North Country Brünette finished dry with some lingering lactic sourness and a touch of brett. Not a trace of Schaumhaftvermoegen.

This was quite a departure from the Berliner Weisse that I was used to and was akin to a sour brown ale. By the time I got to the bottom of the bottle I was tasting a lot more funk than I did in my first glass but still not a great amount. Schell hit another sweet spot for me. Moving away from light and light & fruity, North Country Brünette is replete with darker, earthier flavors than the previous Noble Stars I've had. I could have done with a bit less woody flavor but this is a minor quibble. As the third release in the series, it's a great diversion out into left field.

Junk food pairing: North Country Brünette goes well with blue cheese. Sadly, we are going to have to wait for the day when junk food makers will offer something that lets blue cheese stand alone instead of the mandatory mingling with Buffalo wing sauce dust. Until then try some Doritos Collisions Hot Wings and Blue Cheese where you can segregate the blue cheese chips from the spicy ones.

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|| Palmer, 11:56 AM

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