Fearful Symmetries

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31 March, 2016

The Tap X-Files: Mein Cuvée Barrique by Schneider Weisse

Whenever I see a bottle of German bier here in the States that features citrus-tasting hops or openly and proudly defies the Reinheitsgebot, I always wonder if that bier is sold in Germany. I get the impression that, while pilsners by the Bitburgers and Krombachers still rule the roost, biers with fruit, very hoppy ales, etc. are slowly appearing on store shelves and on taps.

The bier I'm reviewing today, Schneider Weisse's Tap X Cuvée Barrique, is a weizenbock aged in pinot noir barrels for eight months. While I gather that the bier was brewed in accordance with the infamous bier purity laws I have no idea if aging in a wine barrel leaves the finished product Reinheitsgebot-compliant or not. Even if it isn't, I'd imagine that Schneider Weisse brewmaster Hans-Peter Drexler has managed to profoundly irritate many of his fellow Bavarians who think that this bier violates the Reinheitsgebot in spirit, if not in practice.

Schneider Weisse brews – what else? - weissbiers and is best-known, here in the States, anyway, for its Aventinus, a weizenbock, and Aventius Weizen-Eisbock. These are generally considered to be world-class biers. I don't know if Drexler saw the writing on the wall or is merely a curious fellow, but he has taken Schneider Weisse on jaunts away from tradition. For example, there's Hopfenweisse, an extra hoppy weissbier that was the result of a collaboration between Drexler and Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery.

The Tap X series, which appears to be an annual release, takes things out into left field. The first entry back in 2011 was a weissbier brewed with Belgian yeast and Nelson Sauvin hops, a variety from New Zealand. The following year came this brew, Cuvée Barrique, which is a blend of Aventinus and Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock which was "matured" in pinot noir barrels for eight months.

Mein Cuvée Barrique pours a deep brown with red highlights which I guess makes it chestnut. I was rather surprised that the bier was clear. Perhaps I shouldn't have been but I figured weizenbocks are hazy and sitting in a wine barrel must surely leave behind grape must detritus or tannin scree or some such thing, right? My pour produced a moderately sized head that was tan and lasted a little while. Due to the dark color, I wasn't able to see inside the glass and collapse the wave form so the bier was both effervescent and still at the same time.

Have you ever smelled a beer, read a description of that beer's smell by someone whose nose caught a totally different set of aromas than yours, and then sniffed the beer again only to find that you're now smelling what that other person did? I hate it when that happens so I purposefully avoided reading the little card that came draped around the bottle's neck until I was done drinking it. That card says that Mein Cuvée Barrique smells like "fighs [sic] and dried pears." Since I haven't taken a whiff of figs in years and don’t recall ever having come across dried pears, I can only imagine how my brain would have dealt with this cognitive dissonance. As it was, I thought the bier had an aroma of sour cherries and plum. It was all stone fruits for me – no pomaceous ones.

The tag said my tongue would meet "cherries, balanced by a hint of vanilla and chocolate and a pleasantly sour and liquorice taste." I definitely caught the cherry and that hint of chocolate. Vanilla, not so much. There was a little bite of fizziness from the carbonation along with a little tartness. I did not catch liquorice but I did get some clove. One of the great beer tasting conundrums for me is why I taste vermouth in certain beers. I tasted it here but didn't find it surprising as vermouth is fortified wine. The bier had a medium body and was very smooth.

For the finish the cherry and vermouth flavors were joined by a little boozy heat and some tannin dryness. There was no Schaumhaftvermoegen to be had as all of it slid down into the bier.

To be honest, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Mein Cuvée Barrique. I don’t mean to damn Schneider Weisse with faint praise, it's just that I am not a wine drinker. I'll have a glass of Riesling every once in a while but red wine is verboten. That stuff is too dry; it's like drinking chalk. In addition, I couldn't taste much weizen here beyond some clove so the emphasis was firmly on the vinous flavors. But I still enjoyed the rich, tart fruitiness bedecked with some spice and accented with just enough tannin dryness for a nice contrast. I think the bier's medium body and smooth mouthfeel also helped differentiate it from wine in my head.

Junk food pairing: Pair Mein Cuvée Barrique with some of Herr's Kansas City Prime Steak Flavor potato chips and/or dark chocolate covered pretzels.

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|| Palmer, 1:47 PM


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