Fearful Symmetries

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23 August, 2016

The Evil Rye: Böse Roggen by Excel Brewing Company

It is a testament to my tenure in IT that whenever I see this bier bottle, I don't think of doing well at some endeavor but rather of spreadsheets and green Xs. Excel the brewery is an adjunct (pun intended) of the Excel Bottling Company in Breese, Illinois. Breese is downstate, east of St. Louis, in the land that gave us Uncle Tupelo.

The brewing operation began in 2012 and Excel completely revamped its line-up in 2014. The bier at hand, Böse Roggen (German for "evil rye"), was a result of the changes. The special insight that rye and dark lagers are match made im Himmel is apparently unique to Illinois as the only other instance I know of this spectacular combination is Arc Welder by Chicago's Metropolitan Brewing.

Excel began distributing to the Chicago area about a year ago, it seems, and I picked up my six pack three weeks ago out in the burbs.

Böse Roggen appears to be totally black until you hold it at an angle to the light where you can see that it's really a very deep reddish brown. My best guess is that it was clear but I can neither confirm nor deny that one. While I have a thing for bright, pale beers with big, fluffy white heads in the summertime, this one had a big, loose tan head that lasted a fair while and radiated its own dark aestival beauty.

The Excel webpage notes that Böse Roggen is made up of 50% rye which is a combination of rye malt and chocolate rye malt. The more I think about chocolate rye malt, the more I think it should be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Food or perhaps be mentioned on those gold discs we affix to interstellar probes to demonstrate to the aliens out there that we come in peace and that at least some of us are epicureans.

Getting back to the bier, my nose beheld all that rye. You could smell its spiciness. But there was also the chocolate part of the equation with roasted grain, bitter chocolate, and coffee in equal parts to the rye making for a complex yet balanced aroma.

And that wonderful, earthy spiciness came through quite well to my tongue. Joining it were the requisite Schwarzbier tastes of coffee and chocolate, the latter being less bitter here than on the nose. The carbonation was pretty mild as was a grassy hop flavor. Overall a nice, clean lager taste with an emphasis on rye and dark malts.

All of those dreamy malt flavors dissolved into a hoppy finish that was a bit on the peppery side. This made things rather dry - not Bohemian pilsener territory but rather dry nonetheless. There was some Schaumhaftvermoegen with a couple decently-sized patches as the odd speck of foam.

Ausgezeichnet! The big dose of rye pays off here, to my taste, with the grain's prominent spiciness being a real treat to both my nose and tongue. As a fan of dark biers, I loved the schwarzbier base with its rich coffee and dark chocolate flavors that the chocolate rye malt added. And being a schwarzbier also means that Böse Roggen has a fairly light body and a clean, crisp lager taste. (It comes in a 4.8% A.B.V.) Rye and dark malts are two of my favorite ingredients and so this bier was like winning the lottery for me. The only problem with Böse Roggen is that I've got to cross state lines to get my hands on it.

Junk food pairing: For a sweet indulgence, pair Böse Roggen with some Dark Chocolate Crunch Pretzel Crisps and let the chocolate melt into the dark roasted flavors of the bier. On the savory side grab a bag of smoked gouda potato chips. The creamy cheesiness complements the bier's smooth taste while the smoke does the same with the rye and roasted grain.

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|| Palmer, 5:42 AM


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