Showing posts with label august schell brewing company. Show all posts
Showing posts with label august schell brewing company. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Double the Darkness

It was only after I discovered the delights of beer from small breweries in the Czech Republic that I started to develop a taste for dark lager, called either Tmavé or ?erné depending on the whim of the brewery. Kozel's ?erné is more of a dark amber while Kout na ?umavě's Tmavé absorbs light like a black hole, yet one is "black" and the other "dark respectively.

When I finally decided to make my own lagers, during a particularly cold snap in January, the style I chose first was tmavé, simply because I knew it would be more forgiving of any mess ups along the way than would be a pilsner. I wrote about the recipe and inspiration for the beer back at the beginning of the year. Having enjoyed most of my stash of ?erny Lev, I learnt that Schell's Brewing Company up in Minnesota had done a limited batch of tmavé, calling it Stag 5 and so I wanted to do a side by side tasting of the two beers.

First up was Schell's, which is 5.7% and has 30 IBU of Saaz, if the info on Ratebeer is to be believed. Although this picture makes the beer look almost pitch black, it is in fact a dark brown which becomes a rich crimson when held up to the light. The head is light tan and lingers for the duration. It most certainly looked the part.

In terms of aroma there was caramel, like toffee really, a hint of roasted coffee, though it wasn't harsh and in your face about it, and the gentle, soothing spiciness of Saaz hops in the background. I wasn't expecting the smooth flavours of bitter sweet chocolate to be at the fore in the taste department, but it was and it worked well, that roasty edge was there, like toast that is between done and burnt, and the bitterness of the hops kicks in at the end. I found myself sucking this beer down, well assembled, easy to drink and medium bodied, yes I liked it. Where I would put it in the spectrum of tmavé that I have drunk in the Czech Republic? Well ahead of the likes of Kozel and Staropramen, that's for sure, so on a par with Bernard I would say (for the unitiated, that means pretty damned good).

Now for my ?erny Lev, which is "Black Lion" in English, which ended up with 5.6% abv and 24 IBU, so in a similar ballpark to the Schell's. This time the picture doesn't hide anything, the beer is a very dark brown, bordering on black and edged with crimson in the light. The head is light tan and voluminous, when eventually it died down a bit, it stuck at about a centimetre for the time it took me to drink the beer. With the head duly receded, it again looked the part.

The aromas bouncing around in the glass for this were treacle, roasted coffee, with hints of spice and I thought a trace of lemony hay. In the taste department the coffee really came to the fore, coupled with sweet malty juiciness and a firm bitter bite which may have slightly unbalanced the beer. The body on my beer was fuller than the Schell's and there was a trace of something solventy about the beer, which I think may have come from underpitching the yeast and having it at slightly higher temperatures than recommended. I like my beer, always a good thing, but it isn't as well integrated and put together as Schell's. Mrs V expressed a clear preference for the Schell's, saying that my beer had too much roastiness in it for her tastes.

I think I might do this kind of comparative tasting a bit more often, as a way to gauge where my homebrew is going right and going wrong. Certainly a worthwhile experiment, I think the next one will be my German Pilsner next to Scrimshaw.

I just wanted to quickly thank Josh up in Minnesota for procuring and sending the beer down to fellow CAMRA homebrewer and occasional blogger, Jamey - have a read of his blog, Barlow Brewing.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Brewer of the Week

The year is 1860, and immigrants are flooding into the US. The Civil War is still a year away. Germany won't exist as a nation state for another 11 years, and only then after giving the French a bit of a spanking. The British Open is played for the first time, near Ayr in Scotland, and in New Ulm, Minnesota there is a new brewery.

Having been born in the Schwarzwald area of Baden-Württemberg, August Schell was one of those immigrants and on realising that good German style beer was difficult to find in the New World he set about making it himself. Much like the pioneers of today's craft beer movement. 151 years later, the August Schell Brewing Company is the second oldest brewery in America.

Name: David Berg
Brewery: August Schell Brewing Company

How did you get into brewing as a career?

After working in the avionics industry as an engineer for 8 years, I decided it was time for a change in my life. I had been homebrewing for a number of years and I really enjoyed it. So, I decided to go to brewing school.

When I graduated from the American Brewer’s Guild in 1996, I accepted the head brewing job at Water Tower Brewing in Eden Prairie, MN. I brewed there until 2002, and then I took a job as head brewer at Bandana Brewing in Mankato, MN. When I was laid off in 2006, I accepted the job as Assistant Brewmaster at August Schell Brewing.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

Attention to details.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

Yes, I did homebrew. I wouldn’t say any of the recipes were necessarily converted to full scale production, but rather that any beer I’ve brewed (as a homebrewer or professional) has influenced subsequent beers.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

I haven’t homebrewed since 1996.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

I really like the concept of our winter seasonal, Snowstorm. The style changes every year, and it’s always our most anticipated seasonal. As the tagline goes “Much like snowflakes, no two Snowstorm beers are alike”

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

I enjoy the process of brewing, so it’s not necessarily about the particular beer you are brewing.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

That’s a little like asking which child is your favorite! I like them all and drink them all. But, if I have to choose which one I grab for the most, I’d say Schell’s Pils.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

It’s important to a point. However, with technological improvements in malting and brewing over the years, it’s probably equally important to understand why certain methods were historically used. In the end, it’s about the flavor of the beer in the glass, not how you got there.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

That’s a tough one, as I have a lot of friends and folks I respect in the brewing industry. However, if I had to choose one, I’d go with Yuengling. Think about it, the two oldest family owned breweries in the US collaborating on a beer. The beer websites would hate it!

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Probably either Anchor Steam or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Both those beers were forerunners of today’s brewing industry.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...