Schell’s Emerald Rye

Emerald Rye, the new year round beer from the August Schell Brewing Company, has been out for a while now. I had the opportunity to taste it some time ago, but I’m just now getting around to giving it some proper attention. Things are busy, you know.

People were somewhat surprised when this beer was announced. A 60 IBU brew from Schell’s? How could this be possible from Brewmaster Dave Berg, a brewer somewhat famous for his aversion to tongue-scraping hop loads? But a suggestion from Jace Marti, soon to be CEO and 6th-genaration (or is it 7th?) descendant of the original August, proved too much to resist. Having just returned from brewing school in Germany, Jace was excited about a new hop called Smaragd – the German word for Emerald – that had the spiciness of a classic noble hop combined with copious fruit character. A touch of spicy rye would be the perfect complement to this hop, they decided. And true to Schell’s tradition, the new brew would be a lager.

Here’s my notes:

Emerald Rye
August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: Rye Lager
Serving Style: 12 oz bottle

Aroma: Tangerines and toast. A bit of caramel-like sweetness lies underneath. Lime zest, oranges, pears and herbs sit on top. It’s a freakin’ fruit basket.

Appearance: Amber with reddish highlights. The long-lasting, creamy, off-white foam settles slowly to a film on the surface. Brilliantly clear.

Flavor: Sweet and bitter balanced. Bitterness hits at the top and returns at the finish. In between is toast and melanoidin malt with spicy rye flavors to give it some pep. The delicious fruit basket returns in the flavor; melons, citrus, floral and herbs. The finish is long lasting, leaving traces of sweet malt and fruit after that last bitter bite.

Mouthfeel: Medium-high body. Medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: Yes, it’s a bitter beer. 60 IBU is relatively high, especially coming from Schell’s, a brewery – and brewer – not known for the excessive use of hops. But this is not excessive. The sturdy malt backbone balances perfectly, leaving neither hops nor malt with the upper hand. The body reveals every bit of its 6% ABV, making for a satisfying quaff. This is a great food beer. It would be wonderful with cheddar or blue cheese, or maybe a hard cheese like aged Gouda. It was a great accompaniment to my Greek-seasoned, grilled pork chop. It would stand up well to a steak.

Old Chicago Gold Medal Mini Tour

Truth be told, site I don’t go to Old Chicago all that often. But they send me notices of each new mini-tour and every once in a while one will catch my attention – pique my curiosity. And so it was that the current one found me sitting at the Roseville location sampling beers.

Until August 19th, Old Chicago is featuring the Olympic-season-appropriate Gold Medal Mini Tour. The 8-beer tour is made up entirely of beers that have recently gone for the Gold in major national or international competition. This theme makes for an interesting and varied lineup. Remember that all of these competitions have Light American Lagers categories in addition to those for the more flavorful and funky brews. The Old Chicago selection of award-winners reflects that variety. At Roseville (three beers in the list vary from store to store) the list encompasses Michelob Ultra as well as Stone Cali-Belgique.

I didn’t sample the whole flight, as for some of them there was really no need. But here is the full list with notes for those that I did try.

Blue Moon Belgian White Ale

Michelob Ultra – Believe it or not, I had never tasted Michelob Ultra. I don’t tend to spend much energy on light beers. So it was with a certain amount of excitement that I raised the sampler to my lips. How do they make it so sweet when all the carbs are removed? It’s a mystery – a marvel of modern brewing science. And of course there was the green apple note that is the signature of AB products. I could see this being okay on a hot summer day if it is really ice cold. People are always complaining that beers like this win medals. Remember, the big-boys invented the category. Whether  or not you like the styles – or the breweries – they make them better than anyone else.

Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen – It had been over a decade since I had a Widmer Wheat. This is another hot-weather quencher. Crisp and dry with wheaty sharpness, it differs from other American wheat beers in its inclusion of subtle banana and clove yeast character. This could make a tasty everyday fridge beer. Nothing taxing, but tasty all the same.

Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss

Schneider Weisse Tap 7 Original – This beer has won a ton of awards, and for good reason. It’s a great beer. It’s not called a dunkelweizen, but has many of the characteristics of one, including a dark-amber coloring. The sharp wheatiness is there. The full, yet light-bodied mouthfeel is there. Yeasty banana and clove are present, but not dominant. It’s rounded out by delicious caramel and dark fruit flavors with a touch of chocolate in the finish. Delightful! I just had to finish the bottle. Couldn’t let good beer go to waste.

Summit Extra Pale Ale

Stone Cali-Belgique IPA – Sometimes beers evoke images in my mind. While drinking this beer I could see the elegantly sleek outlines of modern industrial design; horizontal stonework, hanging light fixtures, exposed ventilation in the ceiling, and occasional flashes of corrugated steel. It’s bitter, but not the tongue scraper that I would expect from Stone. Peppery phenolics from Belgian yeast offer a nice complement to the spicy hops. A slight citrus edge adds bright highlights. The finish is clean and super-dry. This is an elegant beer.

Red Hook ESB – Another beer that I haven’t tasted in over a decade, this one took me back to the 90s when I lived in Chicago and waited tables at a restaurant in Evanston. It was a go-to craft beer at the time. Its reputation has faded since. It starts sharply bitter and then evolves to a caramel/toffee center. Bitterness lingers after swallowing. There was an intense fruitiness here; oranges and tangerines. It surprised us all. I don’t remember that strong fruitiness, but after more than 10 years, how much can I really remember of the taste of this beer?