Summit Unchained #12: 100% Organic Ale

Gabe Smoley is one of the newest brewers at Summit Brewing Company. Unchained #12: 100% Organic Ale is his first entry into the Unchained Series. He went all out to make a certified, stuff 100% organic brew. Says he, “Most USDA certified organic beers on the market are about 95-99.9% organic because it is extremely difficult to find ingredients like organic yeast. This beer is made with 100% organic ingredients including malts, hops and yeast. Summit microbiologist James Fetherston and I worked together to create our own certified organic yeast strain to do this, as there are virtually no organic strains available from laboratories.”

The aim was to craft a light, yet bracing beer appropriate for spring; a move away from the heavy beers of winter, with a hoppy kick to mimic the lingering cold. Drinkers who are too tied to the style guidelines may take issue with calling this an IPA, but they do say “sessionable IPA.” Just drink it and enjoy it for what it is, whatever that may be.

100% Organic Ale launches this week with meet-the-brewer events at bars around the Metro.

March 12: Release Party/Meet the Brewer – House of Pizza, Sartel, 5-7 pm
March 13: Meet the brewer – Brasa St. Paul, 6-8 pm – Brasa St. Paul and Minneapolis will also feature Unchained 12 food pairings from 5-9 pm
March 14: “Hoppy Meals” pairings – Republic Uptown, 4-6 pm; Republic Seven Corners, 7-9 pm
March 15: Firkin Friday with Organic Ale cask – Grumpy’s NE, 4 pm
March 21: Meet Gabe and sample Organic Ale – Four Firkins, 6-8 pm
March 28: Flight Night at Ginger Hop featuring Organic Ale. Flights include four Summit beers total.

Here’s my notes:

Organic-Ale-BTL-web2Unchained #12: 100% Organic Ale
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: “Session” IPA
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle

Aroma: Big aromatics from a fairly small beer. Hops hit the nose first – floral and citrus. Biscuity malt comes in shortly to offer support. Nicely balanced between the two. An undercurrent of candied fruit throughout.

Appearance: Dark golden color and clear. The off-white head is full, creamy, and very persistent. Settled after a long while to a sustained film on the surface.

Flavor: Light and refreshing. Very dry with pithy bitterness that lingers well into the finish. Floral and lemon-lime citrus hop flavors carry through from beginning to end. Some peppery spice in there as well. The malt fills in lightly underneath with a biscuit character that brings a vaguely English flair. It offers enough sweetness to temper the hops, but not quite enough to balance.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Medium-high carbonation.

Overall Impression: This one leans a bit more to hops than I would like, but then that’s kind of the point of the beer. It’s close, but a hint more malt to back up the bitterness would have been welcome on my palate. Brewer Smoley says to drink this around 40°F. I would suggest a higher temperature to bring out more of the malt. While style-sticklers will have issues with calling this an “IPA,” it fits the brewer’s description of “sessionable IPA” quite nicely; light like a pale ale, but with a bigger hop load.

Professor Fritz Briem Grodziskie

Once upon a time “white” beers were brewed across the European continent. These wheat-based brews encompassed a great breadth of flavors. Some remnants still exist – Hefeweizen, medicine physician Belgian Witbier, hospital Gose, thumb and Berliner Weiss – although the latter three are styles that very nearly went extinct. Another white beer style to be recently resurrected from the dead is Grodziskie, also called Grätzer.

Grodziskie is a tart and smoky wheat beer from the Polish town of Grodzisk (Grätz in German) that is thought to have first been brewed sometime in the 1400s. It was once popular across northern Germany. Although the style survived into the late 20th-century, the last brewery producing it closed in the mid-1990s.

Sometime around 2007 a Polish businessman bought the brewery and began making the beer again using the original yeast strain that had been preserved by the brewmaster. Since then the style has seen a comeback as several American and European breweries have begun producing it. Locally, Pour Decisions Brewing Company in Roseville makes a rather tasty example on an occasional basis.

Grodziskie is a low-alcohol brew in the range of 4% ABV that is brewed from oak-smoked wheat malt. While it is agreed by all that it is a top-fermented beer, there is disagreement on whether or not there was some sort of lactic fermentation involved. Some reports that I found reference a sour-mash process, which would have introduced some lactobacillus to the mix for a bit of yogurt-like tartness. Others make no mention of any sourness at all.

The Fritz Briem version is reportedly brewed according to an historic recipe. It uses barley malt and wheat malt smoked with beechwood instead of oak. A sour mash is employed for some smoke-cutting acidity.

Here’s my notes:

Fritz Briem GrätzerGrodziskie
Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, Freising, Germany
Style: Grodziskie or Grätzer
Serving Style: 16.9 oz. bottle

Aroma: Aromatics are low. Smoke is dominant, but doesn’t dominate. It’s a woody smoke, not the meaty smoke of a Rauchbier. Crackery wheat stays just below the surface.

Appearance: Deep golden with a slight haze. Nice head of rocky, white foam that dissipated relatively quickly – surprisingly quickly for a wheat beer.

Flavor: Sharp wheat and smoke come in on almost equal footing. Smoke is subtle compared to a Rauchbier, and more woody than meaty. Bitterness is relatively high and accentuated by the well-attenuated, crisp, dry finish. It leaves a cooling feeling at the back of the throat. Spicy hop flavors play nicely with the smoke. Light lactic acidity leaves an impression of lemony citrus. I get a slight saltiness mid-palate. The taste of wheat lingers after swallowing.

Mouthfeel: Light body. Medium-high carbonation.

Overall Impression: A refreshing and unique wheat beer that manages to be feather-light and deeply complex at the same time. The smoke is nicely balanced with the wheat and not at all overpowering. Lemony, lactic tartness cuts through them both. Nothing overwhelms. Like a well-prepared dish, everything can be tasted on its own, but it all hangs together as a piece.