Schell’s Stag Series #8: August’s Bock

The folks at August Schell Brewing Company have been busy little brewers. They’ve released a bevy of new bevis in the last little bit. I’m having a hard time keeping up. Seems I totally missed out on the fresh-hop brew this year. I did manage to snatch a couple bottles of the Stag Series #8 and Snowstorm. Now if I could just stay home a night or two so that I could taste all this beer.

Schell’s Stag Series #8: August’s Bock is a collaboration brew with the Brauerei Gold-Ochsen (Golden Ox Brewery) in Ulm, Germany. There some interesting commonalities between these two breweries. Both are family owned by fifth generation decedents of men named August. Then there is the obvious Ulm/New Ulm connection. Between them they have nearly 570 years of brewing experience. Gold-Ochsen was founded in 1597 and Schell’s in 1860.

The beer is brewed in the Heller Doppelbock style. The recipe was worked out collaboratively by the brewmasters at each brewery. Each one brewed the beer using their local base malts, but the same specialty malts from Weyermann Malting in Germany. The hop bills were the same – Tettnang, Saphire and Smaragd hops from the Tettnang region of Germany located near the Gold Ochsen Brewery – except for the dry-hop additions. Gold Ochsen dry hopped their version with Mandarina Bavaria hops and the Schell’s Brewery used a German variety, Polaris.

Here’s my notes:

Schell's Stag Series #8: August's BockSchell’s Stag Series #8: August’s Bock
August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota & Gold Ochsen Brewery, Ulm, Germany
Style: Helles Bock
Serving Style: 12 oz. Bottle

Aroma: Thick pilsner malt sweetness with tones of honeyed bread and faint stone fruits. Medium hop aromas – spicy and floral. Cinnamon and fancy soap. A bit of marijuana. Alcohol is apparent.

Appearance: Deep gold with an orange tint. Brilliantly clear. Moderate head of creamy, off-white foam with moderate retention.

Flavor: Very balanced between malt and hops. Malt leads slightly – again with honeyed bread character. Light red apple notes. Hop bitterness is medium, with a sharpness that catches on the way out. Floral and spicy hops flavors offer contrast that cuts the sweetness of the malt – cinnamon and flowers. Maybe a tad catty. A hint of alcohol. Finish is off-dry with lingering floral and honey flavors.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Medium-high carbonation. Some alcohol warming.

Overall Impression: A lovely balance of rich, honey-like malt and flowers. So much floral hop flavor. Almost too much for me. Almost, but not quite. I want that malt to come through. Big and yet still light and refreshing. The enhanced hop bitterness and flavor cuts the sweet to keep it that way.

Schell’s Star of the North Berliner Weisse

Hidden on the grounds of the Schell brewery are lagering cellars built in the 1890s by Otto Schell, son of the company’s founder August. Nestled in those cellars is a single cypress fermentation tank installed in 1936 by Otto’s grandson Alfred. There were of course more of these tanks at one time, but they were dismantled and removed sometime later in the brewery’s history. Only the one remains.

In 2008 current Brewmaster and 6th generation descendant of August Schell, Jace Marti, returned from brewing school and set about restoring that piece of Schell’s history. The plan was to use it for a special line of beers called the Noble Star Collection. The wooden vessel was to be inoculated with cultures of brettanomyces and lactic acid producing bacteria to craft the delicate sour beers were once an important part of German brewing tradition.

The first beer in the collection is Star of the North, brewed in the style of the nearly extinct Berliner Weisse. A mash of pilsner and wheat malt (mostly wheat) was given a double decoction and the wort was sent to the fermenter without boiling, as is traditional for the style. The driving force of Berliner Weisse is the character derived from fermentation by lactobacillus, an acid producing bacteria. It results in a tart, fruity beer that can be drunk as is, but is often enjoyed with a shot of sweet raspberry or woodruff syrup – “mit Schuß.” Hops play next to no role in the flavor of Berliner Weisse – Star of the North boasts only 4 IBU. Hops are added more for their preservative quality to keep the lactic fermentation in check.

It’s a trend now for American brewers to revive historic beer styles. Berliner Weisse is one of them. Many of these efforts aim high, but end up short of their mark. Schell’s is one of my top-5 breweries in Minnesota. They have a solid reputation for crafting traditional German ales and lagers. I was excited to see what they would do with Berliner Weisse.

Here’s my notes:

StarOfNorthStar of the North
August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: Berliner Weisse
Serving Style: 750 ml bottle

Aroma: Delicate. Fronts with tart green apples and fresh lemons. Crackery wheat sits just underneath. A dash of floral makes an appearance. There is a hint of brettanomyces barnyard, but only if you look for it.

Appearance: Pale yellow. Very hazy, but not quite cloudy. Has a white cast like a Beligan witbier. The moderate stand of fluffy, white foam dissipated fairly quickly, falling to a gauze on the surface. Effervescent bubbles.

Flavor: Bright and tart with high acidity; cider-like. Green apples and lemons lead, like the aroma. Acidity is the primary flavor driver, but cracker-like wheat survives to provide a comfy cushion. A bit of brettanomyces leather and barnyard brings earthy tones to this beer that is otherwise all about sunshine. Hops never make an appearance. The finish is quick and dry with some lingering tartness.

Mouthfeel: Light body. Effervescent carbonation.

Overall Impression: Delightful and refreshing. Despite its lightness there are layers of flavor, particularly as the brettanomyces yeast adds earthy depth. At 3.5% alcohol, Star of the North is a light and satisfying, summer patio sipper. It’s beautiful as it is, but it would be great with a “Schuß” of raspberry syrup.

Schell’s Goosetown

The folks down at Schell’s keep trotting out the new brews. I have to say, I was devastated to learn that Chimney Sweep, my new favorite, was not a year-round offering. Somehow I had got it in my head that it was. Maybe wishful thinking. In fact it’s a six-month beer that will alternate with Goosetown, a new Gose-ish summer beer.

Goosetown is part of a new trend in brewing to recreate extinct or nearly-extinct beer styles. One could say that the trend began in 1967 when Pierre Celis opened the Hoegaarden brewery to revive the Belgian witbier style that had sputzed out of existence ten years earlier. Today microbrewers are brewing modern interpretations of such long-lost beers as Gose, Mumme, Berliner Weisse, Grätzer, and Burton Ale.

Gose (pronounced GŌ-zuh) seems to fit into the family of “white beers” that once existed across Europe and Great Britain. It includes Hefeweizen, Berliner Weiss, and witbeir among other styles. Gose originated in the region near Leipzig, where water high in sodium lent the beer a saline profile. It’s a wheat based beer, often with coriander added. Lactic fermentation gives it a lemony tartness.

Goosetown isn’t exactly an authentic, traditionally brewed Gose. I don’t think the brewers at Schell’s would dispute that assertion. It is a tasty and refreshing summer ale, though. I actually tasted this long ago. I’ve been tied up in an all-consuming project in Chicago, however, and am just now getting around to posting my notes.

Here’s My notes:

August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: Gose
Serving Style: 12 oz. Bottle

Aroma: Wheaty. Bread and Saltines. Very light fruity notes – like a light lemony citrus. Aromatics are very subtle and mostly malt.

Appearance: The first sample was light golden and brilliantly clear, although later bottles have had a haze. Long-lasting fluffy white head. It really sticks around in a thick layer on surface.

Flavor: Bready wheat malt with smooth edges. Background salinity, but not enough to say it’s salty. It adds a mineral note and gives emphasizing contrast to the malt. Light sweetness. Bitterness is low and hop flavors are nearly non-existent. Only the lightest note of spice and something that reminds me of Indian lime-pickle. Maybe it’s the salt and noble hops bringing that to my mind. There is an afterthought of lemony acidity, but not nearly enough to say it’s sour. Maybe not even enough to notice outright unless you really pay attention. Like the coriander and orange in a witbier, it enhances without drawing attention to itself. Finishes with a parting shot of light bitterness and lingering bread and lemons.

Mouthfeel: Light body. Medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: Delicate yet flavorful. Exceptionally clean and balanced. Billed as a Gose. It’s Gose-ish, but I’d call it more of a slightly salty American wheat beer with a hint of acidity. But that’s okay. It’s a delightfully drinkable brew. It almost makes up for taking Chimney Sweep away for the summer. Almost, but not quite. I really want to try this with Indian lime pickle. The intensity of the pickle may overpower the beer, but something tells me it would be a good pairing.

Schell’s Chimney Sweep and Snowstorm 2012: Bière de Noël

A while back I wrote a piece in the Growler magazine about beer tickers. In it I discuss how the relentless quest for what’s rare and new is shaping today’s beer market.

Gone are the days when it was enough just to make good beer. Now brewers have to constantly innovate to garner attention. Fail to do so and they become passé, regardless of how good their standard line-up may be. Old-school brewers whose reputations have been built on solid examples of classic styles find themselves pushed to produce boutique beers or risk irrelevance.

And so it is that a 150-year-old brewery – the second oldest family owned brewery in the country and a pioneer of American craft beer – releases no less than four new brands this year.

The brewers at Schell’s have been busy. Spring saw the release of a new full-time beer, the hopped-up Emerald Rye, and Czech Dark Lager, the fifth beer in the Stag Series lineup. Fall brings another Stag Series Beer – Fresh Hop Citra Pils – and another full-time release – Chimney Sweep. That’s in addition to the annually-altered seasonal Snowstorm.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand Schell’s regular lineup is great. Theirs is one of the best Pilsners available. The seasonal Hefeweizen is phenomenal. Firebrick is a go-to beer for me. With such a solid stable, they shouldn’t really have to constantly introduce new brands to keep beer lovers’ attention. On the other hand, Schell’s makes great beer. More brands mean more great beers to enjoy. It’s a double-edged sword.

At any rate, the brewers at Schell’s have been busy. Chimney Sweep and the 2012 Snowstorm hit shelves just in the last couple of weeks. I finally had the chance to give them a try.

Here’s my notes:

Chimney Sweep
August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: Smoked Schwarzbier
Serving Style: 12 oz bottle

Aroma: A little bit of chocolate. A little bit of spice. A little bit of smoke. It’s not the bacony smoke of a traditional rauchbier. It’s more of a campfire smoke; that smell of your jacket after a night by the fire pit.

Appearance: Full, long-lasting, rocky, beige head. Dark brown and clear.

Flavor: Malt dominates with bittersweet, dark chocolate and campfire smoke. The smoke is prominent, but not at all overwhelming. Moderate pilsner-malt sweetness is perfectly balanced by moderate bitterness from both hops and roasted grains. There is some floral and citrus character from Sterling and Liberty hops – my two favorite varieties – but it is subtle. Super balanced. Finishes with a flourish of hop and roast bitterness.

Mouthfeel: So creamy. Medium body and medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: I tasted this last night and as I type up my notes right now I find myself craving a glass of it. Alas and alack, it is only 8 am. Too soon to start drinking when there’s work to be done. Chimney Sweep is wonderfully balanced and easy to drink, and yet so full of flavor. If you’re a person who doesn’t think they like smoked beers, this might be the one for you. It’s smoky, yes, but subtle.

Snowstorm 2012: Bière de Noël
August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: Bière de Garde
Serving Style: 12 oz bottle

Aroma: What an interesting aroma. So much going on. Bread, herbs, honey, and brown sugar. Multiple fruits – green banana, red grapes, apples, a touch of fig. Belgian yeasty cotton candy. Horehound. Brings to mind the candied fruit in a loaf of fruit cake (I like fruitcake). Complex, layered, and changing.

Appearance: Medium-dark amber/orange and crystal clear. Good stand of rocky, off-white foam that falls quickly leaving a lace around the edge of the glass.

Flavor: The flavor follows on the aroma. It’s malt-forward and sweet, but with a dry finish. Bread crust, dark honey, and a bit of biscuit. Belgian cotton-candy sugar and yeast character. Loads of herbal notes – almost like a gruit. Touch of tartness comes in in the middle, but it’s not acidic. Bitterness is low. So much fruit – red-skinned Apples and orangy citrus. Cinnamon. White pepper traces in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Medium-high carbonation. Some alcohol warming.

Overall Impression: What a festive beer! This screams the holiday season – sugar, spice and everything nice. It’s more Belgian yeasty than most bières de garde I have had, but that’s a-okay. To me it falls somewhere between a dubbel and a quadruple; it’s too full and fruity for a dubbel, but not strong or sweet enough for a quad.

Schell’s Stag Series #6: Fresh Hop Citra Pils

Fall is fresh-hop season. Sometime in September the store shelves burst with super-citrusy IPAs that are loaded with unprocessed hops. They’re typically big, bright and a little bit grassy. I find the fresh hops impart subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) undertones of chive. By mid-October they’re mostly gone. There are still a couple lingerers as I type this, but the pickins are slim.

But just as the others disappear from stores, a new one from Schell’s suddenly appears. It’s a lager, so it had to cellar for a time before it could be released. That bottom-fermented identity is something that separates this one from the rest of the pack. Pilsners are the original hop-showcase beers. That perfumed Saaz-hop aroma is their claim to fame. Despite that, pilsners aren’t beers that most people think of as “hoppy.” Picking a pilsner to display the freshness of the new hop crop is an interesting move. It’s a choice that is perfectly in keeping with the Schell’s tradition of brewing great German-style lagers. It’s also in keeping with the somewhat hop-averse taste of Head Brewer Dave Berg.

Here’s my notes:

Stag Series #6: Fresh Hop Citra Pils
August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: German Pilsner with fresh citra hops
Serving Style: 12 oz. Bottle

Aroma: Bright citrusy hops – lemons and limes – do a delicate dance atop a base of graham cracker sweetness. Very yeasty. Malt and yeast dominate. Hop character blows off quickly.

Appearance: Light golden and hazy – reminded me of a witbier going into the glass. Mousse-like white foam that lasts and lasts – also sort of witbeir like.

Flavor: Yeast and malt hit first, giving the impression of bread dough. Bitterness is moderate, but hangs on into the finish. It’s a very delicate balance between malt and hops. The hop flavor is also delicate, but definite – revealing at varying moments lemons, limes, and ripe musk melons. At times the limes are almost tart, like Starburst candy. Hints of fresh-hop grass and chive occasionally poke their heads out in the background. Those lemons and limes linger long after swallowing.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body, but with yeasty fullness, like a witbier or a weizen. Medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: Everything about this beer says that I should love it. Pilsner is my perfect beer. I love a good Zwickelbier (unfiltered lager). Citra is one of my favorite new hop varieties. But there is something here that doesn’t quite fit for me. I think it’s that the doughiness of the still-suspended yeast fights for supremacy with the super-delicate flavors of the hops. It comes off a bit like a yeasty Radler. It’s not that I don’t like it, I do. I would drink a few pints. I just don’t love it. Now if it had been filtered…..

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.

Schell’s Stag Series #5: Czech Dark Lager

Do you know someone who says they don’t like dark beer? Put a blindfold on them and give them a taste of Czech Dark Lager, the newest Stag Series beer from August Schell Brewing Company. Although it’s nearly stout black, this beer has a pilsner-like character with just the slightest hint of roast. They’ll never know what hit ‘em, but they’ll like it when it does.

Czech-style black lagers are seldom seen in this country. I would wager a guess that they are seldom seen outside the Czech Republic. Probably the most famous version is the house beer at the 15th-century brewpub U Fleku in Prague. Not too dissimilar from a German schwarzbier, these lagers are deceptively dark, and the perfect example of why beer color is only a modest indicator of what a beer will taste like. As I am fond of saying, “Dark is not a flavor. Don’t be afraid of the dark.”

Here’s my notes:

Stag Series #5: Czech Dark Lager
August Schell Brewing Co., New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: Czech Dark Lager
Serving Style: 12 oz. Bottle

Aroma: Subtly aromatic. A bit of bready pilsner malt provides a substrate for gentle roasted character. Floral hops just float over the top. Lager freshness.

Appearance: Dark mahogany or garnet. Clear. A modest, rocky, off-white head forms and then falls, remaining as a ring of foam around the edge.

Flavor: Pilsner-like with a kiss of roast. Low levels of bready-sweet pilsner malt. The roasty flavors start out dry, like roasted barley and take on a bit of bittersweet chocolate as it warms with faint woody notes in the background. Bitterness is medium, about to the level of a good Czech pilsner. Floral hop flavors add the finishing touch. It goes out dry with a bit of lingering sweet perfume.

Mouthfeel: Sharp and crisp at first, it takes on a creaminess as it warms a bit. Carbonation is medium to medium-high.

Overall Impression: At nearly 6% the ABV on this is much higher than I thought. Not that 6% is high, but this drinks much lighter. What I love about lagers is their subtle complexity. They don’t hit you over the head. They make you look for it, but reward your effort. This beer does all that. It’s light and easy to drink like a pilsner, but the touch of roast adds an extra layer of depth and intrigue. While I think I still prefer Schell’s Pils, this Czech Dark Lager is definitely worth seeking out.

Schell’s Stag Series #4: Burton Ale

It’s hard to know what a real Burton Ale might have tasted like. The style, once among the most popular in England, pretty much died out 60 years ago. One is left with only old descriptions and brewer’s logs to try and piece together a facsimile. That is exactly what Dave Berg at August Schell Brewing Company did to create the fourth beer in the brewery’s Stag Series.

I’m not going to load this post down with a lengthy history of Burton Ale. You can read what British beer writer Martyn Cornell had to say about the style on the Zythophile blog.  Or you can really geek out about it with brewer’s logs and recipes on the Shut Up About Barklay Perkins blog. I’ll let those guys do that. I’m just going to tell you my impression of the Schell’s version and leave it at that.

Here’s my notes:

Stag Series #4: Burton Ale
August Schell Brewing Co., New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: Burton Ale
Serving Style: 12 oz Bottle

Aroma: Sweet and toasty malt takes center stage with overtones of caramel, figs, and just the slightest suggestion of citrus. Earthy hops remain in the background.

Appearance: Clear. Dark amber to mahogany colored. Good stand of rocky, beige foam that persisted reasonably well.

Flavor: The main event is sweet malt, redolent with flavors of molasses, brown sugar, caramel, figs and raisins. A light impression of chocolate enters midway through. Earthy and citrus hop flavors seem to float on another layer along with prickly, minerally bitterness. The bitterness balances, but sweetness rules. The finish is spectacular, well-attenuated, but sweet. It seems to go on forever with successive waves of molasses, figs, raisins, and even anise.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Thick and smooth. Medium carbonation. Light alcohol warming.

Overall Impression: Man, what a finish!! It was great in my mouth, but still I could hardly wait to swallow every sip. The flavor layers are clearly articulated. Some may find this beer too sweet, but I love malt and this really showcases malt. It’s a bit like an overly-hopped, English Doppelbock.

Schell’s Stag Series #3: Rauchbier

The first time I had a beer brewed with cherry wood smoked malt was a couple of years ago at the Goose Island Brewpub in Chicago. It was a bock beer, and it was awesome. I downed many a pint during my two-month Chicago residency.

I’ve had a few other cherry wood smoked beers since. Most have failed. Cherry wood smoke has a sharper, BBQ pit character than the meaty beechwood smoke of traditional Bamberg Rauchbiers. I call it “char-pit”, but it reminds me of mesquite or chipotle peppers without the heat. That sharpness requires a reasonably sweet beer to balance it. When that balance is achieved, it’s amazing.

A couple of things got me excited when I learned that Schell’s Stag Series beer #3 was to be a classic Rauchbier. First, I love rauchbiers. And I love Schell’s beers. The combination was bound to be good. Second, they were using a blend of beechwood and cherry wood smoked malts. That really caught my interest.

I finally managed to pick up a bottle and give it a shot. Here’s my notes:

Stag Series #3: Rauchbier
August Schell Brewing Co., New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: Rauchbier
Serving Style: 12 oz bottle

Aroma: Sweet toasty/caramel melanoidin with an overlay of subdued meaty and campfire smoke. Not so intensely smoky as Aecht Schlenkerla, but that’s okay. More like Spezial. Fresh. Just the faintest hint of herbal hops.

Appearance: Moderate, ivory-colored and persistent head. Crystal-clear. Dark amber color with ruby highlights. A treat for the eyes.

Flavor: Balanced interplay of caramel melanoidin malt with meaty, char-pit smoke. Like a charcoal grill after the cooking is done. The chipotle character from the cherry wood is very well expressed, and the beer is sweet enough to carry it. Hints of vanilla and raisins in the background. Finish is dry, with a sharp bitter kick that’s a bit astringent at first, but becomes less so as it warms. Spicy hop notes come in late and accentuate the spicy, cherry wood smoke. It leaves you with a lingering blend of cool hops, sweet raisiny malt, and wisps of smoke.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Crisp and clean. Medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: This is a well made beer that seems to gain intrigue as I continue to sip it. Great balance of malt and smoke. Nice blending of smoke flavors. It’s great to taste another beer that carries off the cherry wood smoke this well. Nicely done.

Schell’s Stag Series Barrel Aged Schmalz’s Alt

As the August Schell anniversary celebration in New Ulm approaches, I am getting toward the end of my own celebration of all things Schell. I finally got to try this year’s Oktoberfest the other day. I had it at the Renaissance Festival, so I don’t have formal tasting notes (aroma: turkey? Or is that sheep dung?). But I did find it tasty. Appropriately balance toward the caramelly Munich-type malt, but with a balancing spicy bite.

Today I post notes for the first in the Stage Series of specialty and experimental beers. This is a new direction for Schell’s and one that I’m excited about. While I am a devotee of the classic styles, it’s always fun to see a brewery stretch their muscles. For this first Stag Series beer they aged a small batch of one of their earliest specialty beers, Schmaltz’s Alt, in Pinot Noir Barrels. The base beer is one of my favorites from Schell’s and the idea of barrel aging it sounds great. The thing about experiments is that they don’t always work. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be done.

Here’s my notes:

Stag Series #1
August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: Barrel Aged Northern German Altbier
Serving Style: 22 oz Bottle

Aroma: Toasty, Caramel malt and vinous fruits. Vanilla oak character underlies.

Appearance: Dark brown with ruby highlights. Clear. Ample, creamy, beige head that stuck around for a while.

Flavor: Caramel and melanoidin malt with hints of chocolate roast. Subtle herbal hops with moderate bitterness. Vinous fruit flavors; grape, cherry. Vanilla and wood from the oak barrel. Light, tart acidity in the background.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, but struck me as a bit thin. Medium-low carbonation. Creamy.

Overall Impression: This one didn’t quite work for me. I love Schmaltz’s Alt on its own. In this case, however the caramel and toast/roast of the beer seemed to be doing battle with the fruit and acidity from the wine barrel. The parts were all there, alt, wine, and wood. They just didn’t quite work together. A worthy effort that just didn’t quite hit the mark. Looking forward to Number 2 in the series, a Wild Rice Farmhouse Ale.