(Note: this review was written last Thursday. Dark Lord Day will be on Saturday and I didn’t know what the state of my well being would be Saturday night when I return. I also didn’t want to go 2 weeks in a row with no review. So here ya go and there we are.)
Found a new beer today while browsing the shelves. It was made by a winning team of brewers who work at Stone Brewing in Escondido, California. The beer in question, Stone Spröcketbier Black Rye Kolsch comes with an interesting back story.
Stone has a 50 barrel pilot system where they can experiment with different styles and tastes and judge them for retail worthiness. The brewery created a contest where they pitted 18 2-man teams to brew a beer of their choice with the winner being sold on the market. This Spröcketbier was the first winner in this new competition.
The bottle label stated that the beer was “black rye Kolsch style.” A Kolsch would be perfect for this time of year and I decided to forgo the heady Belgians and double IPAs and try a new beer just for the taste and not for the buzz. Spröcketbier was it. But what did the black rye do to this beer?
The beer was only released to the public last Monday, the 21st. Here it was in flatland Morris just a few days later. Honestly, I didn’t know why it was here so soon. I will add learning about beer distribution to the list along with know your hops, know your malts and know your yeast strains.
Kolsch beers are recommended to be drunk from a stange glass, a straight up-and-down sided glass. I have 2 such glasses but they each hold a mere 8 ounces or so. I opted for a similar glass from my collection which holds about 12 ounces. This would help cut down on trips to the fridge but not the bathroom.
Kolsches are usually a nice, bright yellow and they have a taste very similar to a wit beer. With this one using black rye in the recipe, I didn’t know what to expect and I hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed.
What a surprise, the beer poured with the color of a porter, raising a nice 2” head of thick, beige foam. And again, just like a porter, there was no seeing inside this beer. No light did pass through the glass. I could hardly get any aroma from the beer but I thought I’d detected a bit of roastiness, and it quickly went away. Maybe it was because of the narrow glass.
The first sip was odd. It seemed to have a medium mouthfeel that quickly went thin toward the swallow. The beer did have hints of roastiness to it. Frankly (pfft!) I didn’t really know what style of beer I was drinking. I bit of sweetness rose up against the slight roasted flavor.
This was odd. I had it in my head that the style was a Kolsch as labeled on the bottle. It looked like a porter and finally I didn’t know what I was drinking. Aside from that, the beer was delicious.
According to the green image above, the IBUs are yet to be determined. It has to be quite low, I’d say down in the high 20s low 30s. But determining IBUs is lab analysis and only a reference for the craft beer drinker. The black rye, I’m assuming, gave this beer its dark color and that fleeting flavor of roasted barley.
The more I sipped, the more I liked this beer. I no longer cared about what style it was, I cared about what it tasted like. Weighing in at 5.4% alcohol, the beer is a session beer and could be enjoyed by the gallon. However, the price of the beer is prohibitive to be buying it in quantity. Chances are there will be no more Spröcketbier once it’s gone.
This beer proves once again that beer drinkers should rip up or shred their copies of the BJCP Style Guidelines. Why be tethered to some 6-year-old documentation that has not (to my knowledge) been revised since ’08? The Style book was written for the professional beer judges, not as a specific guide for beer connoisseurs. We should understand the tradeoffs here. The Brewers Association has a different list which looks like it holds some promise. Check it out on their site (available as a .pdf.) With all that in mind, I’m eliminating the Style category from the final Brew Review summary. Shoulda done it a long time ago.
Every week or so one could see on the shelves at the local bottle shops new beers with a combination of unique flavors that some group of people agreed that should be sold. With more and more low ABV IPAs available, black IPAs and this Spröcketbier for example, each trip to the store could be an adventure.
Back to the beer at hand. Spröcketbier is a new and unique taste with a mixture of style ingredients. It would do well at a patio party or a poker game session if it was available in quantity. This beer opened my eyes as to just how versatile this beverage called beer is.
Taste: Dark and light at the same time. Unusual and delicious.
Smoothness: Really easy drinking.
Drinkability: Bring ‘em on, if you can afford it.
Bang for the buck: Ouch.
Amount paid: $8.99 per 22-ounce bottle.
Get it again? I’d have to think long and hard about it.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: That looks really muddy. (sniff) A little coffee. (sip) Kinda coffee. Not too bitter though, but I dunno. It goes away fast. (She doesn’t like coffee, among other things.)
Stone Spotlight Series – Sprocketbier [2:58]
All things Sprocket