Tasting Notes: Oktoberfest (2018) from Sierra Nevada & Weihenstephan

SNOFest2018PourThis year’s Oktoberfest celebration in Munich may have already come to a close, but we are doing our best to keep the party going by turning the focus of this week’s Tasting Notes to Oktoberfest (2018) from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, California) and Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan (Freising, Germany).

Back in 2015, Sierra Nevada initiated a new approach to its seasonally released Oktoberfest offering by having its brewers explore the style’s various traditions through collaborations with some of the most respected breweries in Germany (2015 – Brauhaus Riegele; 2016 – Mahrs Bräu; 2017 –  Brauhaus Miltenberger).  For the 2018 release, Sierra Nevada teamed up with the world’s oldest brewery, Bavaria’s Weihenstephan, to create an “American take on the classic German Oktoberfest.”  What they came up with is a “crisp, clean, and drinkable crowd-pleaser” featuring a “malt backbone . . . balanced by subtle hop character.” Oktoberfest (2018) comes in at 6% ABV and 20 IBUs.

Although the 2018 run of Oktoberfest may be nearing its end, it will most assuredly still be pouring at the countless Oktoberfest celebrations that have yet to take place in the U.S. (this includes the one scheduled for October 13 at Sierra Nevada’s Mills River, North Carolina location).  You can also expect to find this Seasonal Release to be available in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at craft beer-friendly establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, North Carolina and throughout the rest of Sierra Nevada’s nationwide distribution area.

Alright, that’s about enough with the particulars and background data.  It is definitely time to for us to lift some steins, destroy some pretzels and brats, and get into these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Oktoberfest (2018) from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. & Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan

Appearance: This Festbier is somewhere between amber and copper in color and is topped with right at a finger of wispy off-white foam.  When held to direct light, the color intensifies to become more of a rich golden to light copper.  The beer is perfectly clear, displaying the numerous streams of carbonation casually going about their business within.  Head retention is strong, slowly falling to a nearly complete top cap that leaves sporadic streaks of lace behind on the glass.

Aroma: The aromatics lead with comforting notes of bready malt, a touch of honey, and toasty grains.  A reserved and well-behaved mix of spicy, earthy and grassy hops then saunters in to lend some support and balance.  The aromas are beautifully simple and exactly what one might expect to get when putting his/her nose into a stein filled with Märzen.

Taste: Almost mirroring the nose, the flavor profile opens with a pronounced, yet somehow still mild malt character filled with bready notes, light caramel, a dollop of honey, and sweetly toasted cereal grains.  These malts come across as mild because they are expertly balanced by an incredibly nuanced hop presence featuring floral, spicy, grassy and herbal tones.  Incredibly clean and well-integrated, the lager yeast makes its presence known by pretty much not making its presence known (in other words, there are no off flavors or fruity notes).

Mouthfeel:  Medium in body with a slightly softer carbonation level than expected, this Festbier is easy-drinking but is comfortable taking its time when it comes to drying out.  The level of balance here is damn near perfection, riding that line between malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness with ease.  Leaving behind no trace of warmth/heat, the ABV feels much lighter than 6% and further adds to this beer’s overall drinkability. The aftertaste is just a slight amount of earthiness and bready malt.

Final Thoughts: When it comes to making Oktoberfests/Märzens, the goal is to end up with a malt-driven lager that has a level of drinkability suitable for long-haul-level sessions of consumption.  The flavors and aromatics should be malt forward, but they must not be overly sweet or cloying.  As far as the hops go, they should act as more of a delicate accompaniment that equips the beer with balance and that earthy, floral character that just makes you think of autumn.  If all of that falls into place properly, you are left with a beer that can be enjoyed stein after stein during the hours/days you spend celebrating Oktoberfest.

This Oktoberfest (2018) from Sierra Nevada and Weihenstephan exemplifies all the characteristics mentioned in the above paragraph.  It ticks each and every box an Oktoberfest/Märzen should, making it exactly what you would expect to get from two breweries of this caliber.  It is a spot-on representation of the style, and exceptional is a word that just barely scratches the surface when it comes to describing this beer.  Oktoberfest (2018) is absolutely something you need to get your hands on before its limited run is completed, so be sure to make that happen before it is too late.  Prost!

Advertisements

Tasting Notes: Braupakt from Weihenstephan & Sierra Nevada

braupaktpourThis installment of Tasting Notes has us closing out the week with an in-depth look at Braupakt, the highly-anticipated collaboration beer from Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan (Freising, Germany) and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, California).

When Weihenstephan – the World’s Oldest Brewery – and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – one of America’s pioneering craft brewers – come together to work on a collaboration project, it kind of goes without saying that the beer community is going to take notice.  The resulting beer that everyone is talking about is Braupakt (literally translates to mean “Brewery Pact” but is also a play on “America’s ‘bro pact’ vernacular for fraternal allegiances”), a Hefeweizen that introduces a style that is rich in German tradition – Weihenstephan’s area of expertise – to a carefully selected hop bill comprised of juicy American hops – Sierra Nevada’s playground –  that can both complement and accentuate the style’s classic flavors and aromatics.  When all is said and done, Braupakt promises to be a unique take on a classic style that will effortlessly reinforce both breweries’ reputations for “establishing brewing standards for their respective styles and . . . renowned . . . contributions to contemporary brewing techniques.”

Braupakt is currently available in the US and will hang around as long as supplies last.  You can expect to find this Limited Edition beer available in 6-packs of 11.2 oz. bottles (suggested retail price of $10.99) at fine beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, North Carolina and throughout the rest of Weihenstephan’s nationwide distribution network.

Now that we are all up to speed on the particulars behind Braupakt, let’s break out the Weizen glasses and get into some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Braupakt from Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan & Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Appearance: Braupakt presents itself as a burnt orange in color that holds a darker amber tone at the core of the glass’s bulb.  When held to direct light, that amber core holds as vibrant orange and bright gold hues burst outward from the center.  The beer is appropriately cloudy for the style, but you can still see a dutiful carbonation presence rising up to feed the 3+ fingers of cream-colored head sitting above.  Head retention is extraordinary, gradually falling to a lasting, rocky finger that effortlessly coats the glass with gobs of lace throughout the experience.

Aroma:  The hops turn up first with a nice grapefruit presence that takes on notes of ripe to over ripe peach and melon.  Clove then works its way through and brings with it banana and bubblegum notes to establish a very pronounced Hefeweizen character. The aromatics close out with just a bit of honey-laced wheat and caramel.

Taste:  Although similar to the aroma, this beer’s flavors mix it up a bit by leading with those beautiful, trademark Hefeweizen notes of banana, bubblegum and clove.  The hops work their way out of the clove and fully engulf the palate with tones of peach, melon, apricot, lemon zest and grapefruit.  A touch of pine and black pepper slips in just before the beer finishes with some gently sweet notes of wheat and caramel.

Mouthfeel: Medium in body with a medium to medium-high carbonation level, this beer has a beautifully creamy texture that allows you to fully explore every aspect of each sip.  The hops supply a bit more bite than you would normally expect from a Hefeweizen, but they are held in check and gorgeously balanced by the sweeter banana notes from the yeast and caramel from the malts.  The ABV is tame at 6%, but it does allow for a touch of warmth in the throat.  The aftertaste is a welcomed, lingering presence of clove and peach.

Final Thoughts:  Braupakt delivers exactly what you hope would come from a brew day led by the master brewers at Weihenstephan and Sierra Nevada.  They wrapped that legendary Hefeweizen base around some juicy American hops to offer just the right amount of invigorating brightness (citrus fruit and pine) while a stone fruit character (peach and apricot) actually accentuates and highlights the style’s more expected clove, banana and bubblegum tones. It is the best of both worlds meeting on middle ground.  Its Hefeweizen character is absolutely stunning and is not at all bullied by those American hops . . . but those juicy hops still find their moments to shine brilliantly through those Hefeweizen notes and elevate the overall experience.  These brewers were clearly looking for a sweet spot between the two, and they certainly found it in this artful composition.  Braupakt is not your everyday collaboration project and it certainly should not be missed.  Be sure to check it out before this Limited Release runs its course and disappears for good.  Prost!

Weihenstephan and Sierra Nevada Collaborate To Create Braupakt

BraupaktBavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan (Freising, Germany) has officially announced plans to introduce U.S. beer drinkers to Braupakt, a limited edition Hefeweissbier brewed in collaboration with Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, California), in April 2018.

In what is being referred to as a “dream-team partnership”, representatives from Weihenstephan and Sierra Nevada “spent the better part of 2017 on recipe development” so that the highly-anticipated Braupakt would properly represent both breweries’ reputations for “establishing brewing standards for their respective styles and . . . renowned . . . contributions to contemporary brewing techniques.”  They achieved this by creating a “fruity-hoppy” Hefeweizen “brewed with the Hallertauer Tradition hop and refined with American West Coast Amarillo and Chinook hops.”  New and old-world traditions unite to yield a Braupakt (6% ABV) that is “naturally cloudy . . . and smells of peach, apricot and citrus fruits with a fine banana yeast note as well as a refreshing grapefruit note from the Chinook hops.” Those aromas carry over into the flavor and showcase “the fruity peach and apricot taste of the Amarillo hops . . . complemented by the mild sweetness of the used caramel malt.”

“This is the first time Sierra Nevada chose to partner with a long-established brewery,” noted Tobias Zollo, brewmaster at Weihenstephan. “Both breweries had something to glean and gain from the other. We came in with high standards for the Hefeweissbier style. Sierra Nevada, who is world-renowned for the Pale Ale style, came in with the discerning palettes for fruity and aromatic-bodied beers. With Braupakt, we were able to exceed the expectations of both breweries.”

The U.S. release of Braupakt will officially begin in April.  You can expect to find this Limited Edition beer available in 6-packs of 0.33l (or 11.2 oz.) bottles at fine beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, North Carolina and throughout the rest of Weihenstephan’s nationwide distribution network. Prost!

Vital Information for Braupakt from Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan & Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Release – Limited/Collaboration, April 2018
Style – Hefeweizen 
ABV – 6%
IBUs – 35
Malts – Wheat, Light and Dark Barley, & Caramel 
Hops – Hallertauer Tradition, Amarillo & Chinook 
Suggested Food Pairings – “Fits exotic and spicy-hot dishes with fish, meat and seafood.”
Fun Fact – On the beer’s name: “Braupakt (literally translated; Brewery Pact) merges “old world” purity standards and brewing methodologies with “new world” innovation and hop flavors. The name plays on America’s “bro pact” vernacular for fraternal allegiances and the label features the imperial Bavarian bear sporting a “hang loose” gesture.”
Availability – 6-packs of 0.33l bottles 
Beer Finder – https://www.weihenstephaner.com/product-finder/

 

Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan Gives New Life to Kristallweizenbock

kristallweizenbock_editedThe Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan (Freising, Germany) recently announced that Kristallweizenbock is currently available in the U.S. as a one-time, limited release.

When you work at Weihenstephan, the world’s oldest brewery, there is a good chance that you are going to run across some amazing pieces of brewing history from time to time.  Johannes Weiss, Weihenstephan’s Sales Manager Export, did just that when he discovered a label dating back to the 1950’s while rummaging through the brewery’s “nearly one thousand-year-old archives.”  Once he showed the vintage label for Kristallweizenbock to Brewmaster Tobias Zollo, it was an easy decision to breathe new life into this all but forgotten beer.

“I thought, as a brewery world-acclaimed for wheat beer specialties, brewing one wheat beer style that is hardly available is something very special,” explained Weiss.  When Weiss discovered the 1950’s Kristallweizenbock label, it sparked an idea. “I suggested using hops with ‘crystal’ names,” said Weiss, “smaragd (emerald) and opal. [These hops] add fruity flavors to the beer and complement the name.”

Although Weihenstephan is well-known for their traditional Weizenbock, VitusKristallweizenbock sets itself apart “as it is filtered and has a stronger focus on hops, without being too ‘hoppy’.” When all is said and done, this 7.5% ABV brew balances “delicately between the distinctive fruity flavors of the ‘crystal’ hops and strong banana notes commonly associated with wheat beers.”

“Kristallweizenbock is a very special beer style,” noted Weiss, “a niche within a niche, but still it fits perfectly to our existing portfolio.”

Kristallweizenbock launches in the U.S. in April, and will be available nationwide for a limited time.  You can find this one-time release available in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles at fine beer retailers.  If you are at all interested in experiencing a piece of brewing history from one of the world’s most respected breweries, be sure to pick up a sixer of Kristallweizenbock while on your next beer run.  Prost!

Vital Information for Kristallweizenbock from The Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan

Release – Limited/One-Time, launching April 2017 in the U.S.
Style – Weizenbock
ABV – 7.5%
Featured Hops – Sapphire, Opal, Emerald & Pearl
Treatment – Filtered to earn the name “Kristall”weizenbock
Availability – 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles
Fun Fact – ” “This glass (pictured above) is important,” says Weiss, “the shape of the glass helps to present the beer’s flavor notes in the most perfect way.” 

Holiday Gift Idea: Last-Minute Beer Gift Packs

As the holiday season nears its culmination, many of us may still be scrambling to track down a few last-minute gifts.  If a beer lover remains on your list, we have you covered with a few beer gift packs that can be easily acquired at your local bottle shop or liquor store.

gsstbernardusFor the Belgian Beer Fan: St. Bernardus Gift Set

This beautiful gift set includes a stunning chalice glass and the following four, quintessential Belgian brews from the highly regarded Brouwerij St. Bernardus of Watou:

**Note: There is another gift set available out there consisting of two glasses and a six-pack containing just the St. Bernardus Prior 8, St. Bernardus Tripel, & St. Bernardus Abt 12.**

If the target of this gift pack has been extra good this year, you could also consider rounding off the set by including a 750ml bottle of St. Bernardus Christmas Ale.

gsweihenstephanFor the German Purist: The Ultimate Bavarian Gift Pack from Weihenstephaner

Since I fall into this category, I would be absolutely elated to receive this gift pack each and every year.  This set includes a branded Weizen glass and four of the following eight beer offerings from “The World’s Oldest Brewery”, Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan:

**Note: The four beers in each gift pack are clearly marked on the top of the box.**

6172unp9aul-_sl1000_-1For the Craft Beer Newcomer: Spiegelau Craft Beer Tasting Kit & Hand-Selected Mix Pack

The Craft Beer Tasting Kit from Spiegelau may be a bit harder to track down, but a lot of fine craft beer stores are carrying them these days.  This gift set consists of three glasses that were meticulously crafted to improve the experience of certain beer styles.  The Craft Beer Tasting Kit includes the following three specialty glasses:

**Note: You might also find a new Craft Beer Tasting Kit from Spiegelau containing a fourth glass, The Spiegelau Barrel Aged Glass.  Either set would make an amazing gift.**

Complete this gift with a mixed six-pack of beers to go into these glasses, and you will probably earn the title of “Coolest Gift Giver Ever” from the recipient.

That’s just a handful of ideas that will make just about any beer drinker happy.  If you cannot track these down, most beer stores typically have a wide selection of other gift sets during the holiday season.  If not, just talk to the beer specialist at the bottle shop to come up with a few bottles that match the taste and personality of your target.  Go the thoughtful route and you can never go wrong.  Happy holidays to all! Prost!