Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Full Schilling - Der dritte Teil

I have owned this fact many a time on Fuggled, I am a Germanophile, especially when it comes to beer. One of the main reasons I go to Kardinal Hall as much as I do is that they are a reliable source of German beers, whether Rothaus, Köstritzer Schwarzbier, or something from Weihenstephan, as well as the near ubiquitous Bitburger (though I much prefer their stable mate König Pilsener). The fact that Schilling also produce a wide range of German styles, in addition to their Czech style stuff, is just another reason that I wanted to visit the brewery when we were up in New England a couple of weeks ago.

The other beers in the stash that made the trip back to central Virginia were:
  • Paulus - Munich style helles
  • Rennsteig - schwarzbier
  • Nordertor - northern German style pilsner
With those styles, this is basically a quick three beer tour of Germany from Bavaria in the south, to Flensburg in the north, with a quick stop in Thuringia in the middle.

Without further ado, then on to New Hampshire's interpretation of Munich. Fun side fact, not too far from Littleton is a place called Franconia...

  • Sight - clear yellow, quarter inch white foam, wonderful clarity
  • Smell - doughy, lightly yeasty, floral hops, subtle citrus note (Tettnang perhaps?)
  • Taste - bready with a nice schmeer of honey, clean floral hops
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Helles is one of those styles of beer that I think is best on tap, but this particular batch was canned just 11 days ago, so when I had it on Sunday it had been in the can a mere 9 days. Freshness matters, and this was as fresh as you will likely ever get in central Virginia. Full disclosure, I asked Beer Run to get me a case, and it was from that case that I drank, rather than one of the 4 packs that came back from NH with me, which was canned in mid-March. Anyway, the beer itself, gorgeous in a word, as good a helles as I have ever had. As I sat in my kitchen drinking it, looking out over my backyard, I realised I need to plant some more trees to convert a patch of the yard into my own little biergarten, just to enjoy Paulus in.

  • Sight - deep mahogany, dark red edges, ivory foam
  • Smell - medium-dark roast coffee, crusty toast, subtle grassy/hay notes, hints of chocolate cake
  • Taste - cold espresso, singed toast, some floral character, bitter chocolate
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 3/5
Named, apparently, for the Rennsteig ridge walk in Thuringia and just a lovely schwarzbier. The balance is beautiful, making it insanely easy to drink while hitting all the right flavour notes. I think I am going to have to rehash my schwarzbier blind tasting of last year with this in the mix.

  • Sight - pale yellow, large white head, beautifully clear
  • Smell - crackers, hay, some herbal notes
  • Taste - more crackers, noticeable lemony zing, maybe some cantaloupe in the background
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter 2.5/5
When it comes to German style pilsners, I find myself preferring those more in the northern, drier, more pronounced bitterness camp. Nordertor, named for the eponymous gate in Flensberg on the Danish border and depicted on the label, sits very much in that camp, and I love it. The finish is cracker dry and lingers, begging to be followed up by another mouthful, and who am I to deny it?

As I mentioned in the first part of this little Schilling trilogy, I made a point to try all the German inspired beers on tap at the brewpub when we were there, but I wasn't taking notes or pictures - seriously, who does that when you are hanging with mates? Safe to say though that all of them were top class, especially the Seidla kellerbier, and whenever they make it down this way, I will continue to buy them, safe in the knowledge that Schilling know what they are doing, and they do it so damned well.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Full Schilling - druhý díl

A quick recap...this happened:

Those 2 cases/trays of Schilling beer in 16oz cans consisted of:

  • Malý 8° - Czech style session pale lager
  • Nordertor - Northern German style pilsner
  • Paulus - Munich style helles
  • Rennsteig - schwarzbier
Schilling beers already in my fridge when I got home were:
  • Palmovka 12° - Czech style pale lager
  • Augustin 13° - Czech style amber lager
  • Karlův 13° - Czech style dark lager
To round out the selection nicely, I popped into Beer Run and picked up a four pack of Alexandr as it is most reliably available Schilling beer in this neck of the woods. For this here second installment of The Full Schilling, I made sure all the Czech styles were suitably refrigerated...

Having made sure that suitable glassware was clean and ready for use, I didn't buy a Schilling glass while I was up there as the style I wanted was not available, I set about going from left to right...starting with Malý 8°.

Malý 8°

  • Sight - crystal clear golden, inch of beautiful white foam, great retention
  • Smell - spicy hops, lemongrass, crusty bread and crackers, second son Bertie thought it smelt "peppery and juicy"
  • Taste - crusty bread, lemony zing, clean hop bite to finish
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
Simply magnificent beer. Medium-light body, not watery or thin in the finish, this is a drinker's session beer, the kind of thing that you can sit on your deck in the sun and guzzle all afternoon and evening without ever getting bored, the voice of experience may be speaking. The finish is clean, dry, and just pulls you back for more, and more, and more. I almost wish I had bought 2 cases...

  • Sight - dark straw, white foam, beautiful clarity and excellent head retention
  • Smell - citrus, lemon and key lime, hay, water biscuits
  • Taste - dollops of citrus bittering, bordering on pithy, more crackers and some floral notes in the background, like a summer meadow
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 3/5
Again a beautifully balanced beer, the bitterness is very much front and centre, but it doesn't overwhelm the malt character. Has the snap that I expect of well made lagers that brings everything into sharp focus and then demands you have another mouthful. I just love this beer, it is right up there with anything I drank in Czechia.

Palmovka 12°
  • Sight - rich golden, white foam that lingers well, again beautiful clarity
  • Smell - toasted crusty bread, spicy hops, freshly mown hay
  • Taste - juicy sweet decocted malt, crusty bread, specifically like the crusty end of a loaf, grassy hop with a clean hop bitterness
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 3/5
This is not hyperbole, but there is something about Palmovka that reminds me of Pilsner Urquell, though a little stronger. That crusty bread character coupled with a very light butterscotch note just feels so much like Prazdroj that I fear if I had to try both side by side and blind I would struggle to guess which was which - there may be a blog post in the making right there. The bitterness, again, is firm, clean, and finishes off the beer delightfully.

Augustin 13°
  • Sight - light red, ruby highlights, off white foam that stays the course
  • Smell - brioche, subtle hay, floral hops
  • Taste - ovocní knedlík, stone fruit, breadiness in the background
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
This is quite a complex beer, with lots of malt flavours floating around. I realise that ovocní knedlík, fruit dumpling in English, is not particularly helpful if you've never had them, but imagine a plum wrapped inside a yeast dough, enriched with egg and milk, simmered and then served with a touch of sugar and cinnamon, and you kind of get what I am saying. It's complex, but clean in the finish and maybe a little thin for a 13° lager, but that's me quibbling, it's still a grand beer.

Karlův 13°
  • Sight - very dark brown, mahogany edges, solid inch of tan foam
  • Smell - bitter chocolate, toasted brioche, subtle floral hop notes
  • Taste - dark chocolate, nutty, imagine bitter chocolate Nutella, sachertorte, some grassy hop notes
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
A wonderful way to nightcap my little Schilling Czech tasting. Not stodgy in the slightest but with plenty of sweet malt flavours. The finish is somewhere between the soft sweetness of a dunkel and the dry crispness of schwarzbier. Again a very moreish beer that is an excellent interpretation of the Czech tmavé/černé "style".

I seriously considered trying to rank this set of beers by preference, but it would be a fool's errand to bother. They are all excellent examples of the kind of beers I love to drink, and this is what makes Schilling such an exciting brewery for me, they do everything so damned well that it is almost irrelevant what is in your glass, it will be superb.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Full Schilling - Part 1

Let's go for a drive...

It's raining in Jamestown, Rhode Island, where the VelkyAl family was staying with my best mate Dave and his brood. It was a Wednesday morning, and backing out of their drive way, I was excited at the thought of the 240 mile drive north ahead. According to my weather app on my phone, our destination was going to be warm and sunny. Our destination, mostly up I-93 north, going through Boston  to New Hampshire, through the simply majestic White Mountains, including past a still frozen lake, was the little town of Littleton.

Apparently a little over 6000 souls call Littleton, New Hampshire, home and they live in possibly one of the most scenic places I have visited in the US so far. Pulling into the town, crossing the Ammonoosuc River, eventually parking up next to the river, we had just a few hundred feet, and a kids bashing of public gongs session for the boys, to our destination, the Schilling Beer Company.

If you follow any of my social media then you will know that I am a dedicated fan of Schilling Beer Co. We don't get many of their beers down here in central Virginia, but whenever one of them shows up on tap at either Beer Run or Kardinal Hall then I know what I will be drinking when I am there. My first ever Schilling beer was indeed the Alexandr, on tap at Kardinal Hall, back in September 2020, and with a pleasing coincidence it was with Dave back when he and his family lived in this neck of the woods. Again if you are a follower of Fuggled/VelkyAl world, then you will also know that I am an abysmal "beer tourist". I don't plan holidays around breweries I would be interested in visiting, let's be honest here, once you have seen a couple of brewing setups there really isn't much to see that would make a difference. Being a 4 hour drive from Schilling though simply demanded a day trip, yes that's right, we drove 4 hours to Littleton, stayed for a few hours, and then drove back to Rhode Island. Admittedly we didn't spend all those hours safely ensconced in the beery bosom of Schilling, we also discovered that Littleton is a delightful town that is pretty much perfect for the kind of folks that constitute the VelkyAl family, did I mention the gorgeous river yet, on go on then, have another picture of it.

Schilling itself consists of both a brewpub and a taproom in separate buildings, it being lunchtime and with 3 toddlers of 4 years old in tow, we parked on the screened in deck of the brewpub and ordered beer and pizza. Choosing the pizzas was simplicity in itself, my boys can be picky eaters, so Margherita minus tomato sauce was in order. Choosing my first beer was torture, just look at this menu:

A brace of Czech style pilsners that would more than stand up in Czechia, a keller pils, a kellerbier, a Helles, a schwarzbier, an Altbier, a tmavé, a polotmavé, a landbier....how does a lagerboy make a decision when finally presented with a beer menu that doesn't make him groan? Obviously you get the Alexandr, drink it in four mouthfuls and forget to take a picture, but make sure you follow it up with a Palmovka 12° that you do remember to take a picture.

Just look at that thing of beauty, that walloping great cap of foam that would not look out of place in any of my old haunts in Prague, that near total lack of fizz - there is a difference between condition and fizziness, and by god every beer I had hit the nail squarely on the head. Being with family and friends, I didn't bother with many more photos, but I tried every pale lager they had on tap, as well as the Rennsteig schwarzbier and Kaiserpfalz altbier. Each beer was excellent, not just good, not even plain old very good, but excellent, and in the Seidla kellerbier, downright fucking fantastic. Fed and watered we wandered off on to Main Street to do some shopping, knowing that the tap room was still to come, I had a date with a beer that I knew was there...

As well as being an abysmal beer tourist I am not much of one for traipsing around shops, but I had the happy glow of a satisfied lager drinker on, and Littleton's book shop that doubles as a toy shop was a veritable Aladdin's cave of delights. Better yet, at least for this greedy guts, was the White Mountains Canning Company, that stocks all manner of locally made jams jellies, pickles, and perhaps the best, bar none, American cheddar cheese I have ever had, Harman's Really Aged Cheddar. Our good lady wives had another shop they wanted to get to, so Dave and I corralled our boys and headed to the Schilling taproom, across the way from the brewpub, straight into the embrace of an osmička...

Going by the name Malý 8°, what you have here is a 3.1% abv, double decocted (if I remember rightly), Czech style pale lager that has more flavour, more presence, and exhibits a far higher level of technical brewing skill than basically any other lager being brewed in the US today. Bold claims I know, but if ever there was a gravity that shows the difference decoction makes it is 8°. There are some out there that claim decoction is not necessary because malts are more modified these days, well sorry, they are simply wrong. A decoction mash is not just about getting the right amount of sugar out of the grain, decoction adds flavour, mouthfeel, and character that a simple infusion mash will never give you. Think of it this way, at least for pale lagers, decoction is a 3D beer to infusion's 2D, it adds depth. Malý 8° might be small, but goodness me it is a mighty, mighty fine beer. So I bought a case of cans to bring  home to Virginia with me, and a selection of other beers to make up another case.

Is it evident yet that I love Schilling Beer Company? More than that, I want to go back to Littleton and spend more time there, I want to spend an evening drinking great beer overlooking that covered bridge over the river, and bimble back to a tent or hotel with a happily distended belly full of great lager. I am sure that Littleton will be visited again in the future, and hopefully not too far into that future.

Best Beer Ever!

Shock, horror, a new post at Fuggled! Yes, it has been a while, but mitigating circumstances, I have been heads down writing my first book, ...