Schell’s Apparent Horizon
Consider the ground we’ve covered so far: a traditional Berliner Weisse, a raspberry variant, a oktoberfest-malt Berliner, a dark cherry sour, a fruity starkbier, a dry Berliner featuring the new German Cypress Blanc hop, and a peach-forward selection.
Apparent Horizon differs from the traditional German Berliner Weisse in that it contains a high percentage of rye and showcases more brettanomyces than lactobacillus. It also offers more alcohol than the original, causing it to fall into the Vollbier category (typically up to 5.3% ABV, and meaning “stong”, but not as strong as Starkbier).
Call me late to the party on this one, but bottles still abound and I have found this to be a pretty perfect chill-in-the-air beer.
The aroma makes it clear that brettanomyces steals the show from lactobacillus here; there is far more funk than actual sour in Apparent Horizon. Notes of cider and pear mix with horse blanket, all of which carries through in the taste. The rye contributes a subtle spiciness, sure, but for such a large amount – the malt is 35% rye – it’s actually understated.
“I try to make them all different from one another,” says brewer Jace Marti of the array of Noble Star Beers. Although a similar thread runs through each, he has certainly succeeded. I would posit that Apparent Horizon – though not fruited or especially hoppy – is unique from the rest of the group due to its severe barn-like notes.
For those unacquainted with the series, Noble Star beers entered the scene in 2013. Schell’s re-commissioned their 1936 cypress lagering tanks to become traditional wooden foeders – essentially giant wooden barrels – used for aging or secondary fermentation. Not an easy process, to be sure, as the tanks, once used for Deer Brand and other lagers, were coated on the inside with wax. This prevented any interaction between beer and wood. But interaction is just what the brewers are looking for.
Since restoration, the vessels have been used for fermenting and aging this series of Berliner Weisse variations. Even more foeders have undergone restoration and now occupy their own building, an indication of the public’s reception of this sour series and Schells’ dedication to forgotten sour styles.
Next in the series, with no release date announced, is Orbital Drift, a red-hued, malty Berliner Weisse. How it will be different from the North Country Brunette (a favorite of mine) remains to be seen. I am looking forward to it.