Sunday, 3 January 2010

Schorschbräu: Strength in Numbers

Happy New Year! A little late perhaps, but I've been taking a break with the family, and am only now getting back into a regular schedule. It was a quiet-ish holiday, with plenty of food and beer, although only a few interesting beers worth writing home about. Three of those came from Schorschbräu*, the small brewery in Franken that made the 31% beer that was the previous holder of the World's Strongest Beer record before BrewDog's Tactical Nuclear Penguin, and the ones who told me they have a 40% beer (well, 39.44% so, technically speaking, rounding to the nearest integer should make it 39%) coming out, which I posted about the same day TNP was launched, which might not have been the best timing in the world, but there you go.

Anyway, after I posted a little bit about their announcement, I was curious to try some of their stuff. The 31% was hard to find - and expensive - so I settled on buying three of their regular strong beers.

The Schorschbräu Schorschweizen 16% is dark, looking almost like a porter, and is surprisingly flat considering what most of us think of when it comes to Weizen carbonation levels. The aroma is strongly fruity, showing dried fruits, cherries, port-like notes and vanilla, and yes, there are classic Weizen banana and clove notes. This continues into the flavour with large doses of prunes, cherries and woody vanilla. There's a Kirschwasser-like alcohol hit on the finish and that, along with the fairly thick mouthfeel, makes it almost like a liqueur. However, it does feel like there's a good dose of hops in there too, as while it's pretty sweet and leaves the lips sticky, it doesn't taste overly sweet like many Doppelbocks can, for instance. The overall impression is of big, vinous, porty notes and, dare I say it, a whiff of smoke. I summed it up by describing to to my wife as being like a liquidised Christmas pudding, complete with the brandy on top. It's heavy going, and a little intense, but definitely an interesting winter warmer. Too late, I realised I probably should have shared the bottle.

On Christmas Eve I treated myself to the Schorschbräu Schorschbock 13%. This is really thick and gloopy looking through the pour and, again, very flat with a sweet, dates and candy-like aroma. The flavour delivers big, sweet blackberries and alcohol. Quite a bit of the latter actually, with a mustard-like burn through the nostrils (no, I did not inhale) and down the throat. You get used to it though, and it settles into being just big and boozy, with elements reminiscent of toast, licorice and vanilla with a spicy hop quality. The finish is quite dry, despite the lingering sweetness, and leaves a lasting impression of licorice.

Tonight, as I write, I'm sipping the last of the trio, the Schorschbräu Schorschbock 16%. While pouring, the word turgid comes to mind. I like that word. The aroma is a touch solventy, with a bit of marzipan and, like the Schorschweizen 16%, it comes with a hint of Kirschwasser-like alcohol fumes. The first sip is a real kick, with a sharpness that takes a couple of sips to get accustomed to. It's a kind of alcoholic, tangy fruitiness that cuts a but at the back of the throat. Up front it's all highly concentrated raisins with a pine-like hop character. In the mid-ground there's a hint of bitter almond and toast. This is a tough one to drink alone, and really merits a couple of hours sitting over it on a cold winter's night. A bit like what I'm doing tight now I guess!

Of the three, I'd probably lean most towards the Weizenbock 16%, just because it offers a lot of different flavours, and is all the more impressive as it does not inolve the Eis method. I did enjoy the Schorschbock 13% for its comforting winter warmer appeal and the toasty, licorice flavours. The Schorschbock 16%, while also a good winter beer, is just a little too harsh on the alcohol, although if you forget it's a beer and think more of a fruit liqueur it's easier to swallow, although 33cl is a lot to take. One to share, really.

News just in: While writing the above, I checked their website and it looks like they've officially announced the 40% Schorschbock. Well, there you go! I don't see it in the on-line stores they normally sell through yet, but then I guess it's just after the holiday season. Will have to see what the price is like...

*Not "schorsch braer" as was on the BrewDog release notes, which have since been recycled on every news piece about TNP. A simple misspelling, but at least they mentioned the previous holder!

9 comments:

ZakAvery said...

Bazzer, do you know if these all get to their final strength through fermentation alone?

Barry M said...

The Schorschweizen 16% certainly does, claiming on the label to be the strongest weizen through pure fermentation.

The Schorschbock 13 and 16 are, as I understand it, Eisbocks. It doesn't say it on the site, or on the label, but given the original gravities of 25° and 32° Plato respectively, they'd want to be getting some pretty good attenuation on those babies to push to 13 and 16% ABV. So, a little eis I reckon. Anyway, I'm sure they'd state it on the label if it was through pure fermentation.

ZakAvery said...

Even with good attentuation, those Plato values would only yield around 10 and 13% abv, so I guess there must be some jiggery-pokery going on

Ed said...

It's easy enough to add enzymes to crank up the attenuation.

Mark said...

"Too late, I realised I probably should have shared the bottle" - been there!!

The Weizenbock sounds very good. I'd be interested to see what the 40% one is like, although it'll cost a small fortune, I imagine.

And what kind of a crazy bloody brewery has a line-up like this?! Brilliant.

Barry M said...

I have a cunning plan for when I open a Tokyo*. I'll decant it into one of these 33cl swingtops, so I can keep it all to myself. My sister-in-law's boyfriend misunderstood me and he drank a bottle of Tokyo* I had brought down to share (took it from the crate I left in the cellar), so I'm no longer in the mood for sharing ;) (and he said didn't like it! He was probably destroyed, as I think he opened it on New Year's Eve).

Schorschbräu clearly focus on the high ABVs. I don't think they do anything less than 13%! I wonder would they consider doing an imperial stout...

Barry M said...

Oh, forgot to say, the 31 (or now they say they've upped it to 32%, I wonder why) seems to sell for about 55 Euro (a batch of 250 bottles I think).

Bailey said...

Barry -- we've got a small post coming up on the subject of ungrateful relatives who nick bottles of special beer and then treat them with scant respect. Bastards.

Barry M said...

Any tips on suitable punishments? :)