With August Schell’s fourth installment in its Noble Star Series, sour beer has come into its own in Minnesota. Available for a limited time, Black Forest Cherry features a malt-heavy Berliner Weisse aged for over a year in reclaimed cypress tanks, with tart cherries added before further aging.
The warmly-received sour collection has thus far delivered the Star of the North, a traditional Berliner Weisse, plus the Framboise du Nord, the same beer aged with raspberries. Next came the North Country Brunette, of the obsolete Marzen Weisse order.
While in modern Germany fruit syrups are commonly added to the dry and tart Berlin-style sours at the time of service, yielding a tempered acidity, fruit added to the cypress tanks gets fermented. In the case of Black Forest Cherry, the cherries are fermented to a high degree, and the result is unlike fruit lambics or other fruit beers, which traditionally have fruit syrup added during carbonation or bottling (a process known as “back sweetening”).
With Black Forest Cherry, expect serious sour notes, a lingering bite, and a refreshingly dry finish. The wild aroma is intriguing without overwhelming the nose. Tart cherries, unlike their cousins who spend their glory days in July picnic baskets across America, are profoundly sour and contain no flavors associated with Jell-O or cough syrup, an important fact for the fruit-beer phobic. Add a very high degree of carbonation and a body that is less imposing than a Flanders red ale, and the Black Forest Cherry finds itself in its own category.
If this cherry edition is any indication of the future of Schell’s expanding sour program, a profound acidity should be expected; this is by far the most tart of the Noble Star Series to date. Future beers in the collection are already in the works, as this line of specialty ales takes years to age properly.
Enjoy this bottle-conditioned sour with aged cheese, fall pot roast, or chocolate desserts. Substitute the brew for wine at upcoming fall gatherings, and keep some on hand with the expectation that the flavors will evolve over time.