07 September 2012

Gordon Biersch Braumaster Selekt Series--IPB Robust Pilsner and Weizen Eisbock

Because Gordon Biersch is preparing to open a new outlet of its brewpub chain in Baltimore (target opening date: October 22, right during Baltimore Beer Week), the Beer In Baltimore offices have started receiving advance samples of Gordon Biersch's new Braumeister Selekt series of "beer geek" limited releases, being sold in 750ml flip-top bottles in limited markets (including Maryland, but oddly the supply has ended up concentrated in the Frederick, Hagerstown, and Prince George's County areas so far!).

The first of these to arrive is IPB, or "Imperial Pilsner Brau."  It's a quite intensely hopped beer, clocking in at 6.5% but tasting stronger, with an official reading of 50 International Bittering Units (but some reviews have suggested the number may be closer to 70), from a blend of Tettnang, Saaz, Spalt, and Hallertau hops.  The malt backbone is there, but it's still far hoppier than most beer aficionados would expect for the style, mimicking more what someone's impressions of a Northwest U.S. hophead would produce if asked to produce an "imperial pilsner."  The end effect is balanced, but aggressive rather than smooth.

Arriving earlier today is Weizen Eisbock, a brutally intense 10% ABV malt monster of a "big wheat bock" on the lees (unfiltered).  A deep amber in color, it has a thick caramel malt nose and incredible head retention.  The flavor, typical of unfiltered wheat bocks, has a tannic and almost tart astringency balancing an almost syrupy bock palate, with a distinct chalky note common in wheat beers and a hint of rich wood smoke in the finish.  The malts came from the Weyerman Märzerei in Bamberg, Germany, with hops "sourced from the Hallertau and Tettnang regions of Bavaria."

The label for this beer indicates that G-B's brewery produced this beer by "freezing the water molecules out of the brew and removing the frozen portion, thus concentrating the alcohol and flavor of the resulting ale."  (This technique has earned official rebuke, and even fines, from some alcohol regulation agencies for past efforts by some brewpubs, as it can fall under the technical definition of "distillation," often prohibited by brewing licensing or regulation.) The label also indicates 30 IBUs; if I were redoing this beer I would be tempted to add a bit more hop character as balance to the overwhelming sweetness.

The press releases sent with this beer quotes brewery co-founder Dan Gordon as saying "To the best of my knowledge, we are the first brewery in the world to brew a Weizeneisbock."  The company brewed 3,500 cases at their San Jose, Ca. brewery, expected to retail for about $9 a 750-ml bottle.

Our main critique of this beer is that, like too many pumpkin and holiday/Christmas beers, it's out too early.  (This IS a promotional sample, mind you.)  This is a beer that, like many barleywines and old ales, seemingly demands heavy snow falling outside, a hearty pot roast or brisket in the oven, and a fire crackling in the fireplace (assuming, of course, that the flue is still open).

The brewer for the new Harbor East location, Chris Cashell, is credited with having a hand in the creation of the original batch of The Brewers Art's flagship Resurrection.  It will be interesting to see just how much latitude in creativity he'll be given at his new job--and what may come from his mind and hands in a new environment.


JohnM. said...

"if I were redoing this beer I would be tempted to add a bit more hop character as balance to the overwhelming sweetness."

Yes, but isn't this fairly typical for the style? Not that I drink a whole lot of eisbock beers (too boozy and too sweet), but the obvious example that comes to mind is the Aventinus eisbock, which I think clocks in at 11% abv., and is very, very sweet.

I'm sure you've tried the Aventinus as well Alex... how does the GB version compare to it?

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

I would have to go back and revisit the Aventinus, and I agree that almost any "eis-" booze is going to come off syrupy sweet. It's possible that the bottle I had is still a little "green" and that it's possible that sitting on them a few months until winter will smoothen out the rough character, but then again, that could be the "weizen" part of the character in play. I'm not even suggesting enough hops to stand out, just enough to counter-balance some of that extreme richness.