Thursday, January 30, 2014

Oshkosh Beer Sampler: Schell’s Chimney Sweep

A slanted and endless survey of what’s pouring in Oshkosh, tallied one beer at a time.

What: Chimney Sweep, a gently smoked black lager from August Schell Brewing, New Ulm Minnesota. This beer is 5.2% ABV.

Where: Your best deal is at Festival Foods where they sell sixers of it for $6.99.

Why: Personally, I’m on a Schell’s kick, but aside from that there’s something primal about drinking a good smoked beer on a snowy winter’s day. There was a time, after all, when almost all beers made from malted barley had a smokey element to them. Prior to the latter half of the 1700s and the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, direct-fired malt kilns were heated by burning wood, peat or some other smokey combustible. The result was a malt saturated with smoke and that flavor would carry over into the mash tun and the finished beer.

Chimney Sweep goes fairly light on the smoke, but it’s certainly there. It pours just a shade shy of black with a creamy, tan head. The aroma is of slightly over-baked brownies with bacon on the side. The beer has a full, rich malt flavor with a subtle, smokey twang threading through chocolate, caramel and roast. There’s a well-thought-out and prominent level of bitterness in the finish that I really liked. It helps to define all of the beer’s flavors.

For best results, drink Chimney Sweep from a Willi Becher or a Dimpled Stein and linger over it; allowing the beer to warm and the smoke aspect to come to the fore. Pairing it with a handful of smoked almonds works very well.

I’ve been enjoying Schell’s beers over the past year. I loved the Berliner Weiss from them that I mentioned yesterday. They also make a very good Pils and a Vienna lager that are easy to find in Oshkosh. In fact, Festival is selling a Schell’s 12-pack sampler for $13.99 that includes both of those beers along with Chimney Sweep. It’s a good introduction to a brewery that does well putting their own stamp traditional styles.

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