Quick Characteristics Brewery: Stone Brewing Co. Location: Escondido, CA Style: Black Rye Kölsch ABV: 5.4% IBUs: 40 Appearance: Dense black with rich tan head Aroma: Sweet Malts with Hints of Coffee, Damp Smoke & Earthiness Flavor: Crisply Clean Character, Distinct Bitterness & Mix of Hops, Spicy Rye and Darker Malts Availability: Limited Pairs With: Pork Roast, Chicken Wings, Aged Gouda This interesting Frankenstein-like venture into the rethinking of a classic style is the first winner in a new line of beers brought to us by Stone Brewing Company. The line is dubbed the “Spot Light Series” and pits two-person teams against one-another in search of truly unique recipes. The company wide competition takes place over a year in which submitted recipes are brewed and judged. The competition has no restrictions or limits when it comes to style and creativity. A brewer’s paradise. Each submitted recipe is judged by co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, as well as brewmaster Mitch Steele (and by the sound of his name possibly a superhero). The winners get the honor of having their beer brewed and distributed all across the country, to be enjoyed by all. But wait there’s more… the winners also get the opportunity to go on tour, sit, drink, and watch, as adoring fans swoon over their winning product. So, Spröcketbier has passed the judges gauntlet and become the first. This creative recipe was brought to light by Stone’s Quality Production Assurance Lead Rick Blankemeier and Production Warehouse Lead Robbie Chandler. They won out, over 18, other what I can only guess, were extremely stiff competitors. I mean it’s Stone Brewing… everybody and their dog can brew a solid entry with their eyes closed. “Surprise awaits in gathered dark of bottle with sprocket’s mark.” Oh, one more thing before we get into the wet stuff. If you pay any attention to beer glassware you will know that a Kölsch has its one special, tall narrow cylinder of a glass, called a stange. It’s the first time I’ve used mine… seems like a good reason in itself to try this beer. The Pour and Aroma The Spröcketbier pours a dense black color and looks much like a porter. Even when held to direct light it’s only the very periphery of the opaque liquid that hints at a possible color lost in the black. A tan, almost Guinessian (that’s right I made up another word), head builds to a respectable two-finger height. This rich head drops slowly over the entire hour I’m drinking the beer and it’s only toward the very end that the beer peeks out from behind this protective and nicely resilient blanket. Aroma has the “cleanness” expected of Kölsch yeast. Sweet malts pervade with hints at coffee brought on by roasted malts. There are whispers of dark stone fruit intermingled with a grassy quality, and damp smoke. Mouthfeel and Taste The front-end highlights the light Kölsch character. The fizz and snap of loaded carbonation lends a crisply clean character to the sweet malts that hit the beach first. A distinct bitterness washes the middle palate. A mix of hop, spicy rye, and darker malts, imparts a clean coffee-like character. In the transition there are hints of the darkest meat at the center of cherry and plum, close to the pit, where you get a whisper of nuttiness. It dry’s at the end leaving medium astringency and thoughts of the next sip. The light mouthfeel is at odds with the color of this beer and runs pleasantly smooth with just the right amount of carbonic bite. Finishing The Impression Spröcketbier plays at confusion a bit. A game of tag is run across the palate, with the back-and-forth slap of a light Kölsch touch and the pervasive rumblings of a porter character suddenly gelded of its full robustness. In all it works magnificently. The sweet malts are well-balanced against rye spiciness and notes of hopped citrus. It works well as a summer beer, being light, crisp, and easily sessionable, but to my mind a more intriguing place for this beer is in that place between seasons. Especially say, the winter/spring shift, or the summer/fall. As these places are transition zones in the year’s cycle… so this beer holds a zone between styles; working hard at bridging the gap between warm summer day thirst quencher and cool winter warmer. If this beer is the standard of creativity and quality we can expect from this new series that shines a spotlight on the hard work of Stone employee’s, I just hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next addition. Cheers! More Beer Reviews: Götterdämmerung IPA from Stone Brewing Co. Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing Co. Ruthless Rye IPA from Sierra Nevada Brewing Lips Of Faith Wild2 Dubbel from New Belgium Brewing Co.