Have you ever drank a beer that became a battle, more than an enjoyable experience? asks Hipster Brewfus for this month's Session. Yes, HB. Yes I have. In recent months it seems to be black IPAs in particular with which my palate has a bit of rough and tumble: something about the harsh green acidity mixed with the big tarry texture in the likes of Arbor's 2014 and Revelation Cat's Bombay Cat that left me simultaneously horrified and enamoured while drinking them. But I've had plenty of beers that have been hard work to drink yet still worth the bruises.
I have Séan to thank for the example I've chosen for this post. I completely missed out on trying any new-wave German beers when I was in Berlin a couple of years ago and he was kind enough to bring me back this bottle of Schoppe Bräu's Roggen Roll Ale from a recent trip of his own.
A huge stack of ivory foam greeted me, topping a body which started out a beautiful clear red but turned murky brown when the yeasty dregs went in. The aroma is a bizarre mix of red berries, spices and and sour, like sweet incense mixed with balsamic vinegar -- not something that signals easy drinking. And unsurprisingly it's just as odd to the taste: the bite of a Flemish red, the intense spicy sharpness from the rye, lots of earthy brettish funk and a decently full texture from the 7% ABV.
I picked my way through it gingerly, utterly unsure if it's what the brewer intended since the label fails to provide any sort of direction. But by the end I found I'd quite enjoyed the experience: finding it complex and warming with an invigorating tartness.
It's not just big hops that can make the drinker feel they're being given a workout by their beer. Meanwhile Berlin's reputation for the avant-garde is certainly safe with Schoppe Bräu.
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