I recently made the not-too-long trip up to New Braunfels, TX, to check out an up and coming brewery I had been hearing more and more about, New Braunfels Brewing Co. When I got there I met Kelly Meyer (co-owner with his wife Lindsey, an head brewer), who was kind enough to tell me about NBBCo and let me sample some of the beers. As of right now the brewery is very small – 15 Barrels – but they have aspirations on growing, and as quick as their bottles sell out (they brewed 18 DIFFERENT beers in the last year) I’m sure it won’t be long. Kelly describes his plans on having an “estate brewery” where he can eventually get as much of his raw ingredients from his own land as possible; right now NBBCo works on getting as much Texas (and even as much Comal county) grown product in their beer as possible. His beers harken back to New Braunfel’s German roots, and he uses all 85% wheat in his beers, and all of them are brewed with the same yeast, which adds a nice uniformity across the brand. But even with so much of the beginning of these beers being “the same,” they are very different in the end.
About the Brewery (from nbbrewing.com):
Around 1850 Julius Rennert began brewing in New Braunfels, Texas. He is widely credited as brewing the first beer in Texas. In 1915 or so the New Braunfels Brewing Company picked up the brewing torch and mashed it’s first batch of local brew. Even through Prohibition, NBBCo still brewed the good stuff and bootlegged it. But 1925 brought down the local brewery when authorities raided them and found the illegal brew. The reincarnation of our New Braunfels Brewing Company started as a dream in 2010. We’ve located our nano-brewery in historic downtown New Braunfels and are available for tours and tastings. We approach our brewery project as a labor of love. Our beers are designed to reflect our community, refresh your palette and be a heck of a lot of fun! We believe that beer and life should be enjoyed and savored. That’s why we say: Here’s To Life!
About the Beer (from the literature at the brewery):
(hee mul) HimmelWeiss, the TX Saison, is crafted from 85% TX grown wheat. Notes of vanilla, lemongrass and happiness will throw a party on your tongue and invite all your rowdy friends. Sweet, spicy and lovable, like the way you picture yourself.
Saisons have quickly moved up the ranks in my personal beer ratings this last year or two. They are not as in your face as IPAs or Stouts, they are not as laid back as Pilsners, they are not as pedestrian as Ambers, they ride that fine line in the middle, and when done right they can really surprise you. Generally, Saisons are made with a certain yeast that gives them much of their signature flavor, so I was very surprised to find that not only is HIMMELWEISS 85% wheat like the rest of the NBBCo line, but it is also brewed with the same Hefe yeast. It doesn’t taste like it.
Pouring HW into the glass produces a gorgeous lemony-yellow color that is not sparkling clear… and shouldn’t be. This citrine liquid is topped by a raucous gleaming white head that stays around for quite a while, and when it finally leaves, it has tagged the walls to let its homies know it was there. Taking a big sniff of what the HW has to offer, I get a lot of what I’d expect from a Saison – some vanilla smoothness, a tiny touch of tart – and then something I wouldn’t expect, that very banana like ester that comes from the Hefe yeast. It is an interesting olfactory impulse, something I would not expect from a beer labeled as a Saison.
Taking that first sip, the HW reads all Saison. It’s really odd to me that NBBCo could brew a Saison with Hefe yeast. Talking with Kelly, it comes from the temperatures that the beer is fermented at, as well as additions of lemongrass and vanilla bean, that make this beer be what it should not. It’s smooth, it’s refreshing, and it’s very Saison-y without being that traditional Saison. And I really like that. It’s got a good medium-body – not too thick and not super-thin – and a great, somewhat creamy mouth feel that really accentuates the vanilla. Overall, this is just a super-cool Saison. It’s a beer that is more than the sum of its parts, and one I will most definitely be drinking again. Soon.
Overall 8 / 10
About the Beer (from Untappd):
According to Hindu faith, Shiva, the god of destruction and rebirth, was called upon to rid the world of an evil demon named Tripura. After meditating for 1,000 years on how to kill Tripura and contemplating the evil he wrought on Earth, Shiva winked his eyes and tears fell. From those tears grew a tree who’s fruit satisfies thirst. It’s seeds are used for meditation and prayer. Our Weizenbock is a study in power and grace. Surprising smooth for a high abv powerhouse, Shiva’s Tears is our pathway to beer truth. Meditate on a few of them and you may just cry of few tears of your own.
You have got to love the name of this beer. SHIVA’S TEARS: WEIZENBOCK OF THE DESTROYER. That’s metal; Hindu metal. Is there such a thing as Hindu Metal? If not, there should be, and this should be its official beer. ST assaults my glass as a nearly black-as-a-metal-guy’s-soul-should-be elixir, topped off with a ferocious tan head. It’s somewhat amazing to look at… if I didn’t know better I would think that this beer is on nitro. But it’s not, just regular-o. Allowing the goddess to enter my olfactory cavities, I am again surprised, because it is not nearly as roasty and toasty as what my eyes we preparing my brain for. ST has a bit of roast to it, but not anywhere near what the visual makes me expect. That 85% wheat body really makes this much more mild than I was prepared for, which is not a bad thing. It’s nice to be surprised.
Taking a sip, my tongue follows my nose. It is heavy, yes, but we’re talking radio-friendly heavy, not death-metal heavy. Less Cannibal Corpse, more Staind. Now, if we were actually discussing music, this would be bad (to be honest, I’m not a fan of either, but if I had to swing one way or the other it would be CC), but since we are discussing a Weizenbock, this is nice. I like how this beer is somewhat undercover; it makes you think it’s going to be deep, roasty, thick, and heavy, and it’s really not. It’s light-bodied, with a tinge of roastiness, and very easy to drink for an 8.5% ABV beer. The aftertaste is nice, with just a little bitterness to compliment the mild roastiness, and it builds as you get deeper in the glass. In the end, it’s a bit light for my tastes (this is a time I’d prefer maybe Deftones) but not bad at all. This would be a decent brew to prove to your friends that only drink pale ales that not all dark beers are big and heavy. Except on the ABV part of the equation… tread lightly, ST might destroy you if you’re not careful.
Overall 6.5 / 10
LuftWeiss / LSD (LuftWeiss in the Sky with Diamonds)
About the Beer (from Untappd):
LuftWeiss: LuftWeiss (literally, SKY Wheat Beer) is made with very pale malts to lighten the body and make the beer more drinkable and refreshing. A very small amount of pale wheat malt is combined with white wheat and pilsner barley malt, resulting in a straw color and a light body. The Perle and Cascade hops add just the right amount of bitter snap and a hint of citrus (so no need for lemon in this one). The real flavor comes from the choice of yeast strain. It is a very old yeast from Germany that produces a myriad of flavor compounds. Our fermentation schedule creates yeast phenolics (flavors) that combine mild spice and banana tastes.
LSD: LuftWeiss dry hopped with Cascade and wormwood.
I found this to be an interesting experiment, as these are two versions of the same beer. LUFTWEISS is NBBCo’s Hefeweizen (any good German styled brewery has gotta have at least one) and LSD (LUFTWEISS IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS) is a dry-hopped version of the same beer. I am a fan of messing with styles. Don’t get me wrong; it is important as a brewer to be able to make solid representations of styles that any good beer geek is going to immediately recognize (like Hefe), but it’s also cool to take that immediately recognizable style and tweak it in a way that’s all your own.
LW pours a very light lemon yellow, with a thin brilliant head that takes off quickly but leaves a memory behind staining the glass. The aroma is very classical hotter-fermented Hefe – some banana, a little clove, some sweetness, and an overall easy drinker. The body is thin and easily quaffable. This would be a good summer beer to have in a can on the river, if I were the type of person to ride down a river with a can. The mouthfeel is light and zesty, and the banana comes through throughout the sip, with a nice crispness on the end. Overall, a very classical Hefe, and if I was a big fan of Hefes I’m sure I’d be a bigger fan of LW.
LSD on the other hand takes that idea of an “average” Hefe and kicks it in the ass. Instead of the light lemon yellow, the LSD comes off a much deeper, cloudier hue. There is little to no head, and as one would expect there is little to no lacing (but somehow a tiny bit sticks around, grasping for life on the glass’ walls). The aroma is hop-forward and almost medicinal from the wormwood – which, if you didn’t know, is one of the major ingredients in Absinth (but not the one that gives it most of its flavor) – with a background player of lemon. The flavor is not completely unlike LW, but with some additions that take it out of the area of the average Hefe and into somewhat unknown territory. The hops do not change the flavor (other than what your brain tells you from the different aroma), but the wormwood does play a part in upsetting the status quo. The bod also seems to gain something from the dry-hopping, as it feels smoother and almost even slightly velvety, compared to its much thinner brethren. Overall, if I were given the option, I would choose the Diamonds any day.
Overall LuftWeiss 6 / 10 LSD 7 / 10
Brewery site: http://nbbrewing.com/