Summit and Schell's announce new small-batch releases

Those who believe that Minnesota craft-beer pioneers August Schell and Summit Brewing Company are sitting back and resting on their laurels now have another reason to re-think this position. Last week both breweries announced the latest releases in their respective series of limited-run, let-the-brewers-play beers. Burton Ale, the No. 4 beer in Schell's Stag Series, was released last week. Summit's Unchained #8: Black Ale will have its draft debut the week of October 24.

August Schell Brewing Company is best known for producing high-quality, German-style lagers and ales. Those are the beers that built the company 151 years ago and kept it going up to the present. They are also the beers that assistant brewmaster Dave Berg most loves to drink. But he admits that he enjoys the opportunity to stretch out a bit. "I often have stuff floating around in the back of my head. It's fun to sit down and think about recipes, research stuff and research styles, or talk to other brewers and ask, 'What do you think about this?' It's fun."

The Stag Series, which debuted last year with a wine-barrel-aged version of Schmaltz's Alt, gives him that opportunity. For this latest edition he looked back to the historical beers of England for inspiration. Burton Ale was once one of the most popular beers in England. By the 1960s a growing taste for bitters and lagers brought about the near death of the style.

To re-create the old Burton Ales, Berg looked to historical brewing records that describe the beer as a darker and sweeter beer. He followed old English brewing tradition by adding sugar to the brew. Schell's Burton Ale was dry-hopped with English hops and aged for three months before release. It's a relatively strong beer at 8 percent alcohol.

Schell's Stag Series #4: Burton Ale is available in stores right now.

Summit Unchained #8: Black Ale

Setting the brewers free is the theme of Summit's Unchained Series. Each beer in the series is the product of one brewer's imagination and skill. Each Summit brewer in rotation takes total control of the beer from conception to packaging. They have total leeway to craft whatever brew they choose.

The series began in 2009 with a light-golden Kölsch-style beer. This eighth beer in the series goes to the opposite end of the color spectrum. Black Ale is described as a "dark and hoppy ale," boasting citrus and pepper hop notes on a bed of toasty, caramel malt. Sounds like one of those newfangled black IPAs or Cascadian dark ales. Whatever you want to call it, it's the brainchild of brewer Mike Lundell, whose first Unchained beer, Rye Ale, remains one of my favorites from the series.

Summit has announced a number of Black Ale release events.

  • Monday, October 24: "Black Monday" at Muddy Waters, noon to close.
  • Wednesday, October 26: Beer School at the Republic, 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 2: Urban Eatery Beer Dinner, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 3: The Nook "Burgers, Bowling, and Beer" event, 7-9 p.m.

Cheers, Michael Agnew Certified Cicerone A Perfect Pint

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