This Wednesday marks the start of a new Shakopee tradition, Badger Hill’s release of Cherry Double Dunkel, a rare beer that they’ve released just once before in their three year history. After first releasing the German-style Weizenbock aged on cherries from Door County, WI in 2013, the beer won the hearts of followers and they’ve been hearing about it ever since. But, in that time Badger Hill has built a new brewery and relocated from Minnetonka to Shakopee. As they finished up the brewery last fall, there just wasn’t time to release the sought-after beer.
Starting at 3pm on Nov. 11 that all changes. The taproom will be pouring the cherry beer and they’ll sell wax-tipped 750ml bottles, tulip glasses, and gift boxes with the special pink-colored beer. Brewed in limited supply, Cherry Double Dunkel will appear in select stores and bars across the metro but Badger Hill expects supplies to be gone before Christmas.
At 9% ABV the beer is conditioned on almost two pounds of cherries per gallon. Using fresh fruit in a beer is not uncommon, but it’s often reserved for special batches due to the cost and labor involved. Badger Hill notes that the addition gives Cherry Double Dunkel extra aromatic and tart characteristics. It also times out nicely, adds brewery co-owner Britt Krekelberg, both because it is a fall-fitting beer style and also because of the late-August harvest of the cherries.
With a connection to a Wisconsin farm, Badger Hill knew they wanted a cherry beer for the season. "The cherries compliment the already rich, bock-like flavors of the beer style," Krekelberg explains, "And [they] pair well with wild game, turkey, pecan pie, and soft cheeses—all foods that are indicative of this time of year," she adds. Badger Hill crafted the recipe by talking with Strange Brewing (CO), who also used cherries from Door County, followed by trial and error until perfection.
Schell’s uses a similar process when they add fruit to their Noble Star Series of sour Berliner Weisse beers. Traditional sour beers use either natural fruits or syrup extracts to counter the puckering sour. "I was interested in blurring the lines of Belgian and German tradition by adding fruit to our Berliners and allowing it to ferment out, leaving only the fruit flavor and aroma, but without the added sweetness that you get by adding fruit syrup," explains Jace Marti, Schell’s Assistant Brewmaster. "As far as what fruits we add, for the most part we let the beer tell us which fruit we add to it. We constantly taste the beer during fermentation and try to pick out a fruit that will compliment or accentuate flavors we are getting from the base."
"With our sours, we’re almost thinking more like a winemaker than a brewer to a certain extent," Marti expands on the processes, noting the variance of agricultural products from year to year. A vintage 2013 Cherry Double Dunkel will taste different than the 2015 batch and that, says Krekelberg, is part of the charm. "Because we use a generous amount of cherries, there is a beautiful aroma and subtle tartness to the beer that seems more prominent this year," she says, adding that 2015’s is a hair heavier at 9% ABV (as compared to 8% previously).
Between Badger Hill’s Weizenbock and Schell’s sour Berliner Weisses, there is a wide of range of flavor added, but with a recurring theme that the fruit is used to accent the existing beer rather than overpower it. "I think it’s a great way to add another layer of complexity to a beer," says Marti, working in a number of different styles.
Check out Badger Hill’s limited time Cherry Double Dunkel now. Schell’s is expecting an apricot sour this December, followed by beers conditioned with gooseberries and blackberries.