Cardinal Spirits Announces Black Bear Bierschnaps

Cardinal Spirits Announces Black Bear Bierschnaps

Mathew Muncy

By Mathew Muncy

On the heels of their first bourbon release a few weeks ago, Bloomington’s Cardinal Spirits has announced they are adding Black Bear Bierschnaps to their libation lineup.

If you’ve never heard of bierschnaps, don’t worry because you are definitely not alone. Bierschnaps is typically a clear liquor, similar to vodka, that’s been distilled from beer and is usually around 80 proof. It’s a spirit not commonly made outside of Germany, where it originated. Essential Spirits in California was documented back in the early 2000s as the first United States distillery to replicate the spirit.

The brainchild behind Black Bear Bierschnaps is Cardinal Spirits co-founder and CEO Adam Quirk. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, actually,” said Quirk. He went on to explain how he had a friend back in New York who was into Bierschnaps and they had planned to open a distillery in Brooklyn, allowing them to create their own version. Life happened, then Quirk moved to Bloomington and wound up opening Cardinal Spirits, but the whole time he’s had Bierschnaps in the back of his mind.

Distilling Bierschnaps was already a crazy, unique idea, yet Quirk decided to take it a step further. Traditional Bierschnaps are distilled from pale ales or lagers, so Quirk decided to create Black Bear with Upland Brewing’s Teddy Bear Kisses, a Russian Imperial Stout.

“I really wanted to do a stout because I really like the way a stout distillate tastes,” said Quirk. “I’ve also never had a bierschnaps made from stout, so you know, it’s fairly unique in that respect.”

Quirk performed some test batches with different Upland beers before landing on what he felt was the perfect grain bill.

bierschnaps-2-of-5“We used a little bit of German hops,” said Quirk. “Upland’s original recipe, their hop bill was a little bit different than what we decided to do. We were distilling some of their Oktoberfest at the time, just as an experiment, and we liked the way the hops came through in that one. The hops from the Teddy Bear Kisses were a little too overpowering, so we decided to use the hop bill from their Oktoberfest and the malt recipe from their Teddy Bear Kisses.”

Cardinal Spirits and Upland then brewed their special batch of Teddy Bear Kisses, fermented it, and then distilled it. Some of the wort was set aside, boiled, and turned into a malt syrup. That syrup—which gives the bierschnaps its stout color—was then blended with the distilled liquor, some of the original stout, and a few botanicals to create its final version.

According to Quirk, you can expect a nice, chocolatey taste with a lot of rich, caramelly cocoa notes, while the hops add a slightly bitter and lightly hopped taste. Bierschnaps can be enjoyed as a shot or mixed, and they are also good to drink with a brewed version of the beer it was made from.

Black Bear Bierschnaps officially goes on sale this Friday, October 28 at Cardinal Spirits and a bottle (750 mL) will cost you $28. If you can’t make it to Bloomington to pick up a bottle, you will be able to find it, alongside Teddy Bear Kisses, at Big Red Liquors starting in mid-November.


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