When we were living in Ireland, most of our holidays over the past ten years were spent in my wife's home town of Mosbach, a small town on the south edge of the Odenwald, a mostly rural, rugged area that my wife would love to live in. Now that we live in Germany, nothing seems to have changed, and as I write, we're half way through a two-week stay with the in-laws, where I am steadily gaining weight. The Rhine-Neckar area is really wine country, and the Odenwald is considered an apfelwein-producing area, but there are local breweries to be found, though it feels like there's not as many as in some other parts of Germany. In fact, going on drives over the past week we stumbled across two, but they were both closed at the time. I'll try to make a return.
One brewery I did manage to visit, about three years ago, was the Schmucker brewery, Mossautal, right in the middle of the Odenwald. It's a small town, dominated by the not-so-small brewery. We ate there and sampled a small part of their seemingly large range. It was here that I first realised that not all Schwarzbiers are actually schwarz, having received one that was distinctly dark amber. On asking if this was the right beer, we were simply told that's the way it is. Fair enough. I learned something.
I've written a bit about two of the Schmucker Bocks before. No great shakes by any means, but not bad. The local drink store gave me a chance to try a few more
Schmucker Meister Pils is a clear, yellow-gold with a loose head. I have to say, the initial taste made me wince. It's clean-tasting all right, but with a sweet edge, then the hops come in swiftly with a vaguely bile-like bitterness. It's a bit harsh, though not aggressively so, leaving an unpleasantly acrid finish. To be kind, i thought it might go better with some greasy food, but having another bottle with a BBQ a few days later it fared very badly with spicy, marinaded pork steaks. Not one I'd be in a hurry to try again.
The Schmucker Privat Export, weighing in at 5.2%, gives a bland sweetcorn and slightly orangey aroma. Like its sibling, it also has an unpleasantly astringent flavour, albeit more rounded. It's quite gassy, giving a fairly carbonic edge to burps. Overall, it's thin, with a suggestion of lemonade and a detergent-like bit to the finish. No thanks.
I was getting weary of the smiling face of Mr Schmucker on the label by the time I opened the Schmucker Märzen. It looks nice enough though, being a light amber with a light, short-lived head. The aroma suggests light caramel with a touch of fruit and it's the same in the flavour, really. It's smoother than its paler sisters, with a softer, less aggressive carbonation. The light touch of caramel and a juicy-fruit middle-ground makes it fairly chuggable. The finish is dry, with an ever-so-slight suggestion of toast in the background. No real character to mark it out, but its main attractiveness is that it's a lot better than the other two!
As an aside, we found a Gasthaus-Brauerei in nearby Eschelbronn. It looked closed, and we thought we'd make a return trip during the week. We later found that it was for sale, for 163,000 Euro. No idea if any actual brewing was done on site in recent years, but I'm tempted to call the agent to see if brewing equipment is also included!