Thursday, 6 May 2010

Beyond the Reinheitsgebot

Ahh, festival time. While my friends and fellow ICBers are living the life in Copenhagen, financial, familial and temporal constraints made it impossible for me to join them, again! But there's some light at the end of the festival tunnel, as next week, May 15th and 16th, sees the first Festival der Bierkulturen in Cologne. A German beer festival might summon images of Oktoberfest-like bingefests, but this struck me as interesting, not least because it's strap-lined with the tag "Classic and innovative beer specialities beyond the Reinheitsgebot and Kölsch Convention". Now, like anyone, I like to have the occasional moan about the Reinheitsgebot, and love linking my German colleagues to Ron Pattinson's analysis of the gebot, and list of some extinct German beer styles, but unless I know there's a sympathetic ear, I won't waste my time; I reckon it's so deeply engrained in the beery subconscious of the average Josef Seife that it'd be pissing into the wind. So seeing a festival in the heart of Kölsch country that takes a trip outside of the norm for German beers, this has to be interesting!

The festival is being organised by Peter Esser, owner and Braumeister of Cologne's smallest brewery, Braustelle, who will be bringing along a Dunkel with Rosemary, an Imperial Stout with Rye as well as their regular range, and perhaps some of their monthly specials (a Triplebock and something called Pink Panther has been mentioned).

Highlights billed for the festival include Weyermann Maltings, who as well as presumably showcasing their malts, are bringing along a Rauchbier, Schlotfegerla, and a Raspberry Porter, brewed with East Kent Goldings and aged in bourbon casks for a year with raspberries from Franken, Definitely not Reinheitsgebot, and sounding strangely familiar.

Volker-Bräu, a resurrected brand from the 1930s, will be present with an oat and rye beer, both fermented with Kölsch yeasts. I have to say, I’ve not tried a proper German Roggenbier yet, so this might be a good opportunity, even if the yeast choice isn’t typical.
Swiss brewery, Biervision Monstein (warning, turn down your speakers before clicking that link!), will come down from their mountain, but no idea what they'll be bringing. Having mostly enjoyed the Swiss beers I had while visiting Brussels recently (yeah, I know) I'll be sure to give them a whizz.

A few of the interesting speciality beer shops from Cologne are listed, including Bier Zwerg which has a great selection for this part of the world, and Bierkompass which I will be browsing very shortly! I'll be taking a peek at whatever stand the Association of Home and Hobby Brewers of Germany, a 500-strong community, will have will have at the festival, mostly out of curiosity about what do German home brewers brew, and do they really use washing machines?

But of course, the highlight, or at least the one that I salivate about, is Mikkeller, listed as the special guest. 'nuff said.

Oddly enough, trying to get a posse to go to this gig is proving difficult, despite people saying they'd love to go. Family commitments make it tough for many, after all, it's not usual to take a 2 hour train ride at 10am on a Saturday just to get in 8 hours of drinking before turning back, or at least not for them. My wife has encouraged me to go all Saturday. She must be up to something... Anyway, if you're in the area, let me know :)

Festival der Bierkulturen
Location: Bürgerzentrum Köln-Ehrenfeld
Dates: Saturday 15th to Sunday 16th of May, 2010
Open from 12:00 to 20:00
Entry is 3.50 €, including a festival glass
Normal price for a beer:: 1 €/0.15 Liter
Speciality beers possibly more


Laurent Mousson said...

Well, don't get too excited about Biervision Monstein...
It's very much at the other end of Switzerland from what you've had recently. You may have heard there's a serious beery split across the country... the western third - plus Tessin and larger cities - more open to belgian- and british-influenced stuff, whilst the eastern two-thirds is very much similar to Germany in that brewers either dare not venture outside of the dozen or so standard germanic styles, and if they ever do, it's often in a contrived and rather clumsy way.

BFM and Trois Dames, which you've encountered at Chez Moeder Lambic Fontainas are not typical of Swiss beer in general (and basically that's why they made their way there in the first place)

Anyway, good to see Ehrenfeld is a potential nest of open-minded drinkers...

Barry M said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Laurent. I have to admit I wasn't expecting too much, even if it was just based on the music on their website! Good to get a rule of thumb for the geographical divide too.

And yes, I'm looking forward to seeing how these open-minded brewers and drinkers get on next week. Vive la Révolution!

Mark, said...

financial constraints and beer festivals...tell me about it!

Barry M said...

It's tough, isn't it? Have my sights set on the GBBF now, but let's see...

Anonymous said...

Wow that sounds like fun. Too bad I have commitments that weekend and am a bit skint-- or I'd be tempted!

Barry M said...

I certainly hope so! :D Would be nice to have some fellow beer geeks along for company!

Bailey said...

Do you think you'll make it along to Freischem's to try the stout while you're in Cologne...? Intrigued to hear see what you make of it.

Barry M said...

Ah, I remember your post about that! Thanks for the reminder. As it happens, Freischem's are also listed there, along with their four regular beers: Koelsch, Stout, Weizen and kleines Schwarzes.

Depending on how the venue is, and who I end up talking to, I may or may not go further afield while in the city. I don't get there very often! :)

Russ said...

Can't wait to hear how the Festival was. I recently watched a travel show on southern Bavaria and the Tyrol region of Austria and it occurred to me that if I were more adventurous (and didn't have two--soon to be three--kids to put through college) I would move to an Austrian border town and open up a brewery specializing in all the crazy verboten beers you can't brew in Germany. The funny thing is most of my favorite styles are German in origin, but I think it would be fun to fill the void left by the Reinheitsgebot. Of course I can't help but wonder if the market would actually be receptive to something like that.