Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Festival der Bierkulturen 2010 - The other beers

There were a handful of non-German breweries present at the tiny festival, although non-German beers were fairly well represented by the likes of BierZwerg and Bierkompass. I didn’t linger around them as I can buy anything “foreign” they have any time.

Having sampled a fair few German beers, I toddled down to Braustelle as I wanted to find out what Revelation Cat was all about, but while reading their blackboard of offerings I was politely harassed by an older gentleman who was hocking Lambics from Boon and 3 Fonteinen (I think!). His chatter (he was actually American with Irish roots, as they all have, from famine times) made me cave in and in return I got an extra large serving of Boon Oude Lambik, a two-year-old pure lambic, served from a small plastic barrel. With an aroma suggesting dusty lemons, it really wasn’t as sour as I expected. Lime-like, with an earthy, composty feel pervading throughout. It really did feel like tasting old hops: the spirit was there, but rounded and dulled by time. It didn’t really do it for me, however, as I much prefer the sharpness of the likes of Cantillon Geueze.

Managing to sidestep to Revelation Cat, who were offering four single hop Lambix, I chose the Simcoe Lambix at random. Hazy, orange-hued, it has a powerful citric aroma, squeezing out lemons and grapefruit, laced with an almost anise spiciness. It has a gentle sourness, again suggesting fresh lemon, and with a crushed geranium leafiness in the background. Very refreshing, and dry as a bone, it left little in the finish however.

Before being abducted by a group of guys from Bonn I'd fallen in with, who were determined to go back to the main festival location, I squeezed in a Cat in a Barrel (a Mikkeller-Revelation Cat collaboration?), an 18% tiger aged in rum barrels. Really warming, with a big American hop hit on a thick, creamy-caramel base. Remarkably spicy, with pepper and ginger lingering. Really a lovely drinking experience. The Bonn chaps weren’t so impressed, but at least they tried it! I probably could have done with a little sit down, like TheBeerNut, but time was marching on.

Back at base, I was bought another Piratengold, which was probably good to reset the taste buds, and was then forced into getting some Biervision Monstein Wättergouge, despite Laurent Mousson’s warnings. This was a simple, malt-driven beer, grainy, with slightly fruity notes, but overall pretty regular. Their Huusbier tasted pretty much like Kölsch to me. Read into that what you will, but maybe my taste buds were dead to subtlety at this stage.

A CAMRA chap had advised me to try the IPAs from the Belgian Picobrouwerij Alvinne. For some reason I decided to buy a bottle of their Calvados-Barrel-Aged Melchior, and while negotiating was able to sample their black beer Alvinne Morpheus Dark. They explained that this was their own special yeast strain, incorporating wild beasties of some sort. I can see it shared some characteristics with Lambic, being sourish, and incredibly dry. Decent enough and a bit moreish, I thought. I struggled to control my face when trying the IPA though, but from the guy’s reaction I’m not sure I did it so well. Harshly bitter, with little in the way of body or malty goodness to support it, I felt it was way out of balance, and not something you could drink in normal quantities. At that point I stopped negotiating and took my bottle, which I really hope is not like the IPA.

Out back, under a tent, was a small stand from Mikkeller. I felt a bit guilty about leaving them till last, but at this stage of the evening the vouchers didn’t seem to count, and while chatting with the very friendly Thor, or at least that what it sounded like, I got thrown samples of Beer Geek Breakfast and Beer Geek Brunch Weasel. Lovely, lovely beers. That’s all I remember, and sure what else would anyone need to remember? Oh, I did say that the Weasel reminded me a lot of the De Molen Kopi Loewak, but was told that the gypsy brewers had done it first. Serves me right. I also just realised I forgot to ask for the 1000 IBU jobby, but was having far too much fun talking shit.

The festival was officially closed by now, and I’d missed my intended train, so when I was invited down to Braustelle to join the organiser and the guys from Mikkeller and Siegburger, I sadly had to decline. I’d probably still be there now, or on a bench in the park if I hadn’t…


The Beer Nut said...

"My own strain of yeast" is a much better term than "infected".

Barry M said...

lol, I hadn't thought of that :D

Mark said...

Wow, that sounds like a great beer list -the German and the others - but what happened to the Reinheitsgebot?! :)

Some really great sounding beers there. I love Brunch Weasel. Cat in a Barrel sounds great and it's not often you see a beer described as a tiger! I haven't heard of Revelation Cat before but a quick google and they sound like the sort of brewery I'd get on with - I must go to Rome soon... In fact, I probably should go to Germany soon!

Barry M said...

Ya know, I was expecting this to be obviously beyond the gebot, because of the strap line billing the festival, but in reality, most of the German brews seemed to be within, or just subtly outside, and weren'T making a big deal of it. It was the Belgian, Italian (both bringing mostly sourish beers) and Danish stuff that was clearly outside, and it was great fun to watch the locals trying these out. "Stay away from that Danish beer, it's terrible!" said one, of the Mikkeller 1000 IBU :D Actually, I forgot to try it!

I'd only heard of Revelation Cat since TheBeerNut mentioned then being at Copenhagen. Same guy was in Köln. If TBN needed a sit down after the Barrel, I wanted to try it! :D The Cat guy said there are over 300 micro breweries in Italy, but only a few are good, in his opinion.

Mark said...

Interesting... So how do Germans react to IPAs and imperial stouts? Are they big styles or not? I'm just curious as I have no idea!

"If TBN needed a sit down after the Barrel, I wanted to try it!" That makes me want to try it too :)

Barry M said...

Hmm, I haven't encountered a German brewery making an imperial stout, and in fact it was only last weekend that I came across that one making a regular stout. Likewise, I've not seen anything resembling an IPA (or the current, general interpretation of what that is), though I've heard of some high IBU (100+) lagerbiers.

Going by some of the guys I work with and neighbours, I guess if they could get them, they'd drink 'em! But it takes a moment of adjustment as they're quite different in flavour from the vast majority of German beer. Some people go "oh, that's interesting, really different and tasty" (particularly with pale ales and IPAs) while some go "Oh, that's really strong! Not sure if I like it." (usually with quite strong, dark beers or barley wines).

Was kinda pleased to see German brewer making a barley wine (well, it was translated to Gerstenwein), and amused to hear a British woman saying there was no such thing as Gerstenwein. There is now, love!

Laurent Mousson said...

@ Mark : the Reiheitsgebot isn't law anymore in Germany. There's a legisltaiotn on beer which indeed allows a few things (including sugar in top-fermented beer and hop extracts) and forbids others, but the only practical effect it has is you can't legally call a beer with spices or fruit "Bier", but have to label it "Trunk", or possibly "Biermischgetränk", depending on how you did it... The rest, i.e. rarity of different beers, owes more to many German getting cold feet at the idea of leaving their beery comfort zone of a dozen recognised ordnance styles...

I mean Jloseter neuzelle have been brewing a pretty nice beer with cherry juice in it for quite a while now, and I'm not aware of them getting in much troble for it.