Sunday, 26 December 2010

To Hell or Schefflenz

It's been a busy few months since I began my self-imposed exile from the blogosphere. Beoir, the new beer consumers organisation in Ireland was finally launched, (or the website at least, two months behind schedule) which was a relief, but also a great pleasure to see how interest is growing in just a few short months. As TheBeerNut's recent post shows, things are looking good in the Irish craft beer scene, despite pretty much everything else looking crap. I get an odd pang of jealousy that I'm not there* to experience the new beers emerging there and then, but it's bloody great to see.

Of course, one of the main reasons for the long intermission was the biggest bullet bitten to date: buying a house. After years of renting, we're finally home owners, although still renting for now as we've bought a 200-year-old farmhouse that is in serious need of renovation and modernisation. It's going to be a long project, probably never-ending, but that'll be a subject for another blog. Suffice to say that as a home brewer who now owns a rather large barn, complete with cellars, there's all sorts of crazy pipe dreams going on in my head.

We moved from Muenster to Mittelschefflenz, a considerably smaller place (c. 1,100 people in our village, or 4,180 in the Schefflenz area**, compared to 275,000 in Münster), but there's a brewery, Brauerei Egolf, in Unterschefflenz, only 2km away. Little did I know when I described their Schefflenzer Haustrunk Pilsner back in April, that I'd end up living in the place. Strange to say, despite walking to the brewery a couple of time in the two-and-a-bit months we've lived here, it's never been open. Unterschefflenz was also the home of a larger brewery, Letzguss, which closed it's doors in 1992 after operating for 158 years. The former owners of the house we've bought kindly gave me some branded glasses from the brewery, and the buildings are still there, on Brauereistrasse, with the name still dominating the street, so I'll be trying to find out more about it.

Although the move itself was a little stressful, it did give me an excuse to clear the beer cellar a bit, on the pretence of "lightening the load". Not that there was any need really. Two of these were given to me by a Lithuanian colleague who drove them all the way to Rotterdam from Vilnius, not that that was the reason we met, of course. Vilniaus Šviesusis Nefiltruotas Alus is, as the name suggests, a non-filtered beer, and light in colour, as the label helpfully translates. And yes, it is light and hazy, with a mouthwatering, sweet, bready aroma with a twist of green apple. Flavour-wise, it's more of the same, leaving a lasting sweetness and a touch of ginger-like spiciness. It puts me in mind of a soft, fruity weissbier, despite the low carbonation. A little too sweet for my tastes, it's ever so easy to lower back all the same.

It's darker sister,Vilniaus Tamsusis su Žolelemis is described as Dark with Herbs on the label, which sounds promising. Herbs and spices are certainly dominant on the nose, with anise, or clove-like overtones, but it falls a bit on the flavour stakes. It's got a fair dose of caramel flavours, but also a watered-down port effect or, dare I say it, like thinned, cold Glühwein. It's an interesting combination, in a way, but not something I could drink all night.

My biggest mistake of the move was bringing the 240+ empty bottles I used for my homebrewing back to the drink store. I now have to start the bottle collecting from scratch, so have been unable to brew. And that's something I really want to get back in action again, as there's a whole new challenge as a brewer of ales in a small German village like this, but that's another story.

*I did make one quick trip back to the old sod in September, on the occasion of my Mother's 75th Birthday. I had one spare evening to meet up with TheBeerNut, Séan and old friends to do a quick Dublin tour and sample some Messrs Maguire, Pifko and Trouble Brewing Beers. And no, I was having too much fun to take proper notes.

**The Gemeinde, or local authority area, of Schefflenz is made up of Oberschefflenz, Mittelschefflenz and Unterschefflenz, oh, and Kelineichholzheim.

Note: Although the post title refers to words attributed to Cromwell, "to hell or Connaught", we did have a choice in moving to Schefflenz, and we're quite happy with that :)

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