Sadly, I could only make one of the three days, making my way by train to Munich in the excellent company of Thomas, the brewer at Häffner Bräu, Bad Rappenau, and the man behind the Hopfenstopfer range of beers (actually, I think he pioneered these types of beers in Germany, but better check that). We met up with Twitter-friends Gerrit and his partner Nina for a bite to eat before heading underground for the U-Bahn to Giesing, near the venue of the MVG Museum. A quick shuttle bus later, almost bang on the opening time of 2pm, and we handed over €20 for entry, getting a Teku festival glass and four beer vouchers in return, and €10 for twenty beer chips, the currency for the day.
Having seen photos from Friday's session, and hearing there was little in the way of general seating, it occured to me that this looked more like an exhibition than a festival. Bear in mind, my idea of a festival was coloured by events like the Belfast CAMRA festival, where there's basically a wall of casks and the rest is tables and seating. Braukunst Live! had over 30 breweries represented, ranging from the obscure to the rather well known, each with their own booth, and while I was ready to constructively criticise the format, actually, in hindsight, it's definitely a strength, as you really do get time to talk to the people from the brewery, if not the brewers themselves. It was a great pleasure to have a few words with the likes of Menno from De Molen, or Georg from Brauerei Rittermayer, not to mention beer evangelists with stands, like the guys at Bier-Index and author and Biersommelier, Sepp Wejwar.
|Menno of De Molen fame.|
Something new for me was the idea of the festival Master Classes, which were running through the whole day. These optional extras, from free open stage talks to paid tasting sessions an hour long, covered topics like malt, yeast, hops, of course, and more philosophical topics such as tradition versus innovation, presentations from brewers and an open forum to discuss the Reinheitsgebot. I'd have liked to see that one.
I'll return to the beers generally sampled in another post, but here, I'd like to take a closer look at two of the tasting sessions which we attended.
Beer and Chocolate Tasting
Run by Sebastian Sauer of Braustelle Köln, creators of some wonderful beers, this tasting session seemed like a bit of an oddity. I like chocolate, and I like beer, but if I'm pairing chocolate with an alcoholic drink, it's usually really dark chocolate and whisky. But with input from the Schokoladen Museum Köln, Sebastian came up with some really unusual pairings that literally amazed me, not to mention some chocolates that will make their way onto my shopping list!
Kicking off with a beer-chocolate combination in one glass, Sebastian presented Freigeist Bläck Bean Bätsch Schoko stout (note the use of metal umlauts! :)), which is brewed with cocoa powder. 6% ABV, with a light body and an acidic bite (strains of their Deutscher Porter) which contrasted interestingly with the clear coacoa influences. It delivers a cherry-cola-like sweetness in the mid-ground, but finishes with clean roasted grain notes and without any residual cloyingness that the cola reference might suggest. Rather enjoyable, and a fine balance.
Then comes the chocolates. The first pairing was Freigeist Bierkultur's Mac Heath's Murder Malt, specially brewed for the festival, with an orange creme-filled milk chocolate. Mac Heath's was a beer I'd had earlier in the day, 6% brewed with turf-smoked whisky malt. Turfy phenolics are to the fore on this, but it strikes a fine balance of flavour, supported by a cara-infused backdrop and a light grassy hop character. Perhaps a little thin, but eminently sinkable, which I did with little thought while chatting with Stefan and Kay from Bierzwerg earlier on (and very nice people they are too).
I have to admit, this pairing didn't appeal to my tastes. While I liked both separately, the combination was a little too competitive on my palate, but I can see what they were aiming at, and everyone else seemed to approve. Give a similar combination a try yourself, perhaps with a fuller-bodied whisky-barrel aged stout, if you can't get the Mac Heath.
FritzAle American IPA came next, presented by Fritz himself, this time paired with Mozartkugeln, those marzipan-filled balls you see in Austrian airports, but which I've never been tempted to buy. FrizAle American IPA is brewed with Citra and Simcoe hops, a variant on their, by now, classic India Pale Ale. It's loaded with big, chewy, sorbet-like citrus stylings, pillowy pithiness, generous tropical fruits and caramel sweetness. It's robust in the bitterness department too, and this is what really worked well with the marzipan and chocolate blend of the Mozartkugeln. Surprisingly good! Definitely try this. I know I'll be trying other marzipan chocolates with IPAs for the hell of it!
Freigeist Deutscher Porter is a beer I've had before (actually, I have four bottles still in the cellar) and really enjoyed, but what would the lads pair with it? My heart sank when I saw it was a white chocolate with licorice pieces. I'm not a big fan of licorice, but all in the name of science... Remarkably good was my conclusion. The sourness and saltiness of the Porter is somehow softened by the white chocolate, while the licorice complements the light roasted notes of the beer and indeed pairs stunningly well with the sourness. I reckon I could have continued with this combination for the rest of the evening! How could it get better?
And finally, they presented a FritzAle Imperial Stout with banana chocolate. Yes please. That'll do as a description :)
The Yeast Tour
Immediately following this was the next master class (this time one I'd signed up for) "Hefe: Welche Gier schmeckt Dir?", or "Yeast: which flavour do you desire?" presented by Biersommelier, Birgit Reber. As a home brewer, of course yeast is always interesting, and this was a classic tour through the effects of yeast on the flavour of beer.
Girardin Gueuze Black Label was a palate-cleansing, almost shocking (for some) introduction to the world of yeast, and really, what better introduction to that topic than a wild yeast and bacteria-infused beer? Citrus-sour, with a wonderful barnyard character and fruity, caramel suggestions deep down, and a mildly spicy finish, showing touches of candied ginger, this is a fine, refreshing Gueuze.
Riegele Commerzienrat Privat is a beer I hadn't heard of before. While expecting some clean, bitter, pilsner type of thing as a classic example of clean bottom-fermenting beer, we got a Helles instead, and this was a lovely drop, with a sweet, honey aroma, pleasant bready flavours and a light nutty bite rounding it off.
Schneider Weisse Tap 7. What can you say? This ticks all the classic Weizen flavour boxes, with banana, light coves, a burst of bubblegum. Not much ore to say about this well-known beer, other than it proves the effect that yeast alone can have on the flavour profiles of a beer, and is a favourite summer beer of mine.
Another top-fermenting beer, the Camba Bavaria Truchtlinger Pale Ale is also a hoppy little bugger, so in all honesty, I felt the hops were the driving force here, pushing fruity, dried apricot and lemon notes to the fore, and wrapping up with a gentle pepper-infused, lightly bitter finish. Of course, some of those fruity notes could well be coming from the yeast, but in the end, it's the overall impression of the end product that counts.
Fullers Vintage Ale 2011 is one of those beers I like in small quantities. While I fully appreciate the wonders of Fullers yeast, and the rich, caramelly, fruity, figgy, floral stylings of the vintage ales, I do find them a little cloying in quantity. This one is quite boozy, to boot, and a little cloying, so probably best left in the cellar for a while.
Engelszell Gregorius Trappistenbier. See that? Trappistenbier. One that I was really looking forward to trying, the first brew from the world's 8th Trappist brewery, and one of only two not in Belgium, this one being in Austria. Engelszell Gregorius weighs in at 9.9%, and is a dark, dubbel-looking brew. It's really quite strong in the ripe banana aroma department, putting one in mind of a Weizenbock, like Aventinus, and this continued in the flavour. It's not off-putting, but it definitely dominates. Under this are are light band-aid and marzipan flavours, while thick, chewy caramel flavours abound. Sepp told me that the brewers agree the banana flavours are too strong, and it is likely the recipe or process will be adjusted. But hey, it's the first beer from a new TRAPPIST brewery, and that in itself is historic, so I can't complain. Actually, I would very much like to cellar a few bottles of this first brew to see how it develops, as this could have been a little young. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to seeing how the brewery develops, and if additional beers will be added to the range over time. Watch this space.
This was a well laid-out tasting order for exploring the effects of yeast, and some fine beers on their own, so many thanks to Birgit for running it.
So, quite a lot to fit in for just two of the three masterclasses I attended, and already blogspot is complaining about too many labels! In the next post, I'll do a quick roundup of the other beers I managed to try, or at least the ones I remembered to take notes for, as the chatting was more important.