Sunday, 25 November 2012

Bitterbier blind tasting

Oh, hello blog. Yes, I know, you've been neglected, but frankly, I've had more important things to do. However, a blind tasting is always worth a write-up, even if it was as pointless as a broken pencil.

Having recently gone shopping on the Braufactum website, despite the horrendous prices, I'd acquired a few bottles of their Colonia, described as a top-fermenting bitterbier of the of "Rheinisches" type. The only bitterbier I've had the pleasure of drinking has been Hövels, a former regular beer when I lived up north in Muenster. Having figured out that Braufactum brews it's horrendously expensive Arrique barley wine in the Hövels brewpub, after seeing photos of a brewday on their facebook page, I wondered if Colonia was some sort of rebadging of Hövels, as both are part of the Radeberger Group. We'll see. Two glasses, poured by my wife, labelled A and B. I quickly realised they were not the same thing.

Beer A was a deep, burnished copper, while B was a definite rich gold. Aroma-wise, A delivered a good, strong, typical German beer-like hop aroma, with clean pine wood and a mild resinousness, as well as a slight touch of cat, or perhaps a touch of skunk, all on a vaugely fruity caramel base. B, on the other hand, was bursting with masses of fruitiness, with kiwi, manadarin orange and fresh-mown grass. Sumptuous  so it was already clear what was what.

A had a solid, workman-like flavour, with a straightforward toffee-infused maltiness, juicy and easy to knock back in a few gulps, finishing on a dry, slightly husky note, and leaving a lingering peppermint bitterness. B was much as it smelled. Big fruitiness up front, sweet manadarin/tangarine flesh, backed by an orange barley-sugar base (but not overly sweet, mind), all on a soft, lightly-carbonated body. It finished with a pleasing pithiness. not like a gum-shrinking American IPA, but a definite touch of fresh-chewed orange pith.

Clearly, A was Hövels and B was Braufactum Colonia. I could have saved time by reading the ingredients list, but where's the fun in that? Colonia uses only Saphir hops, and I guess I like them.

I have to admit, as much as I like Hövels, it was pretty hard returning to that glass after the Colonia. After that sweet, orange-infused treat, Hövels was left like a sack of malt dust, so I was glad of the tasting order.

Although I moan a lot about the way Braufactum markets as "gourmet", with pricing to match, I have to admit, of the 5 or so beers of theirs I've tried, they've all been excellent, and I've a few more in the cellar to go.


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,
thanks for sharing your notes. I couldn't agree more. Hövels is in my opinion totally overrated, but people fall for the Bügelverschluss and old time lable design. Did you notice the changed the name from Bitterbier to Original? They changed the recipe, too. There is no way to sell a beer in Germany with the word bitter on the lable or even a serious bitterness in taste. I leked Hövels when it actually was a Bitterbier. Now its just some sweet specialty beer with too much specialty malts in it. SIgh.
Cheers, Philipp

Barry Masterson said...

Hi Philipp!

The first time I tries Hoevels was almost five years ago, when I first moved to Muenster. It was already "Original" then, but i do have a couple of the old "Victoria" glasses that say Bittebier. I'm wondering, had they changed the recipe already then? I seem to remember it being very reminiscent of an English pale ale, in the fact that it had a nice hop profile, quite different from many German beers (although with a fair payload of caramel too). I'd like to know if I missed the original recipe :)

I did try it at the brewpub in Dortmund, and that was also different, I thought sweeter. From what I understand, the Hoevels we buy in bottles or from the tap in a pub are made elsewhere by Radeberger, while what you buy in the brewpub is made on the old brewing system there.