Friday, 14 March 2014

Reinheitsgebot AND Organic? Must be good!

Last year, my wife and her mother paid a visit to Abtei Neuburg (also called Stift Neuburg, or Neuburg Abbey), just outside Heidelberg, and being the decent human beings that they are, brought back a selection of beers from Brauerei zum Klosterhof, within the Abbey complex

Brauerei zum Klosterhof brew organic beers, identifiable by the Bio badges on the neck labels. I've had both good and bad experiences with organic beers in the past, and firmly believe that organic, or the Reinheitsgebot for that matter, is no guarantee of a good, tasty beer, as even the best of ingredients can be used badly. But I'm always happy to try anything new!

Greenish-gold, with a slight haze and thick, frothy head, Klosterhof Heidelberg Pils has a somewhat yeasty/bready aroma, spliced with a cut of sulphur and lemon. Lightly grainy, with an underlying lemon and lime flavour, with green apples, that might start looking good on paper, however, it is predominantly sweet, with cabbagey undertones, rendering it soft and dull, if unoffensive.

Klosterhof Heidelberg Helles has a sourish, sweet almond aroma, and a flavour that suggests amaretto diluted with 7-Up and boiled cauliflower. Overly sweet and unpleasant, I have to admit that it went down the drain after half of it was consumed.

Klosterhof Heidelberg Weizen starts promising, with nice cloves and the classic banana aroma. Oddly, not much of that comes through in the flavour, which is thin, despite a pleasing creamy texture. Lightly metallic, with a cardboardy underbelly, another dull, unpleasant experience.

Klosterhof Heidelberg Bernsteinweizen was a little darker than the standard offering, and not quite as dark as a regular Dunkel Weizen. Quite nice fudge aromas show up, with a warming clove element, as one would expect. Also a tad thin, lie its sister, but with an interesting acidic edge that freshens things up. Caramel malts, sweet apple, soft cloves. The best of the lot.

And finally, the Klosterhof Heidelberg Dunkles. I have a soft spot for Dunkel beers, so hopes were high on this one. With light, fruity nose, suggesting summer berries, it gets off to a lovely start, but on swallowing, it suggests nothing more than thin Ribena that has been infused with old cornflakes boxes. Poor.

I feel it's only fair to state that at the time of writing these notes, all of these beers were just after their best before date. But would that render them so bad? My experience tells me not, unless their bottling plant is sub-par. I should also point out I've had multiple bottles of some of these (Dunkles, Helles, Pils), when fresh, and frankly, I had the similar thoughts then. I feel a bit bad about slating these so completely, and I see from their website that they are also seasonally brewing IPAs and other ales. Cashing in on the latest trends? Perhaps, but I've no problem with that, and would love to try them.

In short, the lesson to be learned is that organic ingredients do not translate to better beer, any more than a Reinheitsgebot or craft label does. It's the ingredients combined with the brewer's skills with the art and science of brewing that makes good beer. But I guess most readers here already know that.


Hopswatch said...

I could have told you that. A lot of organic german brews in Danish Hippy Stores (not a bad word meant about hippies) - most of them thinnish, dull and stale.

Barry Masterson said...

Well, I always prefer to experience disappointment in the flesh :D

Pinkus Müller aren't bad, though the character of the Münster Alt is not what it was even 6 years ago.

A brewing friend of mine opined that many organic beers taste dull/stale because there isn't as big a turnaround on organic hops, so they start staling before they are used. Might be a reason, but I've no idea what the production levels versus consumption is.

Hopswatch said...

Dunno about levels of organic hopsproduction neither. However, Neumarkter Lammsbräu made this decent Spelt Beer:

Run it through google translate if you like :-). We also have some rather nice organic brews in Denmark. The 'Øko-Thy' is a classic ( and The Brown Ale from Bryghuset Braunstein ( is still one of my favourite beers.

Barry Masterson said...

Thanks for the tips! I'll be running that through translate later this evening so :D

I'm certainly not saying that all organic beers are crap, just that organic is not a guarantee of a better tasting beer. I guess it's more like a lifestyle choice for some.