Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Artbrau 2015 - Part 2

I hadn't eaten since breakfast, so at this stage something was needed to act as a buffer. Outside, they had GrillGott serving up small plates of random grilled goodness, but we opted for Bratwurst in a bun at the cheaper stall.  We weren't that long outside, but the crowd had increased noticeably when we went back in. There was still plenty of space to move around in comfort, though.

The first stop was Faust, based in Miltenberg, a 45 minute drive north of where I live. I've had quite a few of the standard Faust range, not to mention a few of their more expensive limited edition brews, and it was to a few of these we were drawn. The Faust Eisbock sounded good, and at 11% ABV and a cost of two tokens (so two Euro) for the 100ml sample, I reckoned - or at least hoped - it had to be good.

It's massively fruity on the nose, mostly of the dried, sweet type, suggesting prunes, figs and sticky Pflaumenmus. It's not afraid to show off its alcohol either, with a definite warmth creeping behind a sherry-like foreground. It's got a firm fruity foundation to support it, all of the dried fruit complexities apparent in the aroma, with a slight apple-like acidity cutting through and lending a counter note. It's not without hops either, with a floral, perfumy bitterness, finishing off in the direction of pine needles. Licking sticky lips, I reckoned it was worth the extra token.

Faust Eisbock
Chris tried the Hochzeitbier, which is also a fruit and caramel bomb, but lacking the warmth and slight acidity, so a softer experience altogether.

Right next door was the Welde booth. I have to admit having mixed thoughts about Welde. Their Pils is really easy to recognise in the green, twisty bottle, and for the past few years they've brought out something like a pale ale with a single hop at the end of the year. But there's just something about their "Garden of delights" flyers that come in our door now and again that makes me think of them as all style and no substance. Imagine my shock to see them touting a Badisch Gose and a Bourbon Barrel Bock! I had to try them.

On ordering the Welde Badish Gose, the guy serving warned me that it was an unusual beer and not to everyone's taste Disclaimer duly noted, but I knew what I should be expecting. And boy, you could have knocked me down with a feather. Massive, juicy mandarin and lemon aroma, very appetising so far, but on the tongue, it's big time earthy lemon curd and seawater, finishing with a surprising tropical fruit edge. Saline and oily. Sounds dreadful when you see it described like that, but it worked very well. Checking the bottle after confirmed they do indeed use salt and coriander, not to mention saphir hops.

Welde Badisch Gose
There seems to be a generic sugary signature aroma to the vast majority of German bockbier, and Welde Bourbon Bock was no exception, despite having been barrel aged. But perhaps the flavours had a bit more than the generic stuff. Malty caramel, of course, with an edge of strawberry, raspberry and vanilla. The finish is somewhat dry, with a woody undertone and a hint of cherry. Not a bad effort, but not markedly different.

Welde Bourbon Barrel Bock
Staying within spitting distance of the table, a quick lurch over to the organic-looking Neuenstädter Bier Manufaktur.

The beer list looked respectably German, but of course, the stand-out appeared to be the Starker Peter IPA, with a quoted 65 IBU and some C-hops. After the bock, a hop injection sounded good. However, it was the first real disappointment of the day. A big Bazooka Joe bubblegum aroma served as a warning, and the flabby, fruity/malty mix of the flavour was a complete let down when expecting a big, bitter IPA. Band-wagoneering much? Probably. My notes say "Crap. Like Malzbier, but less tasty".

And so it was back over to Eichbaum, where the Spicy Oak was now available. The body language of the brewer should have warned me, as he seemed almost apologetic when telling me it was aged on oak chips And to be fair, he was probably right to be apologetic. Thin, woody, and like chewing on a toothpick too long. A shadow, compared to the Eichbaum beers tried earlier.

Third time lucky, I guessed, heading over to Braukunstkeller. I'm quite a fan of what they do here, and hadn't had any of their beers in close to a year, so the Braukunstkeller Mystery IPA on the board sounded intriguing. Mystery, because it's a new hop with no name yet, just a number, although I wasn't given the number either. This was the second beer that cost two Euro for 100ml, so when I was short-served, I felt I had to ask for the full 100ml. But what a disappointment. Another mess of bubblegum, strawberries, fatty, and hardly any discernible bitterness. A nearby brewer (actually, two) had a sip and also said "that's not an IPA". Things were really not looking good here! Three duds in a row! I had to get a rescue shot of Hopfenstopfer Incredible IPA to restore my faith in German IPAs!

Mystery IPA. It would have been better with a short measure.
After chin-wagging with some friends of a neighbour, who are in the industry, for probably too long, it was getting time to leave, and pick up my son. But time for just one more, to spend the last token. A quick run over to Riedenburger.

The temptation is always towards the IPA, but I opted for the Dolden Dark Porter. It was good!

And so, we headed off away from the growing crowd, past the steam engines, with a 90 minute train journey ahead.

I liked this festival. It might be a bit selfish to like the fact it was not overly crowded, like Braukunst Live seems to get, but I hoped that it got a decent showing later in the evening and on Sunday. There was plenty of chat, and despite a few duds, some really decent beers, some from unlikely sources, which is always a delight. If it's on again next year, I'll definitely return, sans son, and maybe overnight with the in-laws, to get the full experience.

After writing this, I found I had a bottle of Faust Eisbock in the cellar. 750ml of it! Oh my...

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