Friday, 31 October 2008

Gampertbräu Förster Gold and Dunkel

I got this pair in my second Franken box. I kinda liked the old geezer on the label, and it's nothing to do with the fact he looks like he's dressed up for a St. Patrick's Day parade. Probably more to do with the huge glass he's holding!

The Gampertbräu Förster Gold is, well, gold! I'm not sure what class of beer this is, as on the Gampertbräu website it just says it's a Spezialbier. Let's call it a Helles for now. The aroma is faint, with bready maltiness under a slight apple and citrus twist. The dominant feature for me was a quinine-like flavour. The body is quite light, so after a brief wash of bready malt, followed by quinine, there is a vague herb-like finish. At least it felt like tonic water mixed with beer. It's ok, but nothing to write home about (well, that's why I started a blog!).

I had better hopes for the Gampertbräu Förster Dunkel which was, well, dunkel! A slightly hazy red-tinged brown to be a little more exact. Initially it seemed a little over-sweet, but it also has a slightly vinous, tannic quality sitting in a medium body. This is a pleasent flavour, but is slightly spoilt by a saccharine-like finish. In fact, the finish is almost bock-like, in a thin diluted way.
Sorry Mr. Gampert, but I promise I will seek out your other beers for go at them.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Dortmunder Bergmann Brauerei

The original Dortmunder Bergmann Brauerei, which was apparently founded in 1796, closed it's doors in 1972. But in 2005 the brand was bought by people who wanted to reintroduce it to Dortmund. From what I gather they are either renting brewing time or are getting the beers contract brewed in two breweries to the south of Dortmund, but are just about to open their own brewhouse right in Dortmund. It sounds like quite an investment, and I wish them luck. It has to be hard to establish a brewery in a former industrial powerhouse like Dortmund where beer fuelled the working men, even if the brand name is from the past. "Harte Arbeit, ehrlicher Lohn" as it says on the back of the bottles; a clear link to the industrial heritage of Dortmund.

As with most German breweries, there is a Pils, an Export, and a dark beer, this time a Schwarzbier and there is a Spezial. I can't help wondering why new breweries don't look outside of Germany at the micro revolution elsewhere, and which is no longer new, and consider bringing something different to the public. I know it might be risky with conservative drinkers, but it could also be a way of marking a brand out as different to the rest, and I'm beginning to suspect that at least a significant percentage of German drinkers may be open to change if it's made available to them.

Anyway, the reason these chaps came to my attention is that one of the people involved in this new Bergmann Brauerei happens to be a friend of a colleague at work. This said colleague, who has helped brew a beer in my kitchen (hi Markus!), brought a couple of bottles in for me to taste.
The Bergmann Pils is a rich golden yellow with a dense white head. The aroma initially seemed to lean towards sweet malts, but this gave way to a vegetal character with a hint of orange. The flavour is quite sharp at first, citric, almost metallic, and while a sharp edge stays throughout it is balanced with a fullish body. The hops are prominent, but for the first half I couldn't shake a slight plastic/resiny aftertaste that was very like what I got with some other brews. I now associate this taste with the use of hop extract, and until I taste a beer that has this resiny flavour but has not used extract, I will continue to believe this. Fortunately in this case this flavour seemed to be volatile, and halfway through the glass it wasn't noticable. The lasting flavours are more vegetal, slight almond and an interesting minty freshness to the finish. Overall, an easy drinking 4.8% beer with a little more body than a regular northern pils. It's a bit one-dimensional and I'd prefer to see a more complex hop character to balance the body. Maybe this will change when they have their own premesis.

The Bergmann Schwarzbier (pictured on top) is a really dark old-oak brown with an enticingly fruity/roasty aroma. The first thing that hits me is that the carbonation is quite low, at least in this bottle, giving it a silky smoothness. The next is the fruitiness. It's sweet in a fruit-like way, with heavy dried figs, vanilla and a touch of dark toffee. The finish is slightly peppery with a hint of coffee. Like most Schwarzbiers I've tried outside of Thuringia, it's not actually schwarz, and it hasn't the same level of dark roasted malts. Nevertheless, this is pretty dark compared to some from this area of Germany, and I have to say that I found this really juicy and moreish. It feels lighter than it's quoted 5.3%. A little more carbonation might help lift the flavours a bit more, but as I write this, I'm opening the second bottle I got.

I hope to try their Export soon, as to me this is Dortmund's primary contribution to the beer world, and I haven't had enough authentic examples.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2007

Although I said I'd be concentrating on the German beer tastings, I had a couple of bottles of other stuff that came with me from Ireland. One was a 2007 bottle of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.
This was given to me by Declan of the Bull and Castle, my favourite bar in Dublin, on the night they hosted a bit of a farewell tasting session before I moved to Germany. Since then, it has sat forgotten in my cellar, alongside another rather special bottle given to me by Mr BeerNut which I will open in the next month - because it says so on the best before label.
But back to the Bigfoot. This poured a beautiful ruby-tinged deep amber with a tight tan head. The vapours (it's more than aroma!) are of sweet, sweet toffee, plum jam, blackcurrent, chocolate and vanilla. Lots of vanilla. It's velvety, rich, thick and sweet. As well as the dark fruity flavours and lovely vanilla, there are hints of licorice, and something that reminds me of rosemary. There's a tingly bitterness that creeps up slowly. It gets a little solventy as it warms up, but this doesn't detract from the warming, sippable enjoyment. I've always understood the Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) to be intensely hoppy, so I can only assume that this has aged really nicely to produce the rounded and complex flavours I got out of it.
I would have liked to compare this to some notes of it in a younger state, but regardless, I wish I had another bottle! In fact, on the strength if this I am planning to make an American-style Barley Wine and see if I can resist my urges by maturing it for a year before I open a bottle. We'll see...

Friday, 24 October 2008

Fässla Bamberg: Three of the Dwarves

Another little collection from Bamberg for your perusal, this time from Privatbrauerei Fässla Bamberg, Fässla meaning little cask, with their labels decorated with a little Zwerg (dwarf) rolling out the Fässla itself.

Their Gold Pils is a pale, straw-like yellow with a bready aroma that doesn't come out too strongly. It has a delicate bitter citric note, almost like mandarin oranges. There's a good not-too-sweet malt background supporting this, akin to fresh white sliced pan and a rather pleasent mouthfeel. This balance makes it very easy to drink. Incidently, the strapline on it translates, roughly, as "Guaranteed ripened/matured so it won't hurt your belly". At least that's my translation. Very considerate of them.

The Fässla Lagerbier is slightly hazy. In fact, the haze from my bottle looked like it had a stucture, almost in strands. This didn't put me off, and I wondered if it was chill haze beginning to form (rather than consider the less healthy alternatives). THe aroma is definitely towards the grain end of things compared to the Gold Pils, but there is a distinct grassy hoppiness there. Flavourwise this has a fair hoppy flavour, with slight apple tones, but not much bitterness. The mouthfeel is a little thin and flat. This is a nice enough beer, but it's not my kind of thing. I'd certainly drink another, but not all night.

Finally, the Zwergla. Little Dwarf. Awww. On first pouring this I thought it looked a bit dirty. Perhaps as a true Dwarf should be. On holding it to the light it can be seen to have a slightly hazy, rich chestnut brown. On the nose it's a little fruity, with a marzipan-like quality. There's loads of dried fruit going on in the mouth, and deep down, roasty, toffee notes finishing in a spiciness. This is all held together with a medium body that doesn't get too sticky. I like this. It's firmly malty but clean, despite the raisen hints. Mouthwatering!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Kaiserdom Weizenland Weissbier Dunkel

Kaiserdom Weizenland Weissbier Dunkel. What a mouthful! Although the label makes it look like Weizenland is a sub-brand, I've given it its full title. This is the third Kaiserdom beer I have tried following the Pilsener and the Alt-Bamberg Dunkel (wonderful!).

This is an oaky-amber with the trademark Weissbier fluffy head. It is possibly one of the most clovey Weissbier aromas I have encountered, with a faintly fruity background. Banana flavours are there aplenty, but unfortunately the cloves don't come out so much in the taste. Underneath this is a slightly diluted maltiness. Sounds bad, but it's actually ok. Just ok mind!

This is a very easy drinking Weissbier, but it does get a bit sweet near the end, edging towards overripe bananas. When I visit Kaiserdom I'll be going for the Alt-Bamberg Dunkel.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Out in Freising: Schmankerl-Bräu

My second night in Freising was spent alone, so I intended walking up to Weihenstephan. It was pissing rain, so I ducked into a pizzeria for something to eat. Something that didn't involve slabs of meat, dumplings and sauce. Fortified with a large pizza and an espresso I set off in the direction of Weihenstephan, meandering through the streets to see if I could spot a nice bar to break the trip. Half way there though my stomach started feeling a little dodgy (it was either the bacon and cheese baked thing or the out-of-date twix I had for lunch), so I made a hasty retreat to the hotel. Just as well...

On the way back though I spotted a little bar that had "Back und Brau" on the front, and a little sign stating that it was Freising's smallest brewery. Once I was feeling a better, half an hour later, I made my way back to see what this was all about.

Schmankerl-Bräu is definitely a small brewery. The brewing kit has a 250 litre capacity. The gentleman running the premesis, Alfons, or Fonsi, is a baker by profession, but he said that baking and brewing were very similar, and indeed, I've seen a few places that do both, Pott's of Oelde and myself included. There was plenty of bread to be had too.

Alfons makes two types of beer normally, a Helles and a Weissbier. He's making a Nicolas Bier for the 6th of December, and has made a Schwarzweissbier with the students of Weihenstephan, who apparently drop in with crazy ideas like making IPA. Although he seems open to experiments, he has to sell the stuff, and having been open for only 13 months, he needs to win over the more conservative Freisingers first. Apparently the premesis was a bit of a dodgy bar before, filled with gaming machines and in a part of town that most people didn't go to at night. Sounds a bit like my experiences of British pubs (well, the ones in Aylesbury anyway!). As it is now, it's a cosy spot with hops and bretzels hanging all over the bar. Thankfully the yodelling music wasn't on for too long, and the latin-american music was more relaxing.

Fonsi is a good host and showed me the temperature controlled fermentation and conditioning tanks in the cellar. Apparently the whole kit cost about €100,000. He and a friend set up the company as a concept that they hope to grow and spread around.

The Schmankerlbräu Helles, or at least the first one I had, is a cloudy amber, certainly darker than most helles you see Fonsi said he was trying to make it more like the beers they had in former times. It has clean malt flavours with a soft caramel, a touch of an orange-like zing, and a creamy mouthfeel. I was really enjoying this, and found it satisfying. Fonsi said that each brew is a little different (I'm not sure if that's intentional or not), and the second one I had, which came mostly from a new keg later in the night didn't have quite the same flavour. Enjoyable though.

Their Weissbier is similarly darker than a regular weissbier, being a rich brown with hints of amber. And it's not a dunkelweiss. I asked. This has pleanty of cloves and a kind of bready aroma and flavour, but I found it a bit soapy tasting for my liking. Should you visit, your mileage may vary as it's bound to be different next time.

Schmankerl-Bräu can be found on Wippenhauser Strasse, near the west end of the main street, and right beside the Corbin Fengshui Business Hotel. How come I didn't get to stay there?

Friday, 17 October 2008

Out in Freising: Weissbräu Huber

I've just spent the last week back in Bayern, and although I really like the Biohotel Hörger where I stayed the week before, and the first couple of nights this past week, I wanted to get into a town to have a poke about in the evenings. With that, I guiltily checked out of the Hörger and got myself a room in the Bayerischer Hof in Freising. A very cheap hotel. I reckoned Hörger was pretty cheap, depite the really cool rooms and little comforts, but the reason I was allowed change was that the Bayerischer Hof was cheaper. And it felt it too with a 1960's feel to the room, particularly the bathroom, where the only nod to providing comforts were two bars of Hotel Basic Line soap. Still, the room was clean, the bed comfortable and it's right on the main shopping street, so is very central. Besides, I wasn't going to be spending alot of time in the room anyway.

I had done a bit of a search to find the smaller breweries, having been drinking the Hofbrauhaus Freising beers all week in Hotel Hörger and thinking it'd be nice to see that at least. I had spotted what I assumed to be a brewery on Google Earth, Gasthof Furtnerbrau, right on the main street, but when I got there it was clearly closed up for some time, with layers of dust coating the windows. Pity.

My next target was to be the Weissbräu Huber. I was already aware that this brand had been taken over by Hofbrauhaus Freising, but I wasn't sure if the beer was still being made on the premesis. I had also been told they did some pretty mean special meals, so it seemed like a good place to try. Huber is right off the east end of the main street, with tables outside and a nice old-fashioned looking interior. Lots of hop garlands hanging around too. This is clearly a very popular place, as there was a constant stream of customers, to the extent that some had to go elsewhere because the place was just full. It has a nice feel to it, and the crowd is very mixed; young and old, dyed purple hair and bald, local and tourist. I particularly liked the table full of old women chatting away and drinking 250ml glasses of Weissbier. I had a Huber Burger, which was on special for €5.95. It was massive, and you can have as many fries as you can eat with it. I left room for beer. Incidently, I was told that beer hadn't been made on the premesis for about 20 years. Hofbrauhaus Freising had bought Huber and kept it as seperate brand.

I had already tried most of the Hofbrauhaus Freising beers, but a new one for me was their Jägerbier Naturtrub, a pale orange-amber cloudy beer that was served very cold. This is a clean, almost tart beer with a classic nobel hop flavour and a touch of ginger. The finish is dry, and slightly acidic. I reckon it was a mistake to order this with a burger really, as it just didn't stand up to the burger and felt a bit weak in the flavour department. Might be a good summer beer.

I followed this up with a Schwarzbier, which I assumed to be another Hofbrauhas Freising beer, but I just checked their website and they don't list one! I'll have to find out what it was... Whatever it was it has a nice clean flavour, being a slightly less fruity, and a little more roasty than theHofbrauhaus Freising Dunkel. I imagine it is from them. I forgot to ask!
On an aside, beside me was a group of locals who were talking to an American tourist. Yet again I heard local people saying that the Weihenstephan beer wasn't very good. Sure, they were proud of the brewery, its heritage and the university, but preferred the beers from the smaller Hofbrauhaus Freising. In fact, walking around Freising the their beers are advertised everywhere! The fact that the symbol of the town is a bear and Huber have a polar bear as their logo may also help.

And my apologies for the lack of photos! I'll make up for it with my next post, where I visit the smallest brewery in Freising.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Alt Pott's Landbier

Pott's is a smallish brewery not too far from Munster in a town called Oelde. They're based in a Naturpark area, and they market themselves as such, with their advertisements featuring the likes of a farmer with his prize winning pigs, and a horse that likes getting its belly rubbed (I think! Brace yourself if you click that link above!). Their "Old Pott's Country Beer" was one of the first local beers I had after moving here, at a lovely barbeque at a friends house out in the sticks, so I should really have posted a little tasting note earlier.

I posted before about a couple of Franken Landbiers that did not go down well. I tend to like this subclass of beer, so I was disappointed then, but this makes up for it and shows you can't write off an entire sub-group of beer on a couple of bad experiences. Alt Pott's Landbier has a fruity aroma of the dark, dried type, with a touch of orange zest and chocolate thrown in. The flavour is plummy, with a slight acdity that cleanses the palate. There are roasted malts in here in just enough quantity to give a chocolatey edge. Malt and that slight tartness means it takes a long time for the hops to show themselves, but when they do it's as a gentle, floral/herb-like bitterness. As the beer warms it does get a bit sticky, and the full flavour and warming sensation feels stronger than its 4.8%. Feels good and homely, like a country beer should. And no hop extract!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Amber, Gold and Black review

Over on Irish Craft Brewer (a site a friend and I co-founded in early 2007, and which I still play an admin/editorial role in - isn't the Internet great!), we've just published my review of Amber, Gold and Black, Martyn Cornell's (Zythophile's) book about the history of Britain's beers. I won't repeat the review here, but suffice to say it's a fascinating read and well worth the small price.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Christmas Beer Update #1

You can tell I am home alone by the increased frequency of posts. That'll end next week, as no sooner was I in the office this morning than I was told I'd be making another trip to Bayern next week. Every cloud though. I'll get to try the rest of the beers at that nice little biohotel.

My reason for posting however is that tonight I split the Christmas beer into three demijohns for secondary fermentation, something I don't generally bother with unless I'm leaving a beer for an extended period. The main reason this time is that I wanted to try maturing some of the beer on oak chips. I got two types, a light toast and a heavy toast which, even based on the smell, will give different characteristics. I hope good ones! In the picture below you'll see, from left to right, 10 litres plain, 5 litres with the lightly toasted oak chips and 5 litres on the heavily toasted chips. I used 20 grams of each, which is a tad more than the recommended maximum dosage of 15g on the packaging. I steamed the chips for 20 minutes to sanitise them, so my kitchen still smells like burnt wood!

The gravity is down to 1.030 from 1.072, so there's a way to go yet. And the taste? The bitter orange dominates actually, and it already has a "Belgiany" taste, probably thanks to the curacao peel and the T-58 yeast, which I have never used before. The ginger peeps its head out after a bit, but it's early days yet. I'll leave it in a 20C zone for a couple more weeks and then transfer it to the cellar for a month or so. Tomorrow is another brew day. Make hay and all that...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

A quick trip to Bayern

I'm just back from a short trip to Bayern, where I and a group of super duper colleagues stayed in a little hamlet called Hohenbercha, about 28km north of Munich, while we attended a training course in a sister office close by. Unfortunately our busy schedule didn't leave time to look around which is a shame as it's been about 11 years since I was last in Munich. We were also close to Freising, home of Weihenstephan, but maybe I'll get there next time.

As it was, we were staying in the nice litle Gasthof Hörger, or to give it the full title, Hotel Hörger Biohotel und Tafernwirtschaft, a family-run hotel where all the food comes from certified organic sources and the owner is also the head chef. Very nice food it was too, all on a very Bavarian theme, which happens to appeal to me anyway, especially the likes of the wild boar (although maybe not the calf's head, though I was told the lips are a delicacy). Hohenbercha is a tiny place, but the restaurant seemed to do a good trade on both nights we stayed, so I got the impression that it is very well regarded locally. The hotel is mix of very traditional (with the old building and decor being pleasently old world) and very modern, with a new all-wood building in a very modern, minimalist style alongside an old orchard. It looked like we would be sleeping in large wooden boxes at first, but the details in the room were really cool. I don't know what the rooms are like in the older building.
With a couple of exceptions, the beers on offer were all from the Hofbrauhaus Freising (est. 1160). I didn't take very detailed notes as I was in company, but here a few notes.

Little cards on each table drew my attention to their Kirchweih Markt Fest Märzen, a light amber, low carbonated beer. This has a juicy sweet malt with toffee, dark bread and vegetable undertones and a slightly spicy finish. It's slightly chewy and rich, and quite satisfying. It was probably a mistake to start with this, but it had been a long day!

The Dunkel is a dark, dull, mahogany brown. It's sweet, but not overly so, leaning more towards fruit, figs, vanilla with a slight roasted accent. The finish is relatively dry considering the sweet fruity flavours. I wasn't sure if it was too fruity, but despite that it's reasonbably easy drinking. I managed a couple anyway!

The Hofbrauhaus Freising Graf Ignaz Pilsner, with its impressive whipped cream head that I can never get, is a bit more like the Pils of the north than the examples from Franken I have been trying recently, with a clean, prominent noble hop flavour, but with a mild bitterness. This is on top of a nice bready maltiness. A simple, refreshing beerwhich was a good palate cleanser.

The Helles, as I recall, is pretty much what you might expect from a Helles, with more prominence on the bready, biscuity malt flavours, but with a nice lemony twist. A good opener after another long day, and I could have had another couple but opted to return to the Dunkel for another test drive.

Being a biohotel they do of course offer eco-friendly beers. With the Bioland mark displayed on the bottle, in the same way as Pinkus Müller, the Viva Bavaria Festbier from Riedenburger was a flatish, dull, malty beer that I just couldn't take to. Sure, it started off ok (see the photo), but it quickly collapsed into a sweet watery soup. Maybe it was a dud bottle, as even a colleague commented that it looked more like cider, and it made no "pop" when the bottle was opened, but as it was, the flatness just made it too sticky and boring.

There were more beers on offer including the Hüber Weisse beers from Hofbrauhaus Freising (in Hell, Dunkel and alcohol free varieties), another fest beer, and a couple more alcohol free beers and radler.

Overall, a nice place to stay if you like it quiet and simple, and I look forward to my next visit. Oh, and I was told that there is an excellent beer shop in Kranzberg, where the office is. Another one for next time!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Brewing a Christmas Ale

My wife left me yesterday and brought our son with her.

She'll be back though. In about a week after she finishes visiting her parents. So what do I do when I'm left home alone? Brew!

I had been planning to make a pumpkin ale, as I'd never made anything like it before, and I wanted to make something that was well outside Rhineheitsgebot territory, while possibly being innocent in appearance, unlike those sinful Belgian fruit beers. Unfortunately I'm still in the process of building a mash tun which I reckon I'd need to use to do a proper job on a pumpkin (after roasting it), so I said screw it and modified the recipe to use malt extract and a bunch of other stuff, but keep the spices I planned on using for the pumpkin ale.

For those who care, the recipe, which I named Gremmendorfer XXXmas Ale, is as follows, for 22 litres:
  • 3.3 kg Dry Light Extract
  • 330 g Dry Wheat
  • 550 g CaraCrystal
  • 330 g Special B
  • 110 g Chocolate Malt
  • 37 g Challenger (6.5%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • 32 g Ginger (fresh) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • 15 g Bitter Curacao/Bitter Orange (Peel) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • 1 Cinnamon stick, crushed - added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • 5 Allspice berries crushed - added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • 5 Cloves crushed - added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • 1.5 tsp Grated Nutmeg - added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • 250 g Honey - added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • 30 g Styrian Goldings (3.6%) - added during boil, boiled 15 mins
  • 26 g Styrian Goldings (3.6%) - added during boil, boiled 2 min
  • Fermentis SafBrew T-58
I ended up with 20 litres in the fermenter, as planned (leaving crap behind in the boiler), with a gravity of 1.072. The ginger is defiitely prominent, and it smelled and tasted pretty nice. I'm going to split this into a few secondary fermenters in a few days, one as is, one with a "light toast" oak chips and another with "heavy toast" oak chips. One way to learn what they do!

So I'm wondering how my colleagues will take to it. I'll keep it stashed still Christmas anyway, and release it as a kind of Gluhbeer (not as strong though!).

As a reward I opened a bottle of Lowen Bräu (of Buttenheim) Ungespundetes Lagerbier and had it with some bauernbrot I made the night before, old gouda, ham and hot hot mustard. I often drink while brewing, but if I'm alone I'll wait till the work is done, as there's nobody around to call an ambulance if I drop 25 litres of boiling liquid on myself while under the influence. The Ungespundetes Lagerbier is a clear amber, leaning towards the orange part of the amber spectrum. It has a clean aroma, almost classic "nobel" hops with a citric twist and slight herbal note. The citric notes come out again in the taste on top of a gentle caramel base. It's a little thin, but simple and refreshing, and just what I needed.

After that I popped open a bottle of Bolten's Ur-Alt, I'll return to that another time, as I just gobbled it without thinking too much about it. Following that though was my own Munster Mulligan Porter, a brew I made in the middle of July. My how time flies! The Mulligan moniker has been attached to pretty much every porter myself and a friend have made on account of the first one we made being based on left over ingredients, probably far too many, in true Mulligan Stew tradition. This was the first porter I made solo since moving to Germay. I used loads of Special B in it, so it has a distinct raiseny/plum flavour profile backed by wadges of chocolate malt, and a very slight roasty bitterness from a touch of black malt. Gently carbonated, it's a shockingly easy drinker and leaves a plum like sweetness after it.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Pints of the Valkyries?

I got a little group of beers from Brauerei Wagner, Merkendorf, in my Bamberg Box (ok, so it wasn't all Bamberg), along with six of their Dunkels, named Richard Wagner Dunkel. How could I resist? I do quite like Wagner, though admittedly mostly the pieces used in John Boorman's Excalbur (of course I like Orff too!). Anyway... I have been dipping into the Wagner Beers occasionally, and the other night I tried the last one so thought I'd describe the collection.

The Brauerei Wagner Pils didn't exactly jump out at me in the aroma stakes, but certainly looked the part with its pale straw colour and brilliant white head. It's fairly dry, with a slight tingle that is a mixture of a light carbonation and a pleasent hop spiciness. Definitely not challenging, but the almost buttered-white-bread flavour with the spice undertones makes it a smooth and easy drinking beer. I'm beginning to like the Franken interpretation of pils considerably more than the northern versions!

The Wagner Lagerbier - Ungespundet, a yellowing-amber affair, has a toasty sweetness and grassy hops to the aroma . This was only the second time I'd had a beer tagged with this term and, unlike the Mahr's Brau offering, this did feel like the carbonation was more gentle and restrained. This left a residual carmel-like sweetness intact on the tongue, with a slow build-up of hop bitterness that never really takes off. Nice enough, but to be honest I would have preferred more carbonation as halfway down it was completely flat and began to taste like malt-sweetened weak tea.

Their Richard Wagner Dunkel pours a clear chestnut brown. It has a fruity, bready aroma with hints of almond. There's a medium body with toffee and slightly overdone toast notes. I had begun to wonder whether it might be a one-trick-pony, but after a few mouthfuls the hops came out from the background to cut what could otherwise have been a too sweet beer with an almost apple-like bitterness and slight roasted undertones making it apparently drier feeling. There's certainly stuff going on in the mouth, but the the toast and bitterness provide the longer finish. An interesting Dunkel that manages to be refreshing while acceptably sweet.

The Märzen is a bronzed amber with a billowy white head. It has a warming effect that feels like more than its 5.5%. When reading Roger Protz's descriptions of beers I never understood what he meant by "juicy malt". I do now! This has a mouth-watering malty sweetness that makes you want to gulp the whole thing down. The hops provide a drying effect with a pepper-like finish which compliments a hazelnut roastiness. It's reasonably well carbonated too, but not bloating, and I think this helps keep it from becoming cloying. I don't want to say it is complex, but there's lots of different aspects to like about this beer. I wish I had another (but I have a couple of Dunkels left to fall back on).

Friday, 3 October 2008

Bolten's Alt

Bolten's AltA colleague said he wanted to give me a few bottles of his favourite beer (mind you, this was before he tasted my last home-brewed IPA!) as "payment" for helping with some party invitations. That beer was Bolten's Alt from Bolten Brauerei in Korschenbroich, a few kilometres west of Düsseldorf. Bolten's proclaims itself to be the oldest Altbier Brauerei in the world, being established in 1266!

Bolten's Alt is a clear, rich, deep copper-mahogany brown with moderate carbonation. It has a sweet, malty and slightly floral nose. The flavour is in your face malts with an almost malteaser-like tone. Luckily it's not just a sweet sticky malt mess. There's a slightly salty bitterness that builds up to a nutmeg-like spiciness. This is very easy to knock back, and gives a nice tingle on the tongue. Despite going down easy, it leaves a long, warming finish. I'd prefer a little more carbonation to lift the hops out a bit, but this is nice!
I'm looking forward to trying their Ur-Alt.