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.


The Beer Nut said...

I know what you mean about the diversity. Is the ale revolution underway in the Czech Republic giving you any hope at all?

Barry M said...

As we have discussed on ICB, it's a bit like the way startup Irish micros have approached the market in the past; a Lager, a Stout and maybe a Red Ale. Keeping it safe so to speak. I think the likes of Galway Hooker show that if you have something relatively unique it can make a difference, or if like the Porterhouse you make lots of different things to cater for almost every audience.

I was reading about the Primátor Stout over on Pivní Filosof, and while I think that's bloody brilliant, I don't hold out hope for German brewers being so brave, and I get the impression that they remain inward looking, like many beer drinkers here. In fact, i was looking at a beer club online that i was considering joining, as you get 9 bottles of beer delivered every month, and they vote for a beer of the month, year etc... But looking through the archives there was not a single non-German beer, and that's after existing for 10 years! What kind of beer appreciation club is that?

I know some brewers do go out and do really unusual beers, like the Smokey George from Brauerei Rittmayer, but that's a twist on a local beer tradition rather than something completely different for the area.

They need a revolution here to wake peoples tastes up.

Alistair Reece said...

If you ever get the chance to head up to Berlin you should visit Brauhaus Lemke - they have torn up Reinheitsgebot with abandon and are making some fabulous beers - their malty "Original" is magnificent!

Barry M said...

I'm not railing directly against the gebot (for once), as you can make all sorts of things that are not Pils, Export, Helles or Dunkel and still comply if you really really want to. It's just that every so often I am reminded about how samey the types of beer can be here. But yes, it's good to see some brewers being extra brave and not just making something different, but clearly going out of the Rheinheitsgebot (which I am slowly chipping away at with my colleagues and exposing it for what it did to northern beer types). And people probably quite like it too and don't care as long as it tastes good!

I was reading about another place in Berlin over on Thirsty Pilgrim where they make pumpkin lager, potato beer, honey and ginger beer and, gasp, IPA and Stout! I see Lemke do Stout und diversen Ales! Bloody brilliant :D

Next year... I need to see if I can be sent on a business trip there :D

Alistair Reece said...

I am trying to work out how to get back up there before we make the move to the US - mind you if McCain steals the election I might be tempted to persuade the missus to move to Germany instead, and with friends already in Berlin that would be fun!

Barry M said...

I didn't realise you were moving to the US. Or at least considering it... :D

Alistair Reece said...

Yep, Mrs Velkyal is from South Carolina and both of us feel the need for a change of scenery, so we are planning to up sticks to either SC or NC - plenty of decent breweries in that neck of the woods, and from what I hear, room for a few more! ;)