Wednesday 31 March 2010

Beer from the Ripper's Hangout?

I drank this beer the other week, and I can't really remember where I got it. I suspect it from my "brother-in-law" (the one who drank one of my Tokyo*s) as it comes from the former east, from where he often brings beers for me, to work off his debt.

Bräu Wirt`s Pilsner is one of those beers that has been commissioned by a Getränke Markt, or drinks market, in this case Meininger Getränkevertriebs in the wonderfully named Rippershausen, Thuringia. Translated, very roughly, as Ripper's Hangout, which I like, though clearly not as much as the delightful and topical, Fucking, Austria. So, I have no idea where this beer is actually brewed. At least I know if I buy a Thuringian sausage, it's gonna be from there. Mmmm, sausage.

Anyhoo, Bräu Wirt`s Pilsner is a pale, almost green-tinged yellow with a lively carbonation feeding a loose-bubbled head all the way to the last drop. It even smells a little carbonic under the resinous, sweetish aroma.

It has a sweet, corn-like base flavour with a spicy, floral, resinous hop character well to the fore. Very fizzy and gassy, which actually suits it, adding that carbonic kick to the spicy elements, all adding up to something that makes your gums tingle. Maybe not a good sign. As it warms it gets more malty sweet, which I thought was remarkable considering how watery it looked. Not a great beer, but decent enough, and I bet it's as cheap as chips.

Saturday 27 March 2010

Three Little Pigs - A Westerwald Trilogy

My colleague, Henning, is a denizen of the Westerwald, and last year he gave me a bottle of Hachenburger Schwarze, from he Westerwald-Brauerei H. Schneider. The Schwarze was more like a Dunkel, but a nice simple beer nonetheless. Henning kindy brought me back a selection of their other beers.

Hachenburger Pils gives off a sweetish aroma, with a touch of resinous hops and sulphur.The flavour is similarly sweet, bready and has an ever-so-strange minty dimension. Following this is a slight citric quality, a bit like thinned lemon juice. The finish has a odd sweetness that reminded me of artificial sweetener (although clearly none was used) and a light lemonade, or Radler touch. Like the Schwarze, a simple, inoffensive beer.

Hachenburger Ur-Trüb is an unfiltered pils, and it shows it. It has a surprisingly fruity aroma with a touch of grassy hops. The initial mouthful shows a really soft mouthfeel, and delivers soft caramel, a touch of pear and banana fruitiness and some earthy, vegetal notes. Surprisingly, I picked up a hint of a vinous edge to the otherwise mildly hoppy finish. I know they say it's an unfiltered pils, but while not earth-shattering in any way, it tastes like so much more than just another pils.

And, finally, Hachenburger Weizen. I'm always interested in Weizen's produced in the northern half of Germany, just to see if there's a different interpretation compared to the Weissbier motherland (most peoples' opinion of nordie Weizen seems to be a bit jaundiced). The Hachenburger Weizen is distinctly orange-tinged and heavily clouded. The aroma is a checklist of classic Weizen aromas, so no worries there. It then kicks in with a really zesty blast which gives way to big esters and a tongue-coating all spice and clove flavour. It's quite spicy in that regard, and backed with a vaguely soapy-ish orange flavour. As it warms a bit, more classic bubblegum flavours begin to show. Actually, a pretty decent Weizen.

Thanks for the bottles Henning! I'd be happy to have some more Ur-Trüb and Weizen!:)

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Fliegender Hund

I had a good ol' Flying Dog session a few weeks ago, but still had (and indeed, have) a few more bottles stashed away for a rainy day. It rains here often though, so no worries there. For my last mini-session, I decided to go for a selection of their beers that I later ended up calling the German Pack. Some for obvious reasons, but some only dawned on me later. Read on, McDuff!

My colleague, Christian (one of the many), very kindly brought me a couple of Flying Dog beers back from a trip across the border to the Netherlands, just a week before I realised I could buy them on-line from Bier Zwerg in Cologne. One of these was the In-Heat Wheat. Ok, so it's gonna be an American-styled, Hefe-Weizen, right? It's a dirty-looking and orange-tinged with a short-lived, coarse-bubbled head. So, not quite in the German whipped-cream-alike appearance. This has a nice spicy aroma with classic Weizen cloves to the fore, underpinned by a kind of burnt orange effect. It has a malty-wheaty profile which is sweeter than I expected, in the malty sense, and the cloves are not as prominent as they were on the nose, but definitely there, along with a hint of banana and something biscuity. It's got a nice soft mouthfeel going down, but perhaps a little thin in the finish, although that's pleasant enough, with an overt suggestion of orange juice in the finish, along with a slight soapiness and just a hint of sweet cherry juice. A nice beer that stands well beside German Weissbiers, and dangerously chuggable at that.

The other one Christian brought back was Tire Bite Golden Ale, a simple-looking ehh.. golden ale. The aroma struck me as being very like some German beers, in that there is a kind of resinous hoppiness. Unfortunately for me, strongly resinous hops are not my favourite, but whatcha gonna do? I also picked up a slight maize note, which was not unpleasant. First impression is of a nice, fullish body supporting a decent, bready malt base and, again, that German hop profile. A touch minty, a touch of resin (in perfectly acceptable levels to my sensitive taste buds) and a touch citric, but all with a bit of Oomph! that you don't get in many German beers. It ends with a slight orange sorbet finish. Nice. It's not a big wowser beer by any means, but it's solidly built and satisfying. What satisfied me even more was looking at their website afterwards and seeing that Tire Bite does indeed use the German hop varieties Perle and Hallertau (although the latter always confuses me as the Hallertau is a region, and many hop varieties are grown there), so my taste buds were not tricking me.

Dogtoberfest Marzen [sic] literally shouts "Germany", so it was one I was eager to try. It pours a richly-hued amber-red with a dense head that lasts well. The aroma really reminded me of many German Bockbiere, with a strong caramel element, butterscotch and a hint of fruit. The flavour is definitely malt-driven, with thick wadges of carmelised sugars, a hard-to-identify fruity suggestion and a thrust of resinous hops. The butterscotch edge makes a show, but although possibly from Diacetyl - often considered an off-flavour - this was at an agreeable level. The finish is sweet, but with a toasted edge and a reasonably long-lasting herbal/hay/resin hop note. Overall, this tastes pretty German-like, but to my mind it feels more like a cross between a Bock and a Märzen, mainly because the heavy caramel gets a bit wearing as it warms. My tip: don't let it get too warm and it'll go down a charm.

Old Scratch also uses German hops, but I'll come back to that another day.

I've been thinking about doing a blind tasting for my colleagues involving German and US and/or UK beers, but I might sneak some of these in and pretend they're German ;)

Saturday 20 March 2010

De Molen Hell & Damnation

Hello blog. Been a while.

I've gone on the record recently as saying that De Molen is one of my current, favourite breweries in the whole wide world. It was soon after making this important announcement, that I decided that I'd break into my small De Molen stash, as I'd been drooling with anticipation about the pair of Hel & Verdoemenis sitting on a shelf down in the cellar.

According to the stats on the label, Hel & Verdoemenis (Hell & Damnation) is a pretty robust beer, weighing in at about 11.2% ABV and 99IBUs, so plenty to look forward to. It poured completely flat, with a thick, oily look to it. It certainly delivered on the aroma, with a huge warming suggestion of vanilla, sweet coffee, pipe tobacco and new leather. The flavour delivers definite fruity, sherry notes, melted dark chocolate mixed with caramel, slightly smoky elements and a roasted edge that seemingly increased with every sip. The finish was really quite sweet, and at a final gravity of 1.031, it has every right to be, but it has the effect of completely masking the supposed 99 IBUs. I like this, but I was somehow expecting more. I think if it had a bit of carbonation it would cut the sweetness and open the beer up a bit, as the flatness reinforced the sweetness, and to be honest, near the end it started feeling a bit one-dimensional.

At least I'd reset my expectations for the Eiken Hel & Verdoemenis (Oaked Hell and Damnation), though given the different brewing ad bottling dates, I was more hopeful. In the end, it was much the same experience, but with a definite added woody dimension. The flavour is certainly more tannic, with an added strong vanilla component and a slightly sharper edge that cut it where the missing carbonation could have. This made it feel a little lighter on the tongue than it's less -woody sister, and it's also a little more spicy in the finish, alongside a yeasty, bready character which, together, was like a final absolution.

I can't deny that I was a bit disappointed with this pair. I don't know if they are supposed to be so flat, but for me, it left them sitting sweet and heavy on the palate, which eventually became overbearing. I still love what the brewery does though, and I'll keep trying what I can of Menno's creations.

Of course, the above comments don't change my general opinion, as it would take a completely disastrous beer to detract from the likes of their Tsarina Esra Reserva, Kopi Loewak and Rasputin.

Friday 12 March 2010

Allersheimer Landbier Dunkel

I was just searching through back posts, and it seems like I've tried quite a few landbiers at this stage. And I still can't say what makes a landbier a landbier, unless of course the label tells me so. I'll have to go through the list and pick out my favourites though and see if they have anything in common.

Speaking of which, Allersheimer Landbier Dunkel could end up on that list. It has an amazingly bready aroma (based on what I read in one German consumer test magazine, it seems that German testers don't necessarily see that as a good thing, but I do, if it feels right), kind of like rye bread with a nice, toasty, crispy crust. And the flavour? Yep! Definite toast, with butter. There's a suggestion of fruit, like strawberry jam, although maybe I was beginning to think of breakfast when I made the notes, though I hasten to point out that I did not have this as a pre-breakfast beer. It has a slight carbonic edge, and the finish is dry with a healthy, herb-like hoppiness. Yeah, not bad!

Wednesday 10 March 2010

When is a Kölsch not a Kölsch?

It's clear that I'm not the greatest fan of Kölsch, in general terms, although last night I had quite a few 0.2l glasses of Sion Kölsch, served in rapid succession, and I quite enjoyed them. As usual, it was the atmoshpere and company that made them go down well, and they had a nice fruity element I hadn't noticed before.

But there is one thing that does make me spring to the defense of this golden beer from Cologne, and that's it's right to it's designation as a Protected Geographical Indicator. It's been around for a while, and most of the breweries that are brewing Kölsch are in the Cologne region, apart from a few exceptions that were granted rights under the grandfather principle.

So, I get unreasonably irritated when US breweries call their Kölsch-styled offerings Kölsch. Is this completely anally retentive of me?

I asked this on twitter after the Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, New York, asked the Twitterverse to help suggest names for their Kolsch. They weren't aware of PGI status, and of course, why would they be? One fellow Twitizen mentioned that as it is defined by the BJCP as a style, so it wasn't location specific. So that seems to open it up in the US beer scene. Should they include mention of the protected status in Europe? Is it not a global protection? Should US brewers treat it like they seem to treat Lambics and avoid using "that word" out of respect for a recognised brewing tradition (although I much prefer Lambics!)?

I should point out that I am not trying to single out Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, as there are many examples in the US already existing.

Of course this did open up discussions about Yorkshire Puddings, but it was good to know that Cornish Pasties are registered as a PGI!

Saturday 6 March 2010

A Saranac Trilogy

While on a Flying Dog shopping frenzy a few weeks ago, I also ordered a few Saranac beers from Matt Brewing Company, Utica, New York. I'd never heard of them, so as usual, I'm on for having a new beer experience.

Their Black Forest "Bavarian Style Black Beer" caught my attention, and of course, being in Germany had to be the first to be opened. My wife pointed out that the Black Forest is actually in her home state of Baden-Württemberg, but then the neck label really refers to the Adirondacks, and a dark place in there, so it's really just using a cool, recognisable German name. Besides, with the addition of caramel syrup, it can only be said to be influenced by German dark beers, as in lagerbiers here at least that'd be verboten! Not that I care, really.

The aroma is sweet, in a berry kind of way, with chocolate-caramel notes. All quite subdued, but pleasant. First impression on taking a mouthful is it's very smooth and soft. That vaguely chocolate-caramel element comes though here, too, but with a slight roasted edge and while as malt driven as many dark German beers, it feels a tad hoppier, not that I'd complain about that. The finish provides a lasting impression of blackcurrants, pine and a touch of cardboard that grates after a while. This started off as a lovely beer to sink into, but that almost oxidised note left me a little disappointed.

I decided I'd be saved by the Saranac Pale Ale, what with American pale ales being one of my favourite beer types, with my expectations increasing as it looked decidedly rich and thick during the pour, with a solid amber colour and dense, creamy-looking head. It gives off a faintly chocolate-orange aroma, with a pinch of sulphur thrown in. Interesting. Flavour-wise, it has a light, sweetish, caramel malt profile with a touch of mandarin orange and a pithiness down the middle, finishing with a touch of spice and a carbonic sizzle on the tongue. As it settles a bit, this carbonic note becomes less pronounced, and more fruity, toffee notes emerge, along with that sulphurous kick suggested in the aroma. It's nicely, certainly not aggressively, bittered but perhaps a bit thin in the malt body department which, I felt, left the hops floating about and ending p leaving a slight detergent note to the finish.

The Saranac India Pale Ale is similarly richly amber-hued and, if anything, turns up the volume on that sulphuric nose. First thoughts on tasting are 'Juicy!', with a freshly squeezed orange juice hop character sitting on soft caramel. It's pleasant on the tongue with a decent malt-hop balance, thankfully. The finish is slightly minty-feeling, with pithy undertones and, again like it's sister, a bit of a detergent wash to the finish that, from my perspective, spoils the enjoyment. Shame, as it started so good.

I won't give up on them yet, so if I see more from their range I'll be giving them a test drive. I think it was just one of those nights were the beer gods were not smiling down on me.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Ur Krostitzer Pilsner

Ur Krostitzer, Feinherbes Pilsner, gives a light, sweet, bready aroma with a herbal hop note. Likewise, on first taste, it provides a pleasantly sweet malts, a slightly pithy bitterness down the middle and a bitter, herbal finish with suggestions of wood. The mouthfeel is soft, and really quite dry.

At the time of making these notes I was having this at a BBQ, and it did a great job with greasy pork steaks and bratwurst. I remember being quite surprised, as I generally have a low opinion of the pils coming out of the former Eastern states. Just goes to show that you should leave your preconceptions at the door.

Not to be confused with Köstritzer (as if you would!), although the breweries are only about 65km apart, as the crow flies.