Monday, 24 February 2014

Braukunst Live! 2014 - The New School

A year in the German beer calendar seems to have gone by very quickly, with Braukunst Live! creeping up almost unexpectedly. After a fairly slow festival last year, from a personal perspective, this year I decided that two days was needed to do it any sort of justice. The final published, and most certainly incomplete, beer list for this year listed 431 beers from nine countries, 252 from Germany alone, so there was a lot to bite off.

While the general format remained unchanged, being somewhat of a mix between beer festival and the feel of a trade show, it felt to me like there was a certain maturity to how everything was presented. At least the presentation at the booths was of a generally higher standard compared to even last year, feeling somewhat more polished and professional, while retaining the character of each brewery presenting. However, there was a lot to cram into the MVG Museum, and Saturday got particularly crowded both out on the floor, and definitely at the woefully inadequate toilet facilities, despite the addition of portaloos outside the venue. If they continue to expand and attract the growing attention, I'm really hoping they choose a bigger venue (also with more seating and better catering facilities) for next year.

But, on to the more important aspects, the beer! I had an unwritten agreement with myself to try and focus on the German breweries, and beers I had not tried before, but of course failed on both counts, not that I'm complaining. So first, beers I tried from what I might loosely describe as the new school of brewers, ranging from some relatively new, to those with a longer brewing heritage, that took the leap to Craft several years ago.

The gang of six
First stop, straight to see Thomas at Hopfenstopfer, to see what new creations he'd brought. Taking a departure from the excellent pale ales I'm used to seeing from Hopfenstopfer, he had a red ale, Hopfenstopfer Dark Red Temptation, on offer. An unfiltered amber, Dark Red Temptation has a banana-y, fruity nose, with bready, doughy malts in the back. The 9% alcohol comes through with a warming sensation, complemented by a soft, chewy body. Lots of toffee, a slight graininess, and a strawberry, minty-hop finish. Quite heavy after a while, but it does finish relatively dry, though a little floppy.

Hopfenstopfer were at a joint bar with a collective of independent small brewers, including Braukunstkeller, Paxbräu, Kehwieder, Schoppebräe and Ale Mania, formerly known as FritzAle. So, it was a quick step to the left to sample from Hamburg's Kehrwieder, of who I'd heard good things. Their new single hop IPA Kehrwieder Hüll Melon showcased the hop of the same name. Remarkably fruity on the nose, it shouts strawberry jam. Loudly. Less so on the flavour, but it's a tour-de-force of exotic fruit flavours, coupled with light honey notes, grassiness, and a bunch of other stuff to keep you chewing over. Lovely stuff, that is dangerously deceptive, given the 7.5% ABV tag.

Kehrwieder Prototyp is not quite a prototype, being their first commercial beer produced over a year ago, which kept its moniker. A dry-hopped lager, using Northern Brewer in the mash, Perle in the kettle and Simcoe and Saaz for the dry hopping, Prototyp is juicy-fruit all the way, with a deft touch of fudge for good measure, and a drying smack of grapefruit to the finish. Very pleasant and refreshing, and a safe 5.3%

I'm not such a fan of the name of Kehwieder Feuchter Traum (wet dream), but it's named so on account of it using undried, fresh "wet hops", namely German cascade. A clear, pale amber with a fudgy, mandarin aroma, it has a wonderfully light fruity flavour, bitter orange and toffee, with a sudden, dry finish, almost chalky and lingering orange pith.

I'd been informed that all six of the breweries listed above had made a collaboration brew for the event, something they did via a FaceBook group they set up after last year's Braukunst Live. Triple Nipple (or maybe Tripel Nippel?) might have been a case of too many cooks spoil the broth. I found the aroma muted, with just a touch of grapefruit pith, but then it was served too cold. A little more came out when heated in the hand. But still, a bit of a one-trick pony, being all about the orange and grapefruit, and not much else for me.

Later in the night, I returned to Hopfenstopfer to hit the rest button with a Hopfenstopfer Comet IPA, which I noted on last year. Still a great beer, and the best rated beer (and best rated brewer!) out of Baden-Württemberg on ratebeer!

There's one thing I'll say about this little group. While they don't appear to have the marketing budget of some of the other newer German craft breweries, who seem to spend a lot of time advertising their dedication to the craft beer cause, living the craft beer life and looking more like it's a lifestyle than a drink, these guys just quietly go and brew great beers, and I've a lot of respect for that. Actually, respect, and lack of in some cases, was a recurring thought through my two days at Braukunst Live.

But moving along to another old hand, up the other end of the hall, whose beers I've certainly enjoyed in the past, Sebastian Sauer, and Freigeist Bierkultur. I have to admit, the randomness of the selection available gave me pause, but the Freigeist Dark Jester (or was it The Monarchy Dark Jester? I'm not sure now), with juniper berries and bay leaves sounded intriguing. Sour and a little band-aidy, the latter left me a tad undecided, and while I enjoyed the herbal elements, and the sour bite, it hit so many buttons. A brewer, who shall remain unnamed, gave me his opinion that most of these beers were random creations with crazy stuff just to sell in the US. He might say that, but I couldn't possibly comment. However, I can say I've immensely enjoyed pretty much everything I've tried from Freigeist up till this point.

And so, close by, to Maisel and Friends. I've put them in this post, because I saw them last year, and I think I even tried the Bock. While they might not rate as particularly "new school", given that they have the same selection of three core beers as last time, they are at least on trend, and their beers in 750ml bottles are fairly priced, which is more than I can say for some out there. Jeff's Bavarian Ale was the choice, a 7.1% wheat beer with a strong fruity aroma, dishing out blackberries galore. Quite decent on the swallow too, with a mildly solventy alcohol hit, but creams, with more dark berries and mild clove spiciness.

That'll do for this post. Coming next, some brewpubs doing something different. In the meantime, some shots of post-Braukunst Live beers at Camba Bavaria's Tap House. No note-taking here!

And the post-post-BrauKunst Live beers in the hotel lobby!

BKL2014 Part 2: The Brewpubs
BKL2014 Part 3: The Traditionalists


Bretzel LogiQ said...

Wonder if we chatted at the Freigeist/Monarchy booth on Friday night (my wife and I are pictured in your photo). BTW, Dark Jester=Freigeist.

If you're on facebook, hit me up @ Bretzel LogiQ.

Barry M said...

I don't think so. I landed at the booth with a group of about 6 others, so it was a bit "grab what you can" :)

Thanks for the clarification!

I'm afraid I'm not of FaceBook though.