Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Lichtensteiner Schwarzbier

Lichtensteiner Schwarzbier is not actually from Lichtenstein (also spelt Liechtenstein), but from Meusel-Bräu in Dreuschendorf, Oberfranken, not far from Bamberg. In fact the nearest Lichtenstein I can find is in Sachsen about 150km away from Dreuschendorf. I'm curious as to why this is called Lichtensteiner, so I'll just have to ask when I visit.
This is a really dark beer, but does manage to show ruby hints when held up to the light. It's pretty flat looking with only a thin head managing to hang about for a bit. On the nose it's dark fruits, with plum jam and a slight roastiness. There is perhaps a little bit of a yeasty edge too. And on the tongue it's very fruity. It tastes a little like prune juice with a slight tart edge and a faint alcohol warmth. Well, at 5.9% it would be faint, but certainly present. In fact, it tastes a little like it's trying to be something from Belgium, and as you go down the tartness resolves itself into something almost sherry-like. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be like that, but it's an interesting combination.

I drank this on the 4th of October last year. Just in case you spotted the best before date.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009


Just back from another short trip to Kranzberg, near Freising/Munich. This time I stayed in a little guesthouse called Metzgerwirt (yes, it's a fully equipped butchers). I had been led to believe it was a desperate place that hadn't changed since the 70's, but actually the rooms were large, bright, very clean, a little bare, but not bad at all. Alot better than the extremely ugly but well located Bayerischer Hof in Freising.

It was a busy couple of days working with an interesting mix of nationalities; German, Italian and Greek. I just love these mixes of culture. I can't help smiling when our southern neighbours get all passionate and extremely direct, hand waving included. I was glad it was not directed at me however.

Dinner last night was in my favourite guesthouse in the neighbourhood, Hörger, but as I've had all the beers there I just confirmed my opinions of the Hofbrauhaus Freising Dunkel (raisen-like sweetness with a surprisingly dry finish, nice) and the Huber Weisses Original (Echt Weissbärig, decent amount of banana aroma/flavour, and a little soapy). The Schweinemedallions with Spätzle and a mushroom sauce was bloody great.

On an aside, alot of German colleagues who haven't met me yet, but send an e-mail, type my name as Berry. It's the way Barry gets pronounced around here. I just spotted one such mail with a typo naming me as Beery. At least it's closer to the mark!

Friday, 23 January 2009

A Bottle and Friend

There is a small but vibrant whisky subculture in my office. A group of people who share a love of whisky, particularly Scottish whisky, get together now and again, and there are often impromptu tastings down the corridor on a Friday evening. Ingo has an amazing collection, as I saw when I visited his house for a BBQ last summer, and he makes regular trips to visit the distillaries of Scotland, while Albert, my boss, has a reputation for having a collection of the finest whiskies, and these make guest appearances at Ingo's nights.

Last night was one such night as Ingo hosted a Burns night, today being the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. Ingo went the full hog (or sheep, literally) and got his neighbour, a farmer/butcher, to help him make haggis. So, it was with great excitement that I and a select few popped over to Ingo's little house in the countryside for this years Burns night.

After a starter of fresh, uncooked salmon soaked in Laphroaig, which I am ashamed to say I didn't partake in as I'm just not a fish eater, the star of the show was brought out and carved up and served with neeps and tatties. Although I don't think I'd ever eat a sheep's heart, liver or lungs seperately, together with oats and spices in a stomach, they seem to work pretty well. A bit more moist than the last haggis I had in Edinburgh eight years ago, the Scholling haggis was pretty damn good!

Following haggis the table was cleared for a card game, doppelkopf (the Dullen variant I have just now read). I know I'm not the best card player in the world, but German card games always seem to go over my head with complex rules that throw the order of cards and suits into disarray. I won't even go near my wife's favourite card game, skat, as it just bamboozles me. I was content to watch the others play and sip my beer and whisky.

Speaking of which, Ingo had a mixed crate of beers he brought back from a Christmas visit to family in Bavaria, and I dipped in between bottles of my own Glacial Amber which seemed to go down well with the others (I must get them to give me honest tasting notes). First up was the Landsknecht Bier from the Fürst Wallerstein Brauhaus. I liked the label, but wasn't expecting something so dark out of it. Held up to the light is shows itself as a deep chestnut brown. The main feature of this beer seemed to be its softness, tempered with a touch of tart acidity. It's clean and fresh with a slow build up of roasted flavours, all with a chocolate and soft caramel undertone. Very nice.

This was followed later with a Kellerbier from Aktienbrauerei Kaugbeuren and another from Mönchshof . I have a soft spot for the Mönchshof beers, but the Kellerbier wasn't going down too well. In fairness it had stiff competition in the form of Bowmore Mariner and Bowmore Darkest, two 15 year old single malt whiskies from Islay with the latter having been aged in sherry casks. Very stong oak and vanilla aromas, smooth, rich and a touch spicey on the tongue. At the start of the evening we were treated to some Bladnoch 15 year old non chill filtered whiskey from a special Chrismas 2008 filling. Not available in the shops apparently, Ingo simply phoned and got his. Oh, and the last whisky was a Glenfarclas 21 year old single malt. There were others, but I cannot do them justice.

At one point in the night a quick home video by Ingo and his son was shown, from one of their whisky tours. Essentially like an interview with the head distiller at Bladnoch, I think, this was really interesting even from a brewing perspective as he talked about the differences in Spanish and American oak, and how the more porous nature of the American casks meant that they retained and hence imparted more flavours and colours from the original liquids stored therein. He also mentioned the effects of yeast, something he said wasn't discussed very often. He was a bit cut from a tasting I think, so he was rambling, and I was a bit cut too, so I'll have to ask for a copy.

Special thanks to Reinhard who drove me and Albert to and from the party. I don't know how he managed to resist the tasty drops on the table!

I'll have to start organising a local St. Patrick's Day parade...

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Landskron Beers

I had these two beers from Landskron Brauerei, Görlitz, within days of each other. The first one I bought, and the second was left as an offering by my neighbour. They like experimenting too it seems. Görlitz is in Saxony, in the former east, so it's always interesting to try beers from that part of the country for a change.

The Landskron Premium Pilsner is a slightly hazy, pale straw yellow. It has a slightly sweet malty aroma with apple-like undertones. It tastes better than i expected, as i just can't bring myself to trust anything with "premium" on the label. It's quite bready with, again, a sour apple note to the finish. To be honest, it verges towards a helles to my taste, and although i wouldn't describe it as premium (whatever that may mean) it's a pleasant enough, medium-bodied session beer. Gassy though! Interestingly, for me, is that although it contains hop extract, I don't get "that taste" that I associate with that ingredient.

My neighbour had left the Landskron Pupen-Schultzes Schwarzes (try saying that fast ten times) outside our door the other day, and having a bit of a taste for dark beers I was very happy to see it. This is a very dark oaky brown with ruby highlights. A 3.9% beer, it feels light and is pretty sweet. Sweet in a malzbier kind of way with a little more of a darker flavour thrown in. Liquid caramel with a strawberry aftertaste came to mind. In fact, it began to resemble a flattish diet coke. And lo and behold, perhaps that wasn't surprising as later I noticed that the ingredients read "water, malted barley, hops, sweeteners E950, E951 and E954". I know I don't agree with the gebot 100%, but this is taking the piss. A couple of days later one of my neighbours came over to observe the last batch of homebrew being made, and without prompting she told me that the beer they had left was awful, too sweet and that she had poured half of it down the drain. I had actually done the same (although persistance got me beyond the half-way mark before I couldn't take it any more).

My neck is sore after my bike flipped out from under me because of ice yesterday. My last physio appointment (for other back problems) today didn't help, but beer is working wonders.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Löwenbräu-Buttenheim Pilsner

Described on the label as "hopfenherb", Löwenbräu-Buttenheim Pilsner pours a slightly hazy yellow due to a little bit of sediment in the bottle. The label also proclaims that it's been bottled at the brewery itself, so presumably it's unfiltered. Or relatively unfiltered. It has a sweet malty aroma cut with citrus that leans towards lime. While the flavor also gives straighforward maltiness, there's an almost cherry-like note. Faint I'll admit, but there ya go. There's a faint spicey/peppery/gingersnap warmth in the middle, but unfortunately it doesn't hang around long enough, and the bitterness doesn't really build up. Still, if hopfenherb indocates interesting hop flavours, this does have it, but you have to concentrate. As usual, it's probably better from the brewery tap.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Augustiner Dunkel and my Smoking Gun Stout

A quicky post. The Augustiner Dunkel, from Augustinerbräu München, is a beautiful deep, ruby-tinged amber and shows considerable carbonation during the pour. The aroma is very sweet with chocolate malts, figs and pluminess. In fact, the flavour is just the same; quite fruity with a dark chocolate bitterness. I actually quite like this, but of you don't like dark, fruity beers don't bother :)

I should have been drinking something stronger as the heating system packed in on Saturday morning. After being unable to contact the landlord, we called an emergency service who responded quickly and then told us that there was simply no oil (although the meter said 20% left). So it was a cold night with no hot water. However, doing a mash for my latest beer, a smoked stout, helped warm the kitchen, and the neighbours popped over to observe and take a few homebrews to help their personal central heating.

For those interested, the Smoking Gun Stout recipe looks like this:
  • 3 kg Pilsner Malt
  • 1 kg Rauchmalz
  • 500 g Chocolate Malt
  • 500 g Roasted Barley
  • 70.0 g East Kent Goldings (5.1%) -boiled 60 min
  • Fermentis Safale S-04
After the boil I ended up with 26 litres of wort at 1.053, 23 litres of which is now happily fermenting. I suspect it could have done with more rauchmalz, but we'll see.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Back from Luxembourg

Last night I spent my first night in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, at the Hotel Mercure across from the main train station. After a 5+ hour train journey to get there, immediately followed by a meeting that went on till after 7pm, there wasn’t much energy for exploring, so the gang settled on an Indian restaurant close by. The food was pretty good, but the beer was limited to Cobra or Kingfisher. Beggars can’t be choosers as they say.

Interestingly though, one of my colleagues from Lithuania (Hi Rokas!), who had spent the previous couple of days skiing in France, happened to have some Lithuanian beer with him, so as a nightcap I got to try my first Lithuanian beer, a lager going by the name of Kalnapilis Grand; one step up from a Premium beer I’m told. After the Kingfisher and Cobra this was almost a relief, and although I didn’t take notes, I can say it has a reasonably bready body with a mild bitterness. Not a taste sensation, but you could drink several in one session. I understand it is the second best-selling beer in Lithuania. I am hoping to visit there around October, so I assume I will have a guide for the Bier Weg and find out if there is a vibrant micro brewing movement there. Here’s hoping.

By the way, I found almost everything in Luxembourg to be overpriced. My colleague reckons that the presence of the European Commission there (our client in fact) means that hotels and restaurants can charge what they like, what with the guaranteed stream of customers on EC business. Even the Commission canteen we went to for lunch today was insanely priced for less than mediocre food. And I thought these guys would be eating like princes!

The camera on my phone is crap, so it wasn't worth posting the pic I took.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


One of my colleagues who originally hails from Franken, near Nurnberg, very kindly brought six different beers back with him after his Christmas holidays for me to try. Well, one was not from the area, but he clearly has good taste as that was an Aventinus, a beer I used to love but haven't had in a long time, even though I have one of the proper glasses.

I brought three of them home with me yesterday and drank one while I transferred my barley wine to a secondary vessel for a lengthy period of maturation. The beer I chose was the Winkler Bräu Kupfer Spezial, simply because I'd never seen a beer described as copper before. And if this is copper, it's of the most luscious, dark, old varnished variety with a dirty beige head. Not much on the aroma stakes (but then I was steaming oak chips at the time), but it does have a sweet, juicy, loaded with malty caramel flavour. Luckily not overly sweet. There's a very very slight edge there, reminiscent of toast and a delicate mandarin-like bitterness that comes into effect on the back of the tongue after half a glass. It's not life-changing, but it's nice enough. It might be a bit sweet for some, and it does feel a bit flat after a full bottle, but still, I could drink another. Cheers Rupert!

Actually, there was talk of sampling them on Friday evening after work, but I'm far too selfish. I'll bring in some Glacial Amber instead. Although Ingo said he brought back a crate or so from his recent trip to Bayern. Hmmm...

By the way, the barley wine has hit a gravity of 1.028, so it's currently at 10.4% ABV, and it feels it. The predicted final gravity from Beertools was 1.027, so hopefully it will drop a little more than that. I've put 5 litres on light American oak in a demijohn with the remaining 8 or 9 litres into 10 litre demijohn left plain. The mouthfeel is very oily and full. It has a most definite alcohol warmth and a strong hop flavour that is sorbet-like with a ginger bitterness and fresh black pepper aftertaste. Promising! Lets see how it fares after a few months in secondary.

Tomorrow I'm off to Luxembourg for two days (one night), assuming I don't feel as shit as I did yesterday. Still time to do some beer research, but I'll definitely be picking up some Belgian beers if I spot any hanging about.

Winkler Bräustüberl looks like a nice little family business.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Two from Löwenbräu AG, München

A while back I tried the Löwenbräu Oktoberfestbier, I think for the first time. I can't remember what tents I visitied on my first and last vsit to Oktoberfest as I was distracted by... well, nevermind.

So Iwas kind of looking forward to trying this. I always seem to expect Oktoberfest beers to be more amber, so I wasn't really expecting this deep golden affair. The aroma is like baking bread, and on first sip i got a bit of a shock. I had been drinking a pretty dry pils beforehand, and this contrasted starkly as almost juicy-fruit-like. There are sweet apples, diluted pineapple and a hint of lemon in there, and a base that felt like drinking liquid bread. I didn't expect to think too much of this, but I really liked the bready sweetness of the malts and the slightly spicey warming effect. At 6.1% ABV this is far too easy to drink.

A while later I spotted the attractively packaged Löwenbräu Urtyp in the local beer store, so I grabbed a couple. THis shared tha baking bread kind of aromas I found with the Oktoberfestbier, but with hints of apricots and citrus on the nose. The body is fullish, as described, with a honey-like sweetness and slight alcoholic note. Behind all this is a hop flavour bordering on pine-like that makes an effort to come out. It never gets to a solid bitterness, but that's probably just fine for this kind of beer. However it does get a bit over-sweet and one-dimensional

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Primátor Excluziv 16 and a Morrissey Fox Blonde

What a week. Any restfulness I accrued from three weeks Christmas holidays has been wiped out from a week of working 9 to midnight, and a stinking cold on top of it. I just hope the work was worth it.

As a result, I couldn't even face a beer till last night, and then I stuck with home brewed, easy drinking tasty drops so I could just chill and watch a movie. However, to keep some semblance of normality, I shall now present a short description of two beers I drank the night before I left Ireland to return to Germany last November. The shame! To add to that shame, I'm typing while I drink a small bottle of Guinness Extra Stout, the left overs from the six pack I bought for cooking over Christmas. In fact, I just cooked a spiced beef my mother brought over for Christmas last night in Guinness. It's bloody delicious.

Anyway, my friends, Mr. BeerNut and Thom, and I each received a bottle of Primátor Excluziv 16 from Mr. Velky Al (thank you again Al!) when he happened to be vising Dublin the same time I was. Although I fully intended bringing this back to Germany, my bag was way over weight, so I had to drink it there.

It poured a lovely clear, light amber witha rocky head that disappeared sharpish. The aroma gave me hints of resin under a sweetness, and the sweetness certainly came out in the flavour as sweet toffee malt flavours with a wash of slightly spicey hop flavours but with only a hint of a peppery/orange pith bitterness. As hinted in the aroma, I got a slight resin aftertaste that reminded me of those German beers I didn't like very much that it turned out had included hop extract as an ingredient. Although my Czech language skills aren't great, it seems that Primátor are using hop extact in this beer, as well as E300 Antioxidant.

Overall I found this to be a pleasent, heavily malted, sweet lager with a nice mouthfeel. Unfortunately the resin flavours put me off a bit.

On the same trip I was also gifted a bottle of Morrissey Fox Blond Ale from Geoff in the Bull and Castle. Mr. Fox had been there a couple of days beforehand launching some food and beer pairing marketing crap with the brewers of Ireland (the big ones mostly) and had left samples with Geoff, telling him to get comments. So here are mine...

A clear, bright, very pale amber (strawberry blond?) with a clingy, foamy head, this looked the part. It had a zesty hop aroma at first sniff which I thought was quite strong, but under that was a sweetness too, a soft, caramel with mandarins. There is a soft maltiness on the palate, presumably the ale part of the "hybrid" they describe it as, and a floral hoppiness. It's not bad, but frankly I found it a little thin and unsatisfying. Certainly not distinctive, and I was reminded more of a sweetish lager. To be fair, I think this is a beer for a warm Summer's day, not a cool November evening, so I expect it would be quite sessionable at the right moment. Apparently it's good for cooking with.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Order a St. George?

I acquired a couple of bottles of beer from St. Georgen Bräu, Buttenheim a while back, and it's about time I posted something about them. As you can see from the photo, the St. Georgen Bräu Pilsner is a slightly hazy, yellow, straw colour. It has a mildly sweet, fruity aroma. The same comes across in the flavour, being relatively sweet with a decent tangy bitterness that cuts the malt. This is certainly not a complex beer, and there's not much else to describe it really. Simply a decent thirst quencher after a hard days work.

I had been looking forward to trying their Kellerbier, expecting something a little darker, and a little more robust perhaps. This one being labelled as Ungespundet makes me expect something special given the traditions around Franken and the fact that the Mahr's Bräu example appears to be rated quite highly (I think I need to try this from the tap to be honest), and this has the added tag of having hefetrub. It certainly looks good and healthy with all that vitamin B bearing yeast floating about, and it has a nice head that lasts the pace. First impressions are of a plain and simple caramel-like malt. A little watery flavourwise, despite a medium body, and perhaps a little over-sweet. There is a decent hop kick in the back though, in a herbal (basil? oregano?) way. It's not unpleasent, but the whole thing doesn't seem to sit well together. It feel unbalanced and, frankly, a bit boring. If I had to choose between the two I'd probably go for the Pilsner.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Hofbräu München Festbier

A bit late parhaps, but just look at that festive photo! Don't you wish it was Christmas every day? No? Me neither. However, this bottle was left outside my front door by the beer fairies living across the hall, and they don't even celebrate Christmas. Bless them.
The Hofbräu Festbier weighs in at 6.3% and has a very faint citric aroma on a bready base. I found it to be dryish, verging towards sour grapefruit and perhaps bitter almond. Perhaps a little astringent. This all sits on a toasty, biscuity backdrop, but the hops to stay to the fore. Given its strength, it's not surprising a slight alcohol warmth comes out too.
This isn't bad, but I came away from it thinking I probably wouldn't drink more than one as it felt a little lacking in body. I expect my festive beers to be a little more luscious, but still, it's the thought that counts.