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In Praise of Amber Nectar - Part Duh !

by Helen Mon May 28th, 2007 at 06:21:37 PM EST

Back in August I wrote a diary about  British beer and promised others about the other styles of beer found in Europe. http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2006/8/8/174720/7830
Well, as with most of my promises, it kinda got a bit lost in the noise, but here we are at last, so enjoy.
Nb this diary will not feature Spanish beer except as a warning to others.

Reminder : Ales are fermented by yeasts that float on top of the liquid, lagers (beers) are fermented more slowly by yeasts that sit at the bottom.

Germany

Helles and Pilsner beers
There are many excellent lagered, beers ie stored and conditioned for a long time, unfortunately not in the UK, Poland or Spain. The germans and the Czechs brew the best , with some good ones in Holland. However, most Belgian pils are extremely poor and they should stick to what they do best, brewing ale.

The germans brew many variants of either lagered, or pils beer. The main style in Bavaria is Helles style, elsewhere pils dominates.  In Franconia Helles beers are called Volbier. Other german beers include Dunkel (dark beer), Keller bier, Marzen (spring ale), Spezial (basic "bitter"), Bock and Doppelbock

Rausch beer
Or smoked beer, only found in Franconia,. The malted barley is heavily smoked before being brewed and the resulting dark beer tastes slightly burnt. The two main breweries of thiss style are both based in Bamberg. Schenkerla is the most famous and is a world classic beer. One of my most treasured memories is drinking a freshly tapped barrel in the brewery itself. The other brewery is the Spezial brewery which is not as distinctive as the Schenkerla, but the brewery tap has a wonderful welcoming local's atmosphere. Sadly the future of this brewery is in doubt as the premises were recently put up for sale.

Kolsch
A style of beer brewed in and around cologne. Although it looks like a pilsner beer, it is in fact an ale.

Alt beer
A Speciality beer from Dusseldorf. Dark and hoppy with a malty flavour

Belgian

Trappist
In order to be called "Trappist" the beers of the brewery must be made in a brewery controlled and occupied by Benedictine monks. Therefore trappist is not so much as style as  an appellation of origin, however they all share a similarity in terms of strength and fullness of flavour. There are six such  breweries; Westmalle, Westvleteren, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort and Achtel.

Five of the six each brew 3 beers, singel, dubbel and trippel, Orval being the exception with just one. It is believed that the origin in the difference is that singel was for normal monks and novices, dubbel for senior monks and trippel was reserved for the abbot.

As an aside there are also beers called Abbaye, which are brewed as copies in terms of strength and fullness of flavour, but whilst these can be perfectly palatable, they should be regarded as a separate group of beers.

Sour Brown Ale
These come from the East Flanders area of Belgium. They use Vienna malts (medium roast, rich aromatic) and are closely associated with the town of Oudenaarde, they are unusually brewed n that they are simmered overnight rather than boiled and then fermented in open vats for 6 weeks before being stored in vats for nine months or so. The best known is Liefmans Gouldenbande.  Whilst I respect this style as authentic, it is a taste I have never acquired due to their residual sweetness.

Sour Red Ale
Similar to sour brown ale, but from West Flanders

Lambic
Lambic is a style of beer that dates from before 13th century and is only brewed in or around Brussels. It is a catch all phrase to cover the collection of beers of similar brewing style that include gueze, kriek, framboise, faro and lambic itself.

The difference is how the beer is brewed. Firstly they don't use malted, ie roasted barley, rather it is raw wheat and barley mix. This is mixed gradually with boiling water which is then kept on the go for at least 3 hours with old hops being added to the mix. These hops have lost the "bittering" characteristic, the peppery tang at the back of the throat, but retain their antiseptic property. This is important as the beers are then fermented with wild yeasts in shallow tanks which are left exposed to the open air. When this process is complete the beer will be pumped into oak barrels and left for THREE years.

Gueze beer is a beer that is a blend of variously aged lambics which are specially selected to retain a consistent flavour. The best known are Cantillion and Drie fonteinen. The result is an incredibly complex beer, sharp, tart and sour. If elft for a few years the beer becomes more rounded and loses some of its assertive sourness. A taste genuinely worth acquiring, but be warned, the intial impression will take the unwary by surprise. It has NOT gone off.

Faro beers are young blended lambics which are sweetened with caramel to produce a sweet and sour taste. I've met people who like them but it's not my thing.

Kriek and Framboise beers are produced by adding young-ish lambic beers to a vat of cherries or raspberries and leaving it to condition for a few months. Be warned tho' that some breweries are adding fruit cordials to normal or slightly sour beers, these are not even remotely as good as the real thing.

Saison
A little known beer from the Wallonian part of Belgium that seems to be growing in popularity. Originally a summer beer brewed in spring and then stuffed full of hops to survive until the summer. It would be the equivalent of an English IPA.

Other styles.
Belgium is a country with a lot of different beer styles, many of which are obscure and only produced in small quantities. So it is difficult to summarise the variety of Belgian beer.  

Weisse, white, wit beer. (German and Belgian)

There are two main styles of wheat beer. The Belgian and the German where the Belgian are lighter and softer with a less pronounced carbonation. German wheat beers also have a tendency to use more barley in the mix and will also have dark wheat beers as well.

German wheat beers had almost died out by the 80s, when they were discovered by British real Ale enthusiasts who started raving about them and featuring them in British beer festivals. This alerted the Germans to the fact that they were on the verge of losing an important beer tradition and interest in them was revived.

However, Belgian wheat beers really had died out, back in the 60s. However an enterprising brewer called Pieter Celis found a recipe for a wheat beer from a long defunct brewery and tried it out. The beer was an instant success and Hoegaarden was born; please do not believe any suggestion that the brewery has made this beer continuously since the middle ages.

With this commercial success other Belgian styles were revived and the belgian scene now has a lot of very good wheat beers, most of which are authentic recipes even if they weren't brewed for a long time.

Incidentally, Mr Celis sold up in the 60s and emigrated to Texas, where Celis White is now brewed, imo an improvement upon Hoegaarden.

Nb People who drink wheat beer with lemon are philistines who should be stoned to death.


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by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 07:08:53 PM EST
There is also a Dutch Witbier, quite excellent:

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by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 07:19:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People who drink wheat beer with lemon are philistines who should be stoned to death.

um, why? When I've travelled in Germany, this is exactly how it was served in the southern parts.

Also, it complements the taste of heffe's really well, something apparently the southern germans have noticed too, so I'm happy to be a phillistine along with them. ;-)

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 09:55:50 PM EST
Sangria is a way of taking wine of indifferent quality and mixing it with stuff to make a palatable long drink. People who use good wine to make it are missing the point entirely, why waste good wine on which care and attention has been lavished when the sangria will destroy that very quality anyway ?

I would imagine anybody who cares about good wine would wince if a really good bottle was used for sangria; I respond similarly regarding beer. Why waste the balance and subtlety of good beer by making it taste of acid and lemon. If you want a lemony beer, get a spanish or other biere de pays where there's no flavour to be ruined.

This affliction started when mexican and other entirely tasteless beers such as Sol and San Miguel became fashionable. For the wine bar fashionistas who didn't really like beer it was wonderful, drinking  with a slice of lime allowed them to pose without having to taste anything lower class like actual beer. However, now that fashion has moved on to beers that have genuine quality and flavour, the fashion remains even when it reveals the drinker to be know-nothing phillistines.

They can do what they like to Kristall, but polluting hefe is a crime against good taste.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 10:01:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sangria is a way of taking wine of indifferent quality and mixing it with stuff to make a palatable long drink. People who use good wine to make it are missing the point entirely, why waste good wine on which care and attention has been lavished when the sangria will destroy that very quality anyway ?

Exactly, which is why it's okay to mix beer of indifferent quality with lemonade to produce a clara.

But remember: si Sid Vicious hubiera conocido el kalimotxo, no habria muerto de sobredosis / si Sid Vicious hubiera conocido el kalimotxo, habria muerto de cirrosis [kalimotxo is red wine with cola]

The economy needs to be thought of as a garden, not as a wild ecosystem

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 10:08:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I could read a word in spanish, I might understand whatever it is I'm to remember

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 10:12:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
though my Spanish is very limited, I believe it means "If Sid Vicious had known kalimotxo* he wouldn't have died of overdose, if Sid Vicious had known kalimotxo he would've died of cirrhosis".

kalimotxo is pronounced "ka-lee-mu-tcho" (at least here in France, in some basque bars I went to and had the privilege to discover this mixture).

Le caoutchouc serait un matériau très précieux, n'était son élasticité qui le rend impropre à tant d'usages.- A.Allais

by armadillos (armadillo2024 (at) free (dotto) fr) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 04:05:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great! Your handle reminds me of this other bit from a Spanish song: para la guerra el amarillo, para bestia el armadillo. Don't try to translate it, it's not supposed to make sense.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 04:11:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 04:14:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree. I also home brew a considerable range of beer styles, so a phillistine of any sort on that front I'm not.

You didn't really answer my point about southern germany, home of hefe's, and the places I was were decidedly not flashy wine bars, but solid local drinking holes, because I was with southern german friends. So I remain unconvinced.

The Sangria comparison is a very poor one, because as you correctly point out, it's a way of turning lesser quality wine into a pleasing summer drink - ie seriously altering or masking the original taste. However if you want to make a truly spectacular sangria, using a nice rose and omitting the lemonade and any other cheap fizzy is an entirely different experience.

It's quite possible to compliment and highlight the taste of various beverages by adding another flavour which enhances the original qualities. Lemon does that for a good heffe, and does nothing to disguise the taste of a poor one, in fact it simply makes it more acid.

I enjoy drinking hefe both ways, depending on the particular characteristics. I personally find people who are fundamentalist in their views on how certain things should be drunk rather silly, as they miss the fact that humans are endlessly creative with our food and drink, and half the delight is finding new ways to enjoy excellent products.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 07:14:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I stand by my original point. My personal view is that the lemon is so intrusive that it buries any individual quality that the beer may have. It could be the best beer in the world, it could be Holsten or Heineken, who could tell ?

I'm not against the idea of adding flavours entirely. Berliner Weisse is traditionally served with wormwood extract and I enjoy the beer either with or without. Indeed I'll confess a childish pleasure in drinking a glass of luminous green liquid. However, it is my view that it enhances the original flavour, whilst lemon buries it entirely.

As for germans drinking it with lemon. So what ? People do it all over the world, it's just an affectation born of distaste or indifference for the actual quality of the beer. Not every german cares anymore than most brits do.

But I care. Call me rude. (Why not ? It's true and my friends list is appropriately limited). Call me a beer snob, whatever. Lemon in beer offends me because it's not just unnecessary, it's ruinous. Especially where it is the default in a bar and you end up being made to feel you're at fault for asking for another beer without the lemony thing in it.

Of course I know mine is a minority opinion but I simply do not understand why anybody would spend the extra for a premium beer and then render it indistinguishable from the cheapest crappiest beer in the bar.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 06:49:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not that this has anything to do with real beer, but I had the vaguely disturbing experience of drinking an Egyptian-made stout the other night.  Most of what we get to drink here are a series of identical Heineken Pilsner imitations.  But a few non-Pilsner beers are made for the Sharm tourist market, and aren't sold anywhere else in Egypt except for a single store in Cairo (which either only recently opened, or I only recently found out about).

The so-called "stout" was unbearably thin, with a head that would have looked more comfortable atop a glass of badly poured Coke.  It tasted like bad lager with molasses in it.  Bleh.

The same company (Luxor) makes a "wheat beer" that comes complete with a little tag with pouring instructions, which I found just amusing since it can't possibly really matter how you pour a bottle of swill.  I didn't try it, but my friends were not impressed.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 04:27:15 AM EST
Snigger !!

How's the home-brew plan developing ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 10:03:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's fallen by the wayside and is in desperate need of revival.  Hmmmm.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 10:45:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So many! I tend to drink German beers/lagers since I know these are brewed under the purity laws, and won't have lactose in them.  Plenty of UK mass brewed beers and lagers have lactose in them.  I can't be bothered with the trial and error of working out which ones are safe.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 04:45:41 AM EST
I know there's a vegan list of acceptable beers about, so there's probably a lactose safe list as well

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 09:03:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you tried contactng CAMRA ? They might know where such a thing is.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 09:37:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Never thought of that. I'll give it a go. Thanks.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 09:44:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dare I ask what lactose is doing in a beer?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 09:38:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What a very good question. There's no need for it to be added to anything, in my opinion. I believe it is added as a sweetener in beer. Someone suggested to me that it is a by-product of the fermentation process, which I'm sure isn't true. It tends to be mass produced beers that take shortcuts with additives that play merry hell with my health.

"It's NOT a hangover, it must have been lactose."

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 09:43:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's called "brewing candy". It's a cheap way to create a beer with more alcohol, but without using "expensive" malt or even malt extract.

I can usually detect it cos of the high "bubblegum" pitch in the flavour, but that's cos I know what I'm looking for. When I do note it, I usually avoid that brewer's products thereafter as to me it is a sign of bad practice.

Some brewers use rice to achieve the same effect. Budweiser (US) is a rice beer, as are most beers from the Far East.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 10:09:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In four decades in amurka, i virtually never drank a beer unless it was the only thing available at the moment, which was rare.  My favorite Frisco literary pub served shit budweiser on tap, to which the regulars added Angocostora bitters so it would taste like something.  Except for the specialty brews just beginning to pop up in the 70's and faster in the 80's, it was all piss.  Plus the make me expand by the minute.

Then i landed in Germany, where for the first months i drank Bordeaux as i did at home.  But as physical labor settled in to distract me from my lack of windpower consulting, discovered that Feierabend (directly party evening, or more linguistically "quitting time") began to feel great with a good Pils.

As the months became years, and i'd begun to sample so many of both German brands and styles, i had to admit my lifelong aversion to swill had been overcome by the deliciousness of dem Deutsche Reinheitsgebot.  In fact, as i post i'm drinking a Schwelmer Bernstein, which is truly amber (hence the name) from a brauerei where they normally make pils.  It comes in one of those bottles with the steel lever to pop off the ceramic top.

With the news of the world bearing disturbing flavors of depression and other symptoms of lack of vision, it's so nice to have a discussion here about one of the true pleasures of northern Europe.  Danke.

(by the way, when it gets hot and sunny... so often here, heh... die deutsche Leute have been known to mix pils and lemonade 50-50, called either Radler or Alster unless Alster is with lemon soda or whatever.  Just goes to show that even the experts can adjust their tastes to the weather, or if they have to drive home.)

Regarding Kolsch, or Colognisch as i call it, i didn't know it was an ale.  it sure looks and tastes like pils, only less so.  But there is a small 150 year old brauerei, Muhlen Kolsch, which makes the most brilliant variety of this local favorite i have ever had.  Head and shoulders above the rest, and well respected.  And the restaurant has the same waiters in the same building as the brauerei's birth!

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 02:40:49 PM EST
Well, even tho' you fetched up in a great place for beer, it's a shame you left the US when you did. Theirs is now a really exciting place to be for brewing and tasting great beers. I could be persuaded quite easily to make a trip to the Great american Beer Festival in Denver this october.  

I feel a short diary coming on.(promises...promises).

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 03:19:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Prohibition set American beer back by 6 decades. At least.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 07:09:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Go to the Wynkoop (St.) Brewery, one of the oldest micros, was really good and Randy, the master brewer was my next door neighbor, so my parties were well supplied.  Current Mayor Hickenloper may still own it.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 07:20:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see you already commented on ales in part one, but I feel compelled to holler and rally the hop-heads of the world. My favorite bottled brew:

ipa_left_side_bottle.jpg
Bridgeport IPA

by Fete des fous on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 04:17:41 PM EST
Yes, my next beer diary will focus on the developing US scene.

I don't think I've had the IPA, but I know I've had the BeerTown Brown and possibly the Blue Heron. the greatest disappointment at last year's GBBF was that the US beers didn't arrive, I usually spend the entire week hanging out on that bar.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 04:30:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have had the Blue Heron (not the brown ale) and it's good but I think the IPA is in a different class. I don't do beer festivals but I love to combine brewery hoping with some outdoor activity like going hiking or backcountry skiing. Draft beer is so good! -:)
by Fete des fous on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 08:03:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not such a fan of walking. Pubs with good beer aren't so close inthese paone of my favourite things is to cycle out and do 4 or 5 pubs and about 20 - 30 miles. Makes for a pleasant evening.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 06:31:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you do the chequered skipper in Ashton on the second Sunday in October?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 07:46:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ha, Peterborough is just a bit more than 30 miles from me. Plus I don't even know which country I'll be in come october.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 07:52:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The opportunity for a good beer served at a sports world championship would I have thought been to much to pass up, even if the cycling is a bit excessive.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 08:25:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What sport ? Oh !! conkers ??


keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 09:23:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My husband home brews (a lot) and he does quite a few rare (to most American) beers ... many in this list. And I hear about it a lot. And I have to say, these are some good, concise definitions that actually highlight the differences without getting overly detailed. It is really easy to complicate everything and confuse someone really quick.
by R343L (reverse qw/ten.cinos@l343r/) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 11:57:39 PM EST


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