Saturday, 27 August 2011

A song for Beer

Although there are a few songs about beer, none are any good or particularly well known. So I decided to write one which was also not very good and won't become well known.
I have to warn you that I make no claim whatsoever to being able to sing - listener beware.

All works registered through Copyright House

Saturday, 13 August 2011


France isn't one of the traditional European beer countries, nor is it one of the countries you associate with the new wave of craft brewing. However, there are a lot of seriously good brews around, although not many of them make it out of France. Where a decent French brew isn't available, you can very often get your mits on a Belgian brew of sorts, although it will usually be one of the "toned down for international consumption" types, such as Leffe, Hoegaarden, Grimbergen etc. Although Germany is considered a beer country and France isn't, I know which one I'd rather live in if availablilty of decent beer was the prime factor. Or just about any other factor actually.

Ninkasi is the nearest thing that beer drinkers have to a Goddess...

It's also the name adopted by an awesome Lyon microbrewery. Their bottles boast about winning some award or other, and when you taste them then you will feel like giving the judges a pat on the back. I managed to try the pale ale and the white, and they were both amongst the best of the style I've had. I didn't make it to their range of brewpubs across town as I'm here with non-beer drinkers, but luckily you can get if from supermarkets everywhere. Oh boy, if only I could get beer like this from Munich supermarkets.

They make a large range including an IPA and a Scotch Ale, and I was so tempted to buy a load and bring them back but my backpack would have burst under the strain.

Brasserie Georges is a brewery cum restaurant set in an awesome old building. They brew a range of beers including a decent Saison...

It didn't quite have the character of some Saisons I've had, but having said that the place is mainly a restaurant, although the food's pretty shit.

There's a funky Belgian beer bar in the old town, although shamefully I didn't get the name. They've got a decent range including McChouffe and Duchess de Bourgogne...

I opted for a Kwak, and they were authentic enough to have the correct cool glass...

I'm not quite sure how practical those glasses would be after ten of them...

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Camba Bavaria

I discovered a new German online beer retailer, Biershop Bayern, and what caught my eye was that they stocked beers from Camba Bavaria. These geezers brew a range of foreign styles as well as the usual German styles - they do an IPA, a pale ale, a porter, a stout and a brown ale. They only flog them in crates of 9 so I had to think twice, but I gave the pale ale and the IPA a chance. The porter and stout I had to leave till I'd confirmed that they knew what they were playing at, as German "porters" can be vile. Delivery is very prompt and everything's well packaged.

I'm pleased to report that they're both perfectly genuine brews, the IPA coming in at 8% and being very heavily hopped, the Pale Ale clocking in at 5% and being less hopped but still well endowed.
I'm not sure who Eric is...

Although I'd previously had a few good German IPAs, such as the Braufaktum one, they were all severely overpriced, meaning that it was much cheaper to get imported ones. These were more reasonably priced though at about 20 Euro for 9 bottles. At first there's the novelty factor of drinking a citrus hopped German beer, but after a while they did seem to be a bit one dimensional.
In all though Camba Bavaria deserve credit for trying something extremely unusual in the German brewing scene. Once I've polished these fellas off I'm gonna give the porter and stout a seeing to.

Thursday, 28 July 2011


Steinau is the one time residence of the Brothers Grimm, and boy does it let you know about it.

Get down you perv...

As far as I know beer featured in none of his stories...

Once upon a time, an evil witch had stolen all the hops, and so everyone had to drink bland pilsners. But then a princess found a bag of hops, chemically extracted all the juice from them, and so invented Hopfenextract. All the beer drinkers grimaced at the acidity but still lived happily ever after.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Alsfeld is one of these old preserved towns that Germany is so rich in, straight out of Hansel and Gretel.

It is indeed postcard perfect, and even has a pub with Newkie Brown, as can be seen on the left.

It was closed, but I wasn't too distraught as it's extremely likely it would have been the vile keg version that you get in Germany a lot rather than the bottled version.
Everywhere you have "Brothers Grimm" shoved into your face, like a drunken Mexican trying to force you to drink from his tequila bottle.

Why only six dwarves?

I've always thought in the Hesse region you're better off going for the local apple wine than the utterly forgettable local beers.

I think this was called Super Tasteless Pils 85 or something

Saturday, 9 July 2011


Beer is not doing well in Germany. Volume sales are falling year by year, and everywhere there is talk of "brewery death". If the falling volume sales are the sweating that presages the onset of bubonic plague, then the enormous pus-ridden buboes under the armpits can be seen in the fact that young people, the beer drinkers of the future, just don't seem enthusiastic about beer. You can forget about the hip speciality beer bars you find in many European or American cities, packed with young dudes sipping IPAs and imperial stouts - a German beerhall or beer garden can often seem like a retirement home.
To outside observers, the reasons are skull explodingly obvious - German beer, with a few notable regional exceptions, is simply not very interesting. As a reaction, the hideous Gorgon known as the Biermischgetränk has been spawned. Of course mixing beer with lemonade has been around for ages and in many countries - except it's normally only what you would drink if you're under 14 or are going to be driving. Mixing beer with cola is, as far as I know, a uniquely German idea. That's right, the country which is proud of it's misnamed "purity law" will then go and mix the fruits of the brewer's labour with cola.
Because of Germany's stupid laws dictating what is allowed to be put in beer, when a brewer makes a honey beer, they can't actually call it beer, and so have to borrow the Biermischgetränk label.

If you're going to name your beer after a God, then it's by far the best idea to choose a dead one.
Although this is described as a Biermischgetränk, it's actually a perfectly normal honey beer brewed in the same way honey beers are brewed the world over. The bane of non-standard beers in Germany is all too often oversweetness, and sure enough this has a slight cloying element.
Credit to Odin-Trunk though for trying something different. I might well get a few more of these in for the hot summer days.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Hops vs Hop extract

Hopfenextract is said to be a plague in German brewing; it's very very common to come across "Hopfen, Hopfenextract" listed on the ingredient list of a German beer. This exposes how ludicrous the Reinheitsgebot is: how can something be (mis)labelled a "purity law" when it allows chemically reclaimed hop juice in it? German beer drinkers are often taken aback when this is pointed out to them.
It is still quite rare, however, to find a beer which doesn't actually contain any real hops at all, only the extract, but I came across one today.

Flensburger is not a brewery I had a particularly high opinion of, and putting a German cartoon character called Bölkstoff on the front of a beer and naming it after him didn't promise too much.

This is a "pure" hop extract beer. Sure enough it had the acidic, sharp, overly bitter taste that hop extract often imparts to a beer. Having said that, it wasn't all that bad and to be honest I would choose it over many Munich lagers I've had. At least it actually had some bitterness, although not the sort of bitterness you would choose.
Unfortunately I couldn't compare it to any other German beer as the small stock of 5 or 6 German bottles I had didn't include a single one which didn't have Hopfenextract in it. Shame on you, German brewers. To be honest you can't really blame them, it's just a vicious circle. If your competitors can shave 20c off the price of their beer by including hop extract, many German beer drinkers will go for it, so the alternative is to follow them or see your beer stranded on the supermarket shelves.

There aren't that many beers with a horse theme, so at least "Pferd & Reiter" from the Strubbe brewery in Belgium was original. This uses no hop extract, just hops. Unfortunately it didn't stop it from being very dull.
So which would I choose? The Bölkstoff any day.
Beer is a very complex drink, and trying to reduce it some simplistic "This ingredient: good beer, this ingredient: bad beer" leads you down the road which ends in statements such as "it was not possible to tell if the beer was real or not". There are far too many variables in beer to be able to come up with some simple checklists that will determine if a beer is worth drinking.
Although hop extracts are undoubtably a bad thing and impart an unpleasant sharpness, it's still possible to make a beer with nothing but hop extracts that is better than a beer without any. This is why all this "camra says this is real ale" shit is such a load of bollocks. We've all had shitty cask or bottle conditioned beers, and we've all had fantastic pasteurised and filtered beers. We should celebrate the diversity of beers rather than trying to gang up some beers against others.

Oh yeah I almost forgot the third beer: "Nessie Macqueen's" (I kid you not). I should have known better shouldn't I? It describes itself as a "Whisky malt red beer". My description: revolting alcopop tasting piss.

Friday, 1 July 2011

German Porter... I don't Leikeim.

There are certain trigger words or phrases that automatically set our spines tingling with dread and make a knot in our stomachs... "The Doctor will see you now", "These molars will have to come out", "I am extremely sorry but the 8:45 departure to....", "We've got John Smith's Extra Smooth or Carling".
If you try lots of unusual German beers, then "Deutsche Porter" is one of these phrases. Just as a German beer drinker in Britain would probably wonder how it's possible for a brewer to make such vile lager, anyone trying a German porter would ask themselves how you can so effectively murder a beer style with such a fine heritage. Actually the answer is fairly simple... bottom ferment it and add 15,000,000 bags of sugar after fermentation.
With 10 tubes of toothpaste standing by I braced myself...

The Kirsch Porter is brewed by Lausitzer, with 90% of their porter and 10% cherries. To be honest it wasn't as terrible as I'd been expecting; it's still too sweet but the cherries seemed to disguise the natural vomitness of the "porter". I actually liked the first few swigs, although this was probably solely due to the cherries, as the beer side of it might as well have been coke. I suppose Lausitzer should be given some credit for at least making a German beer with "porter" on it that doesn't make your face look like a bulldog chewing a wasp.

"Steinbier" was not a style I'd come across before, and when I first sipped Leikeim's offering there was something very subtle but quite unusual about it which I couldn't place... it was very slightly smokey but I was sure it wasn't a Rauchbier. Upon further investigation it turns out that this beer is made by dropping hot steins (stones) into the wort. This gives it its slightly smokey but slightly sweet taste. Interesting enough but I wouldn't bother with it again.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Das Bierbrot

Whenever I see a recipe involving water, I always wonder what would be the result of substituting beer. As I make my own bread with this "just add water" flour mix, I thought I'd give "beer bread" a shout.

I chose Kostritzer because I wanted something dark, but as this was an experiment I didn't want to risk anything expensive that I actually liked. Normally I'd add about 375ml of water but I went for a 500ml bottle of beer to start with.
Add the beer to the flour...

Mix well...

Leave the mixture to set for 45 minutes and you get this unappetising looking goo...

Bake for 30 minutes and Voila...

Notes to self:
  1. Beer bread needs less time in the oven or it gets burnt.
  2. The extra liquid gives it a very moist texture, but makes it not really suitable for slicing.
Next time I'll use a 330ml bottle of beer and see what results I get then.
The bread was suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper yummy... cor blimey you can feed like, four geezers with that, can't you not never like.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A dwarf and a Saint

Like many beer drinkers I went through a mercifully short phase of thinking than the sun shone out of the cheeks of any beer which had been wedged to the brim with citrus hops. Now the novelty has worn off I find many of them very one dimensional. Now I'm back to my old Belgian fellas, and luckily my Bierzwerg consignment eventually turned up.
What you looking at baldy?

A Belgian IPA is clearly going to be a different beast from other IPAs, and so it proved. The hops were done tastefully not to excess, with a solid foundation of a Belgian trippel to build on. La Chouffe are a superb brewery who never put a foot wrong.
St Idesbald are abbey beers which bear a passing resemblance to Rochefort, but there's something else in there as well, slightly sweet that I couldn't put my toes on. Definitely a worthwhile alternative to the Trappistes.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Rother Bräu Öko Urtrunk

Rother Bräu describe themselves as a small family brewery, located way up in the northern extremes of Franconia. I think theirs is the first unfiltered / unpasteurised bio beer I've come across, so it's time to check it out. It pours with an extremely healthy head which rises out of the glass like a loaf of bread. It reached near vertical heights without seeping over the rim of the glass.

The bread analogy continues with the taste, along with a healthy maltiness. Hops of course are MIA but come on, this is Bavaria. Quite worthy, and another one that's a full on summer beer.
I think I must have crossed the paths of a whole litter load of black cats, or walked under the ladders of the annual ladder society convention. Not only did I get robbed in Barcelona and so miss my beer titanic's return trip, now my latest beer consignment from Bierzwerg has gone missing. Trying to trace items with Deutsche Post is up there with the searches for the Holy Grail, Lord Lucan, and the Ark. Things just disappear into an impenetrable jungle of bureaucracy, compounded by the fact that deliveries in Germany are to a name on a doorbell rather than an actual address. At the weekend I have to face the Gojira of German bureaucracy again when I attempt to take a long distance train with a replacement credit card as ID...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Dinkel Bells

Dinkel (Spelt) apparently used to be an important part of our diet in some parts of Europe, but now it's a "relic", surviving mainly in bio and health products. Lammsbräu are a fine brewery so the combination sounds promising.

It's extremely cloudy with a moderate head, and a slightly unusual hue. The ingredients list malted barley as well as malted spelt, although it doesn't say the proportion of each. According to my limited understanding, this can be called beer under the 1993 beer law, because it's specifically malted spelt, whereas under the reinheitsgebot it wouldn't have been allowed because of the presence of the spelt... it's all a bit confusing. Why not have a law that says, "you can put what the bugger you like in beer as long as it says on the label what's in it and it doesn't poison any one. If you make something as sickeningly vile as John Smiths Extra Smooth and someone actually buys it, well then congratulations to your marketing department."
Under the label where it would normally say "brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot", it says instead "brewed according to the ecological Reinheitsgebot"

It seems then that we can start defining our own Reinheitsgebots if its narrow strictures don't fit out beer. Maybe John Smiths should start selling Extra Smooth here, which can be marketed as "brewed according to the Alchemists' Reinheitsgebot".
The beer itself is definitely one for drinking outdoors during the summer. It has the smell you would encounter whilst wandering through a field of tall wheat and grass looking for a severed limb after an encounter with a combine harvester. It's not a beer you can drink fast, although it's absolutely not unpleasant. Thumbs up again to Lammsbräu.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Un Mare Di Birra

Rome's speciality beer bars have probably had more blog words written about them than Caesar, Da Vinci and Berlusconi put together. Suffice to say that if you've been anywhere near a beer blog you probably know every inch of them already. The best is Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa, and for their tenth anniversary, they arranged "Un Mare Di Birra", where the beer would "literally come out of the walls." How could anybody resist?
On the first night boarding was a bit slow... lots of thirsty beer dinkers eagerly waiting to board...

When we finally got on, a host of volunteers worked like mad to get the kegs in place. Finally after midnight the pub was ready to open; a large conference room with a variety of stalls around, each with six or so different kegs on. Next morning there was the "breakfast pub" on the deck, with a similar arrangement of the weaker strength beers.

The "not so mild ale" (4.5%) was my favourite of the trip, which proved that the idea that kegs are only suited to higher strength beers to be a load of bollocks.
What could be finer than sipping craft beer while gazing out at the big blue wobbly thing that mermaids live in?

The Grimaldi Lines ferry acted as a hotel...

He lost his helmet and sword somewhere along the way... the glass is a special momento of the trip...

Next up was Barcelona, where the boat would dock for a free day before returning to Rome...

I must admit that here things suddenly took a very, very, very bad turn for the worse for me. Some toerag legged it with my wallet while I was about to use a cash machine, and that meant bye bye passport and credit cards. By the time I'd been to the police and got a report, and spent ages on the phone trying to cancel all my cards, I missed the final time for boarding, and the boat had already departed. So, if you want to know what happened on the journey back, I am sadly unable to say...

Friday, 3 June 2011


The organisation I work for is one of these EU type things with tax free salaries and about 50 or so paid holidays a year. As yesterday was a public holiday and tomorrow the weekend, they unilaterally decide it's not worth worth working today so they declare it a "bridging day". Whilst wandering past Viktualienmarkt my peripheral vision started tugging at me, and I turned to see, in a shop window no less, a "bar" with a row of Newkie Browns on it. Huh? Brown Dog in a bar in an upmarket furniture shop?

Turned out that they were flogging something called an "Oxford Bar", and so had decorated it with various British style drinks to give it authenticity. It's price? €18.95. Oh no, that's wrong, I mean €18,995. Decorating a bar worth the best part of 20k with Gazza's tipple of choice perhaps shows a lack of understanding of the British beer scene but I suppose you can't blame them. Luckily as it was 10:30 a real bar was just opening, namely the Viktulianmarkt open air pub.

Luckily Augustiner is not one of the Munich breweries which have had corporate takeovers and subsequent hemorrhaging of flavour. It's your average Munich resident's tipple of choice.
I hope these surgeons are aren't doing any operations today...

A trip to the Andechs Kloster is a fine way to while away a lazy friday afternoon. You can either be sporty and hike up a hill from Ammersee, or be bone idol and get a bus.
It is universal from Japan to Jerusalem that every religious institution up a hill will have endless stalls selling tat and crap lining the road to it.

 But once you're up there you can check out the rolling fields.

Their dopplebock is so malty it's like eating a side of beef.

Bierzwerg may have a much wider choice of online beer than Bierkompass, but they're a lot slower at getting it to you. As my previous stash had run out I had to pay a visit to Galeria to stock up.

Shop at Galeria,
Their stuff is very dear,
But if you like good beer,
Then you will surely cheer

This is the first time I've seen Duckstein, the splendid North German red ale, available in Munich. Bravo Galeria.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Das Kraftbier

The term "Craft Beer", its different connotations, the arguments / brawls about its meaning or lack of it have not even remotely entered the radar space of even your most enthusiastic German beer drinkers. If you explain the term to them, the conversation will go "Ah soooo.... well you see here in Germany all beer is brewed like this, because we have our purity law which states that BLAH BLAH BLAH YES SHUT UP PLEASE".
To be honest, German beer varies as much in quality as American, Danish or Italian does. An Oettinger plumbs the depths as much as Carlsberg or Bud, and an Uerige Dopplesticke soars in the heights as much as a Beer Here or a Goose Island.
So is there anything which might be called German craft beer?
First up you might consider the "reassuringly expensive" range of beers from the likes of Hopfen-Fluch or Braufactum. These will usually be grossly overpriced imitations of non-German styles like IPAs or stouts. They are always of a decent standard, but unfortunately they usually cost around twice as much as importing the real thing from abroad via websites like Bierkompass or Bierzwerg.
Then there are the hardy souls who risk the wrath of the German brewing mafiosi by occasionally flaunting the 'gebot, like Stortebeker or various old east german breweries who sometimes add sugar to bottom fermenting beers. Unfortunately these vary in quality enormously, and quite frequently are disasters in bottled form.
But the closest I've come to what might be called craft examples of native German styles are often the manufacturers of Bio beers. There is a Bio shop in town which has become my haven when my stock of foreign beers has dried up. A broad minded German beer shop might have a ratio of 90:9:1, meaning 90% Bavarian beer, 9% non-Bavarian or national brands, and 1% foreign beer (some Czech pils, and a Guiness if they're particularly cosmopolitan). A typical one though might have a ratio of 95:5:0.
Bio shops however, because there aren't that many bio beers, will have a selection from all over Germany. And from my experience bio brewers tend to be the very small, dedicated craftspeople that are associated with craft beers. My two favourite Kolsch and Alt styles are Hellers and Pinkus, both bio brewers. And these two splendid fellas from Neumarkter Lammsbräu made me kick myself for not trying them earlier...

The Urstoff is a Helles which surprised me by its orange colour...

It has a splendid syrupy, caramel taste which I would have never guessed possible from a Helles, normally a style I find utterly tedious. Without doubt the finest example I've come across. The Schwarze is equally syrupy in a black way, if that makes sense. Again, the best example I've found. These two are firmly installed on the front row of the grid in the German beer grand prix. I can't wait to try their Weisse and Pils.

Monday, 30 May 2011


My image of this town was of a fairly unattractive industrial city, but it's not really like that. The Altstadt, although much of it is far from alt, reminded me a tiny bit of Amsterdam without the canals, and you can meander from bar to bar without walking more than a few yards at a time. The "big four" were top of my list though.
First up was Schlüssel...

Inside it's the usual maze of different rooms. The beer tasted better than I remembered it in the bottle.

Uerige is maybe the most well known...

Their dopplesticke which I once found on Bierkompass was one of the best beers I've ever tasted, but their standard Alt I didn't find to be as good as the other three when I tried them in bottles. Here it was the same. Nice place inside though.

The river front's had a lot of work done, lots of bars and cafes with much greenery on the opposite bank.

Observing what people were drinking, both Pils and Weiss tended to be more numerous than the dark Alts that the town is famous for.
You can't escape the rivalry even when choosing mustard...

Füchsen was one of my favourites in bottles...

And it was my favourite from the barrel as well. Well done that fox. Inside, the rooms have a more modern feeling than the others.

Schumacher had to wait till 10am the next morning. It's not in the central Altstadt unlike the others.

Nutty, chewy even...

Thus concluded my pilgrimage. As you probably heard, the world did not end. How much that was due to my pilgrimage we'll probably never know, but either way I did not receive a hero's welcome when I arrived back in Munich. Instead, the air conditioning didn't work on the leg from Stuttgart, so I had to drink warm Weissbier.