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.