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.