Posts Tagged With: Germany

Gaffel Kölsch

Beer: Kölsch
Brewery:
Privatbrauerei Gaffel
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.8%

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Serving Style: Draft
Drinking Establishment: Pilsnerhaus, Hoboken, NJ
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

Sight: Clear golden body with no head. It looks like a generic macro lager ala Budwesier.

Smell: There’s an overwhelming aroma of watery pennies. That’s all I get.

Flavor: Oddly, it tastes like mozzarella and parmesan cheese, paired with a side of white bread and barley. I will issue the caveat that I am hungry and just saw a plate of Obatzda– a cheese spread–go by and would much rather be eating that than drinking this and thus there is a 15% chance that I am projecting my cheese spread desires onto this poor unknowing beer.

Feel: Thin with high carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Gaffel is a standard Kölsch from Cologne, but it’s somehow not as delicious as the Reissdorf despite being brewed to the same specs. To say it’s lacking complexity would be an understatement. As the Gaffel Brauerei states, it has a “light and refreshing taste that compliments almost all foods…it is superbly drinkable and subtle without being too filling.” While I might not go as far as to say that this is “superb,” and maybe by “subtle” they meant “the flavor is subtle, i.e. nearly undetectable,” the Gaffel Kölsch is a a Cologne favorite. I could be bribed to agree if presented with a plate of Obatzda in the next few minutes…

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Categories: Kölsch | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Reissdorf Kölsch

Beer: Kölsch
Brewery:
Brauerei Heinrich Reissdorf
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.8%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

Sight: Crystal clear golden body with a bright white head that disappears after a minute, which is typical of a Kölsch.

Smell: The initial aroma is bright and sweet, with hints of fresh apples and metal from the special yeast with which the traditional Kölsch is brewed. There’s also a fresh baked bread smell.

Flavor: The prominent flavors are mineral-y water, those thin pretzel sticks, and a slight hop bite. There is a lingering sweetness, which tastes a little like salted caramel.

Feel: Thin, watery body with high carbonation. This has the mouthfeel of the perfect summer bier, i.e. you could drink this for hours on end instead of water and walk around in a sunstroke haze and soak up the beautiful memories of the sun. Summer cannot get here fast enough, clearly. What I’m getting at is, is that this is exceptionally easy to drink.

Concluding Remark:  As the label states, the Reissdorf Kölsch is “THE CLASSIC KOLSCH.” Well, it might not be “THE” Kölsch, but it is certainly A Kölsch, as this beer is brewed in Cologne and abides by the Kölsch Konvention. A typical Kölsch, it’s bright, lightly malted, and has just a slight fruit flavor. While not particularly complex, there are a few layers of flavor here that make Reissdorf one superiorly drinkable beer. Don’t go trying a Kölsch thinking you’re in for an innovative micro beer; no, this is one of the most popular in Cologne (i.e., it appeals to thousands of people and can’t be that delicious). However, the Reissdorf Kölsch is an exceptional example of the Cologne ale. Man, the Cologne volk were hella smart for  resisting conversion to the lager cult.

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Exploring German Bier: The Kölsch Ale

After spending the last few months exploring the ales of the New World, it’s time to get back to the birthplace of modern beer: Europa! Specifically, we take our beer magnifying glass and old-timey pipe back over to Germany to inspect some styles that are oft written off as simply “easy to drink” and “not particularly interesting.” If you walk into bar with over five taps, chances are you will find a Hefeweizen or a Pilsner. However, other German beers do exist and this month we are going to study one style a week in order to make clear the differences between each type of beer.

To get started, we will be consuming the Kölsch Ale–a warm-fermented and cold-conditioned (“lagered”) ale straight outta Cologne (Köln), Germany. This ale, a variant of the wheat beer, was first produced in 1906, and the term “Kölsch” appeared in 1918. But as these things go, there’s more to this story….

note the Cologne Cathedral in the background

History of Kölsch

The Kölsch ale was not a wild hit when Sünner Brauerei produced the first modern version in 1906.  No, it was the lager that maintained popularity throughout Germany. This all changed after World War II. During the war, over 95% of the breweries in Cologne were destroyed. After the war,  these breweries slowly rebuilt their facilities, and the brewing industry was revitalized by the 1950s. It was at this point that the Kölsch began to reign the Cologne beer market.

The Kölsch is a reliable ale–you won’t find too much variation from one Kölsch to the next. This is largely due to the fact that the beer is defined by the Cologne Brewery Association in the Kölsch Konvention of 1985(1). Like the infamous Reinheitsgebot, a Kölsch is only a Kölsch if it meets the terms in this Konvention. Certainly, there are other German breweries–and American breweries–that produce Kölsch-like ales; however, they aren’t (and shouldn’t be!) labeled “Kölsch.”

(1) In case you were wondering what the Kölsch Konvention stipulates: 1) the beer must be brewed in the Cologne metropolitan area, 2) must be pale, 3) must be top-fermented, 4) must be hop-accented, 5) must be filtered, and 6) it must have a gravity between 11-14% plato. 

The good Kölsch name was further protected in 1997 when it became an appellation of origin under EU law. This means that, much much like Parmesan cheese or Bordeaux wine, only Kölsch beers brewed in the designated region can be referred to as a Kölsch.

Regardless of these exclusive protective regulations, the Kölsch isn’t all that popular outside of the Cologne MSA. Less than 1 out of 20 beers consumed in Germany is a Kölsch. In Cologne proper, the  Kölsch accounts for about half of beers downed in das bierhaus.

Kölsch Ale is not a German Lager

What is particularly special about the Kölsch, is that not only is it one of the few ales in Germany, it is actually a hybrid beer–neither a true ale nor a true lager. An ale, as you may know, is a warm-fermented, top-conditioned beer, and a lager, the opposite. A Kölsch is a combination of these two techniques: it is warm-fermented, but bottom-conditioned, and it sits for about two months before consumption, which is typical of a lager.

Cologne was an anomaly in German beer history. According to moderately credible sources, lagering techniques slowly made their way to Cologne. While lager was all the rage in most of Germany, Cologne only really began brewing lagers with the advent of refrigeration. Instead of jumping on the lager bandwagon, the stadtvaters (city fathers), decreed that top-fermented beers (ale) were to be brewed in the city in 1603. Later, the city outlawed lager production after Bavaria prohibited summer brewing due to potential quality and spoiling concerns. Lagers, which are cold-conditioned (i.e., designed to sit in the winter), were brewed in the winter and ales in the summer. Thus, it was illegal to brew ales in Bavaria. Cologne and neighboring Dusseldorf had no intention in following Bavarian trends, and began producing a “Keutebier”–a wheat-based ale falling somewhere between a Belgian Wit Ale and a German Hefeweizen–which was consumed between the 1500-1800s. Slowly, the wheat content of Keutebiers petered out and slowly transformed into the beer we know today as the Kölsch–an all barely ale. Dusseldorf produced a slightly darker, copper ale called an Altbier, or old beer, referring to medieval pre-lager (ale) techniques.  The major difference between the Kölsch and the Altbier is that the latter is brewed with Munich malts (giving it a dark, amber color–like a Marzen) and the former with Pils malts (giving it a pale, straw color–like a pilsner). They are both barely-based and filtered, unlike German’s popular ale, the Hefeweizen, which is wheat-based and unfiltered.

A Cologne Ritual 

As the Kölsch is a regional speciality, it shouldn’t be too surprising that there are a number of cultural rituals attached to the consumption of this hybrid ale. For one, the Kölsch is a party beer: this is a beer that is often served in large quantities via special beer-carriers (kranz), and this is also a beer that is meant to be consumed quickly. Lots of beer consumed quickly = PARTYBIER. Further, while the Koln Konvention stipulates how the beer is brewed and with what ingredients, there might as well be a Konvention that mandates how the beer is served. Kölsch ales are served in something called a stange–a 200 ML narrow glass.

Köbes mit einem Kranz Kölsch

Köbes, or male waiters in Cologne, deliver these beer holders while wearing a long blue apron and a money pouch. As you finish a beer, the Köbes will replace your empty stange with a new one until you admit yourfail at life by putting a coaster over your stange, or you become a bierleichen (beer zombie) and fall asleep at the table.

someone couldn’t keep up…

What to Expect

Brewed with one malt, the pale Pils malt, and the quintessentially German Hallertauer hops, expect the following from your Kölsch:

Sight: Clear, pale straw-colored body with a little head that quickly dissipates.

Smell: The aroma should be slightly apple-y, hoppy, and fresh.

Taste: Light hop bitterness, with a hint of sweetness from the malt, and a slight fruity flavor from a special yeast.

Feel: Dry with medium carbonation that will become slightly flat if you let it sit for too long.

malthop

As you go forward with your Kölsch drinking, make note that it is traditionally served in a tall cylindrical glass called a “stange,” or pole. As the story goes, these ales are served in small glasses because they lose their flavor as they sit. So, get yourself a Stange, a Kölsch, and drink quickly.

prost!

Categories: Kölsch | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Warsteiner Oktoberfest

Beer: Oktoberfest
Brewery: Warsteiner Brauerei
Style: Oktoberfest/Marzen
ABV: 5.9%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:


Sight: Clear light golden body with a nondescript head.

Smell: Nearly lacking any aroma, there’s a quiet metallic and water scent if you really look (smell?) for it.

Flavor: The initial taste is a chemical, charcoal note. After getting past that, there’s a faint bread and cardboard taste from the Munich malts. However, it ends quiet bitter–and I have a feeling that wasn’t the intention.

Feel: Standard for the style, it has a medium-thin body with moderate carbonation. It has a hot note from the higher ABV (6%).

Concluding Remark: While I was looking forward to heading back to a German beer after a series of American Oktoberfest ripoffs, that sentiment was lost after tasting Warsteiner’s Oktoberfest. It’s void of the robust malt flavors that its other German counterparts offer. Instead, I’m left with a rather mediocre and uninteresting lager. However, at 6% ABV, a few of these will turn you into a Bierleichen. If that’s what you’re going for, it’s not a terrible means towards that end. As a rule of thumb, though, stick with the Original 6 Oktoberfestbiers when choosing a German Oktoberfestbier. This is not one of them.

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Erdinger Oktoberfest Weissbier

Beer: Oktoberfest Weissbrau
Brewery: Erdinger
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.7%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Stein
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:


Sight: Opaque honey body with millions of tiny carbonation bubbles resting at the bottom of the glass. Frothy white head with huge cavernous bubbles.

Smell: There are heavy lemon and copper aromas in here. Once these subside, it smells like generic bready malts.

Flavor: It’s surprisingly sweet and tastes like pancakes. There is also a prevalent alcohol note, which is rather inappropriate as its ABV is not actually that high.

Feel: Medium body with a prickly carbonation.

Concluding Remark:  Overall, Erdinger’s Oktoberfest is pretty lackluster. While not unpleasant, it’s nothing to celebrate while wearing a dirndl. I should mention, though, that Erdinger’s fest beer is actually a Hefeweizen, not a Märzen. I have found that some breweries stick an Oktoberfest-themed label on their flagship products in order to spruce them up for the holiday season. In Erdinger’s case, the brewery added a little flair to their Weissbier, and from the taste of it, added a small dose of Munich malts. It has a little more flavor and color than the Weiss. However, don’t make the mistake I did and purchase this thinking you were going to further your understanding of Oktoberfestbiers.

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PROST! A History of Oktoberfest and the Märzen

Annnnnd we’re back! For the next two weeks, we will be celebrating the 16-day Oktoberfest alongside the Germans and fortunate foreigners drinking copious litres of beer and snacking on brezn at Oktoberfest 2012 in Munich. Oktoberfest, now in its 202nd year, evolved from a royal festival celebrating the marriage of Konig Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (trying pronouncing that after a few beers).

Happy wedding, Ludwig and Therese, you crazy kids!

The festival was such a hit in Bavaria that the party never actually stopped. Oktoberfest has been held on the field in front of the historic city gate since 1810 (with some exceptions, such as years during cholera outbreaks and those wars). Over two centuries later, Oktoberfest is now the world’s largest festival, with over 6.4 million attendees in 2010. There have been some minor changes to the fest over the last two hundred years. What were once beer stalls to spend time between horse races are now beer tents that can accommodate thousands of thirsty celebrators. Swings have been replaced by multiple-looped roller coasters (I still don’t know whose good idea that was). Nevertheless, what was once a celebration of love, is now a celebration of the love of beer.

Oktoberfest: Then and Now

BUT! It’s not just a celebration of any beer. No, at Oktoberfest, you drink Oktoberfestbier. Maß und Maß of Oktoberfestbier. While your local liquor store will have a number of Oktoberfestbier-style six-packs on the shelves, there are only six beers in the world that hold the title of Official Oktoberfestbier. In order to qualify as a true Oktoberfest, the beer must be brewed in Munich by a Munich brewery and meet a number of other technical criteria, from ABV to gravity levels. This pretty much leaves six breweries with the permission to serve their Oktoberfest brews at Oktoberfest: Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu-München, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten.

So what IS an Oktoberfestbier, exactly? Is it called as such for its association to the event? Or is there a unique style only produced this time of year? The answers are ‘absolutely’ and ‘it’s not that simple.’ Since the dawn of Oktoberfest, the Märzen has been the only style served. Märzen, which comes from the German word “März” for March, was a dark amber lager brewed in March and left to ferment all the summer long in dark caves. Thus, Märzens were available for enjoyment just in time for Oktoberfest. Over the years, the Oktoberfestbier has slightly deviated from the historic Märzen recipe. Now, you’ll find Oktoberfesters drinking a lighter Märzen (Helles Märzen), for example. But we’re avoiding the stein-sized question in the proverbial room: WHAT IS A MARZEN?

MARZEN TIME!

DAS MARZEN, or Märzen-Oktoberfest-Wiener

As can be inferred by its provenance, the Märzen is a Bavarian beer. Like many other Bavarian beers, the Märzen appeared on the scene sometime in late 15th century. Brewing occurred in March, as it was prohibited to brew beer in the summer to prevent spoilage. In order to maintain fermentation through the summer, more hops and sugars were introduced to the wort. Lo and behold, this made for a more alcoholic and fuller beer than other German lagers. Unsurprisingly, it was a hit.

A major moment in Märzen history occurred in 1840. Two brewers, one from Spaten Brewery and one from Austrian Dreher, decided to add a new malt to the Märzen recipe. This malt, the Vienna malt, rendered the beer sweeter and lighter than the Bavarian counterpart. This new brew was known as Märzen “brewed the Vienna way” in Germany and as a Vienna Lager in Austria.

Before long, Spaten retooled their recipe and added a Munich malt. This new recipe was marketed as THE “Oktoberfestbier” and is the one we drink today. It is almost unrecognizable from the original full-bodied, dark amber Märzens that were first consumed on Oktoberfest grounds. However, these lighter Märzens (Helles Märzen, or Wiesens) go down with a certain ease, enabling the attendees to sit in the beer tents for hours on end until they fully transform into Bierleichen. This is German for beer corpses. I think this term needs to be introduced into everyday English.

Bierleichen of all varieties.

So, what to expect from a Märzen/Oktoberfestbier?

While there are a number of variations, the major characteristic is that these beers are freaking balanced. A slightly more alcoholic lager, the average Märzen is between 5.8-6.3%.

Sight: The color will vary greatly from Märzen to Märzen. If you find yourself at Oktoberfest, you’ll be looking at a golden body with a springy white head. Most American Märzens hark back to historic recipes and will be a dark amber or copper.

Smell: Depending on the brewery, a strong Vienna or Munich malt will be the predominant aroma. Hops will be undetectable.

Flavor: This beer is all about the malts. There will be flavors of  toasted malts, sweet malts, biscuity malts. The Bavarian Märzen will have little to no hop presence. However, American breweries do as they do, and an inappropriate amount of hops will sneak through.

Feel: Expect a medium body with moderate carbonation and an overall creaminess. It will also be quite dry and crisp, a result of a longer fermentation.

SO. MUCH. BEER. (Getty Images)

So, then, it would seem that all Oktoberfestbiers are Märzens, but not all Märzens are Oktoberfestbiers. From this discourse, it ought not be surprising that the definition of a Märzen-Oktoberfest-Vienna is somewhat ambiguous. The best way to wrap your head around the many variations of this style? Drink as many as possible! So, go forth and join us on the two week Oktoberfest challenge! May we all be Bierleichen for weeks to come.

Motherf’ing PROST.

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Tip: there are many Oktoberfest celebrations happening in the tri-state area. Clearly going to one of these is the best way to get into the Oktoberfest spirit, short of booking a very expensive ticket to Munich. I highly recommend checking out Zum Schneider (try the Paulaner Original Wies’n), Radegast Hall (try the Hofbrau Oktoberfest), Pilsner Haus (try the Ramstein Oktoberfest), and Zeppelin Hall (try the Spaten Oktoberfest).

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TYIB Goes Global: The Germans

Though we did not have a ‘traditional’ Get Blitzed Day, we did have a Get Blitzed Week. Despite the consumption of infinite litres of bier, we attempted to capture as much information on the imbibed beverages. Below is our collection of insights, stories, and reviews of some of the best beers found in Berlin!

WARSTEINER PILSNER

Beer: Pilsner
Brewery: Warsteiner Brauerei
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

We wasted (pun intended) no time getting started, and our first review was on the plane, courtesy of Lufthansa, member of the Star Alliance. We managed to acquire three of these on our transatlantic flight, in order to truly appreciate this “premium German beer” (well, to truly appreciate how generous the Lufthansa flight attendants are with booze). While perhaps not the best German Pilsner we have tried this month, Warsteiner puts forth a wholly drinkable, well-carbonated beer, with the expected Euro lager yeast and graininess of a German Pilsner. Certainly worthy of trying up on an eight-hour flight.

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AIRBRÄU JETSTREAM

Beer: Jetstream
Brewery: Airbräu Munchen
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 5.0%

TYIB tip #43: If you have a layover in Munich (which is likely if you fly anywhere on Lufthansa–I once had a layover in Munich when trying to get to Madrid), find Airbräu, the brewery/biergarten in the Flughafen München Franz Josef Strauß. Not only do they brew their own beer on site (in the airport), they have a full menu of Bavarian treats and a stellar line-up of beers on tap. The Jetstream, the first beer we tried, is an unfiltered German Pilsner. It had a gorgeous straw body, and was refreshing and crisp, with a robust citrusy hop and grain flavor. This Airport Pilsner was one of the best German Pilsners this month.

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AIRBRÄU KUMULUS

Beer: Kumulus
Brewery: Airbräu Munchen
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.4%

On a mission to try the entire run of Airbräu beers during the extent of our meager layover, the Kumulus, a hefeweizen (wheat beer), was next on the docket. In a rush to drink as much as possible (we do not recommend this tactic before you know what gate you have to run to), we had to drink it on the fly without a photograph or a full review. However, our image-negligence is not indicative of the quality of this beer. The Kumulus is as light, creamy, and fluffy as its namesake, with a clove and banana/bubble-gum presence generally found in hefeweizens.

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AIRBRÄU MAYDAY

Beer: Mayday
Brewery: Airbräu Munchen
Style: Dunkelweizen
ABV: likely 5-6%

We sadly had to put this one down pretty quickly, but it was sehr easy! The Mayday, a dunkelweizen (dark wheat) is one of Airbräu’s seasonsal brews, appropriately tapped on May 1st. Brewed with dark barley malt, the taste is a little bit spicy and a lot of bit banana/malts, kind of like a fruity cereal. The medium, low-carbonated feel accentuates this flavor profile. If you find yourself in Munich in the early summer, celebrate May Day with a Mayday. And if you’re not, look out for Airbräu’s other seasonals: Aviator (Doppelbock), Festbier (Oktoberfest), and Krampus (Winter beer).

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AUGUSTINER LAGERBIER HELL

Beer: Helles
Brewery: Augustiner Bräu
Style:
Helles
ABV: 5.2%

Whenever I go to Germany, my Nummer Eins  priority is to find the Augustiner Lagerbier Hell IMMEDIATELY. This is one of my favorite German beers of all time, as evidenced by the above photo. In fact, this is one of the highest rated/regarded helles beers in the world. Augustiner is the oldest brewery in Munich (1328!), and has been upholding the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot (“Purity Law”) of 1516 with every beer produced. The Lagerbier Hell is the sublime balance of its three ingredients…water, hops, and barley malt. It’s perfectly carbonated, perfectly balanced, and perfectly incredible. There’s a reason why there are many Yahoo! Answers entries asking, WHO WILL SHIP ME THE LAGERBIER HELL. The answer? No one. Go to Germany.

(After a little research, there appears to be one bar in Philadelphia (St. Steven’s Green) that has it in bottles. Here are the directions: DIRECTIONS TO LAGERBIER.)

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AUGUSTINER EDELSTOFF

Beer: Edelstoff
Brewery: Augustiner Bräu
Style: Helles
ABV: 5.6%

A wee more sweet than the Lagerbier, the Edelstoff is what Augustiner calls an ‘exportbier’ and is expectedly slightly more alcoholic as well (as beers labeled ‘EXPORT’ generally are). Brewed with the “nobelest materials,” the Edelstoff is nearly as amazing as its brother, Lagerbier. The additional sweetness throws the perfect balance, though. Nevertheless, it’s crisp, with a sweet malt and floral hop flavor,  and just a little bit of spice. If you want a taste of Augustiner’s second best, take a trip out to Brooklyn for a bottle, or Valhalla in Hell’s Kitchen for an exceedingly overpriced one.

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BERLINER KINDL PILSNER

Beer: Pilsner Klassik
Brewery: Berliner Kindl Brauerei
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 4.6%

It shouldn’t be a shock to hear that Bavarian beers are superior to a vast majority of non-Bavarian beers. This is further proved by the Berliner Kindl Pils, a pretty subpar Pilsner produced by Berlin brewery Berliner Kindl. Sure, the 1902 brewery is essentially a fetus when compared to the 700-year old Bavarian breweries, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to purchase the Berliner Pils over ANYTHING made by Bavarian brewers. I will add the caveat that we tried the Berliner Pils while watching Eurovision in Prenzlauer Berg, so maybe we mistook the bitterness of the beer for the bitterness we felt when the Buranovskiye Babushki only took second place. Or, it’s just subpar.

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CHIEMSEER HELL

  

Beer: Chiemseer Hell
Brewery: Chiemgauer Brauhaus
Style: Helles
ABV: likely 5.0-5.4%

Chiemgauer Brauhaus is located in the Chiemgau area, which is nestled in the foothills of the Alps and surrounds the Chiemsee lake. Just in case you were wondering, because we were wondering. Anyways, Chiemgauer Brauhaus puts forth a helles to rival the Lagerbier Hell! It’s exceptionally well-carbonated, light, refreshing, and tastes like Germany (i.e., German malts) in a bottle. If I could keep my fridge filled with the Chiemseer Hell, I would. But I can’t, as this might be one of the most obscure Bavarian beers.

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ROTHAUS PILSNER & TANNENZÄPFEL

Beer: Tannenzäpfle Pils
Brewery: Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 5.1%

Oh, meine liebe, Rothaus Tannenzäpfle (which means “little fir cones” in German). Rothaus’ Tannenzäpfle Pils is, hands down, the best German Pilsner. Ever. It tastes like biscuit dough, if it was a sweet, zesty, herbed, pine biscuit. It is downright disgusting just how refreshing and put-backable this little 33cl treat is. It is no surprise that there is a cult following surrounding the gold-foiled beer.

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KONIG LUDWIG WEISSBIER

Beer: Weissbier
Brewery: König Ludwig
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.4%

After walking the depths of the Tiergarten, stumbling upon a small biergarten at the edge of a lake was the perfect context for enjoying König Ludwig’s Hefeweizen. König Ludwig, also known as the “Mad King” and “Fairy Tale King,” is most famously associated today with the construction of Neuschwanstein Castle and the patronage of Wagner. Many associate his madness and creativity with the modern wealth of Bavaria, inadvertently creating a massive tourism industry in the area. Indulge me for a second, but das König also commissioned a partial replica of Versailles, a quirky Wagner-influenced Venus Grotto, and numerous Moroccan and Turkish-themed rooms. Oh! The beer! Yeah, König Ludwig’s Hefeweizen is fit for a mad, whimsical king: it’s rich, creamy, smells like bubble gum, and oozes sweet bananas and cloves. If you’re looking to try it, just look out for a six-pack with an image of The Castle on it.

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ALSTERWASSER (“Oops”)

Beer: Alterwasser
Brewery:
Style: Radler
ABV: –

As most German beers consist of three simple (yet noble) ingredients, we can imagine that beer-drinking life MUST get a little tedious from time to time. Their solution? Dump a number random drinks into your beer. German beer mixed drinks include the Radler (half lager, half “limo” or a Sprite-like beverage), Diesel (half lager, half cola), and a Colaweizen (half hefeweizen, half cola). And then there is what we ordered by accident…the Alsterwasser. Imagine our surprise, thinking we were about to review a fresh German Pilsner. Upon first taste, we almost did one of those comical sip-spit-spray shticks. The Alsterwasser is similar to the Radler, except a Pilsner is used instead of a Lager. Excuse my German, but it was DAS SUCK. Instinctively, I wanted to devise some sort of tourniquet to stop the flow of this sodabeer. But alas, we drank the Alsterwasser anyways, if only to relay just how terrible it was.

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VELTINS PILSENER

Beer: Pilsener
Brewery: Brauerei C. & A. Veltins
Style:
German Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

The Veltins Pilsner is a solid non-Bavarian German Pilsner. More on the bitter end of the Pilsner scale, Veltins is an alternative to its sometimes-too-sweet Bavarian counterparts.

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ANDECHSER HELL

Beer: Helles
Brewery: Klosterbrauerei Andechs
Style: Helles
ABV: 4.8%

To be honest, this Helles is pretty unmemorable. It has a thin body with great carbonation, but that’s all that we commented on at the time. Apparently it earned itself three pint glasses, though!

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BUDWEISER BUDVAR

Beer: Budweiser Budvar
Brewery: Brewery Budwesier Budvar
Style: Czech Pilsner
ABV: 5.0%

While Budvar is not technically a German Pilsner (it is in fact a Czech Pilsner), it was sorely overlooked during our Pilsner month and we did drink a number of them while dancing to 1970s disco in a 9′ x 10′ bar in Kreuzberg. Budvar (or, Czechvar in the USA…read about the naming CONTROVERSY here), is considered to be one of the best Pilsners in the world, and we’ll jump on that bandwagon. The highlight of BudCzechvar is the unique hop flavor dervied from Saaz hops–it’s piney, earthy, and spicy. These flavors aren’t overpowering, though, and are balanced by the biscuity, doughy Moravian malt. While always better closer to the source, I guarantee that you will not be disappointed if you pick up a 6 of Czechvar.

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FLENSBURGER PILSENER

Beer: Pilsener
Brewery: Flensburger Brauerei
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

And last, but not really least, the Flensburger Pilsener. After meine leibe (Rothaus), Flensburger’s Pils is the best German Pilsner this month. It is exceptionally crisp and balanced, with a surprisingly full herbal, grassy hop flavor, tempered with a bready malt taste. While consuming countless Flensburgers didn’t help my ping pong game that night, it did expand my appreciation for German Pilsners.

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SPECIAL EDITION: Get Blitzed Day Goes Global

Guten Tag, devoted TYIB readers!  If you’ve been following us through these past few months, you may have gotten used to, even have come to eagerly await, the inevitable end of the month, i.e., Get Blitzed Day. You know, when we consume as many fine beers of the month’s style as humanly possible and review the day away.  It’s a fine tradition, if we do say so ourselves.

But this month, you may have found yourself putting on your reading glasses, settling in to your favorite computer desk chair, and happily typing in our URL, only to find–alas!–no Get Blitzed Day.  Why?, you asked yourself, did the fine ladies of TYIB lose track of time?  Did they become too busy to prioritize one of the finest days of the month?  Did they finally decide it was all too much and check themselves into rehab?

Oh no, dear readers.  We would never disappoint.  In fact, the reason why we didn’t present a typical GBD this month is because…we were in GERMANY!

Yes, TYIB went global this month–to one of the best places on earth for consuming the finest of all beverages: Berlin.  And we didn’t stop there; because TYIB takes going international seriously, we stopped by Poland as well–all for the sake of bringing you the best in beer knowledge.  (And, well, because Berlin is awesome, is totally open to people drinking on the streets.)

So be prepared to spend the day with some fine German and Polish beers, in our two-part, streamlined, GBD extravaganza.  Prost!  Na zdrowie!  Get blitzed!

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From the Caves of Plzeň Emerges the Pilsner: A History

What better way to ring in the outdoor drinking season than to focus on one of the most consumed beer styles in the world, the Pilsner? According to the German Beer Institute, nine out of ten beer consumed worldwide are Pilsners. This style is often misidentified as a “light beer” (e.g. Coors Light) or as synonymous with a Lager. And while both a lighter beer and a style of Lager, the nuances of this session beer have been generally under-appreciated. No longer, we say!  Bring the Pils our way!

The glory of the Pilsner.

The Pilsner is commonly found in the Czech Republic and Germany. While the Czech Pilsner and the German Pilsner have similar traits, there are some noticeable differences. You may have heard of Pilsner Urquell? That is a Czech beer, and one of their most popular (or at least most widely-distributed; in the Czech Republic itself, Staropromen is the more popular brew).  In Germany, the popular Pilsner is Jever.

The Origin of the Czech Pilsner

The history of the Pilsner in the Czech Republic actually has its roots in the Ale.  Apparently, in the 1830s, the citizens of the Czech town Plzeň (then Austria Hungary) saw a horrifying sight one day: barrels and barrels of Ale were being poured down the city streets by consumers unhappy with the increasingly deteriorating quality of their beer. At the time, bacteria was prone to grow in Ale yeast, and the brewers were growing increasingly frustrated by their production of an unconsumable product.

In 1840, a group of brewers in Bohemia sought a new way of producing beer. They commissioned Bavarian brewer Josef Groll to teach them how to brew in the bottom-fermenting method (a.k.a. the method used to produce a Lager), as Germans were renowned for this method. Groll brought with him Lager yeast–the first time it had crossed into the Czech lands. Using the Lager yeasts and local Saaz hops (closely familiar to the Noble hops that Groll would have used in Germany), Groll began brewing a new Lager, in the German style of a Helles bock, alongside the Bohemian brewers in the caverns of Plzeň.

The beer that emerged out of these caves was clearer than anything Groll & Company had expected; the Czech brewers were accustomed to brewing dark, murky Ales, not this clear, straw-colored, super-refreshing Lager. And in those caverns, in 1842, the Pilsner style was born. The name became a brand in 1859, and the first Pilsner to be mass-produced was the aforementioned Pilsner Urquell in 1898.

The iconic gate outside of the Pilsner Urquell brewery that is found on their logo.

While a number of variations on the recipe have emerged over the last one-and-a-half centuries, Pilsners are most commonly made with Saaz hops, Lager yeast, and soft water, which brings out the flavor of the grains. The recipe has been tinkered with by major American breweries, such as Budweiser, as it is such a crisp, drinkable style. These breweries, to reduce costs, have replaced some barley with rice, cutting the alcohol (and flavor) content. These variations, sometimes still marketed as a “Pilsner,” are more actually  “American Light” lagers, so…BEWARE. If you go out and try to find a Pilsner tonight, don’t be fooled when Coors tells you it’s a Pilsner. It’s not; it just wishes it was.

Molson’s “Old Style Pilsner”…Old Style apparently meaning a time when Native Americans lived in teepees while early airplanes flew overhead and cars cruised around country roads.

While the origin story of the Pilsner has its roots in Bohemia and Bavaria, the Pilsner did not make its way to Germany until a little while later (Radeburger debuted a Pilsner in 1872). The style is slightly different there, too. The German Pilsner (or Pils, as it’s sometimes abbreviated to) is more bitter and earthy. Popular German examples are Jever and Becks’s (found in the North) and Bitburger (found in the South). German Pilsners also vary depending on their geographic orientation. Northern Pilsners are associated with an even more bitter, almost aggressive, hop presence and zest due to the hard water in this region and the Southerners are generally more mellow.

Imitators have since popped up in Belgium, Poland, and other neighboring countries, where they are often sweeter and are more closely aligned with the European Lager. Although we slammed the early American adaptation of the Pilsner, there have been a number of craft breweries that have done what US craft breweries do best: take a traditional style and amp up the alcohol content. The Imperial Pilsner emerged in the US in the last few decades, and they are generally spicier, more bitter, and a helluva lot more alcoholic. Go, Team USA.

So, what to expect?

Sight: Look for a clear, straw body with a light, white, long-lasting head.

Smell: The aroma will be of light malts, a little spice, and little hop.

Flavor: Expect a crisp grain taste with a lingering hop bitterness. Czech Pils will also have a floral note (characteristic of the Saaz hop). The German counterpart will be on the bitter-er side, but will be balanced with a citrus presence.

So, go get your Pilsner on!

What we’re trying to say is, enjoy the month. Go outside, order a Pilsner (Urquell or otherwise), and drink that 4.5% beer until it finally gives you a buzz. Frequent your favorite local beer garden, order some smažený sýr (fried cheese) or wurst, and let the glory of this simple yet delicious beer sink in whilst you sit outside in the sun. What. Is. Better. Than. That?

The Czechs consume the most beer per capita in the world; now’s the month to discover why! (Just please, be wary of American Light impostors.)

Categories: Pilsner | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Hacker-Pschorr Hubertus Bock

Beer:  Hubertus Bock
Brewery: Hacker-Pschorr Bräu
Style:
Maibock
ABV: 6.8%

 Serving Style: Draft
Glassware: Stein
Drinking Establishment: Austro-Hungarian Pilsner Haus, Hoboken, NJ
Primary Consumer: Kerensa
Secondary Consumer(s): Suzy

——–

OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Golden amber, crystal clear body with a very thin white head.

Scent: Suzy says it reminds her of a wet beer pong table, but does not detect a discernible smell otherwise. I get a sweet, wet, Munich malt scent. That’s about it.

Flavor: It tastes slightly metallic, as if a penny had been left in the glass. Suzy also gets a Granny Smith apple note, because of the beer’s sweet and slightly bitter taste. The end note is sweet bread and honey, with little else to make mention.

Feel: Thin, almost watery, body with aggressive carbonation. Suzy says it’s as if she just drank a glass of Pop Rocks.

Concluding Remarks: Bavarian Hacker-Pschorr’s Hubertus (named as such for St. Hubertus, patron saint of hunting) is a fine Maibock. It wouldn’t win an award at a Bock brew-off, but it’s not undrinkable, either. Stick with the Hofbräu Maibock if given the option, but this is a fine afternoon beer that you could keep drinking into the night. All in all, it’s a good example of a Maibock, but not an excellent one.

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