Archive for the ‘European Lager’ Category


Monday, January 10th, 2011

While I was in New York I also got up to the Bohemian Hall, a century-old beer garden in Astoria. There, I tried the lager from the second largest brewery in the Czech Republic, Pivovary Staropramen.

The Staropramen is a clear, golden straw beer with a coppery haze breaking through. The thick and creamy head is bone white and leaves a significant lacing on the glass. Sure the nose has a rich maltiness, but it is sullied by a fairly prominent sulfury corn character.

In the flavor as well the corn overpowers the malt, disturbing the caramel and toast notes. Even more difficult to detect was the herbal and earthy character of the noble Czech hops. While the body was full and creamy, it was just a bit cloying.

This lager shows promise, but it doesn’t measure up.


3.1 (4-6-6-3-12)


Friday, September 24th, 2010

Bacchusbräu brewhouse - Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

This is the first of several posts that I took notes for in Germany but didn’t get around to finishing. The last few weeks there and the first few back home were hectic. Anyway, on to the beer.

While traveling with my mother around the Middle Rhein Valley, I had a chance to try the beer from one of the smallest breweries in Germany, Bacchusbräu in Bacharach, Rheinland-Pfalz. On their 200 liter brewing system Armin Mahl makes the beer to go along with wife Annette’s wonderful cooking. But this is truly just the Theatergastronomie adjacent to the theater they built, which features marionette shows as well as ones with regular actors.Braumeisterbrötchen On one side of the building, directly facing the old city wall, and beyond it the Rhein, there is a patio under the canopy of an old carousel and a fence made of barrel staves.

I was impressed with just about everything about this place. They bake a rich and savory mini loaf of multigrain bread called Braumeisterbrötchen – Brewmasters’ Rolls – that are stuffed with fillings. The vegetarian one had cheese, mushrooms, onions, and caraway seeds, and was divine.Cat at Bacchusbrau Oh, and their cat is ridiculously friendly.

I started out with the standard lager, Loreley. They call it a pilsener but it really seems to me to be a classic Munich helles. Named after perhaps the most famous rock in the world, Loreley is easily one of the best German beers I have had the pleasure to taste.

A yellow gold with a beautiful haze is topped with some creamy white head. The rich malty aroma is thick with bread and just a little sweet. Delicate floral noble hops dance.

Bacchusbräu Loreley and 1689The flavor of Loreley is barely dry, but still has a strong malt richness. The high quality malt used clearly shows through, so the beer tastes quite fresh. The palate is full and round without intruding. It is not bitter, but rather remarkably balanced.

Next I had the Münchner dunkel, called 1689. I’m not certain what the name refers to, though I know that year there was some unpleasantness related to the Nine Years’ War in nearby Mannheim and Heidelberg.

A pleasingly opalescent very pale hazelnut brown with some white head. The aroma is light, with malty caramel and hints of hops, and a little sweetness. It is promising, but much too fleeting.

The flavor is also a bit on the mild side. Caramel and toast malt flavors are complimented by an earthy and herbal hop character. The hops also lend a reasonable bitterness. Something is making it a bit astringent, Bacchusweizenwhich grows more prominent through the taste. The palate is full but still drinkable, but the 1689 would benefit from a bit more carbonation.

The wheat beer is named simply Bacchusweizen. It is naturally very hazy, and by looking at the bubbles rise, clearly very active. Golden straw in color with a creamy, cloudlike white head. The aroma is light and bready, with a lot of cloves as well. Some floral on the nose could be from hops.

The taste of the Bacchusweizen is dry, with a solid clove flavor. There is a good wheat character manifesting as bread and rich maltiness. The light hop flavor is spicy, complimenting the clove from the yeast. The palate is dry and quite lively. The adding of flavor hops to weizen is a relatively new concept, but there are a few that do it do good effect, including this one. Even discounting the hops this beer is a unique hefeweizen, drier and spicier than most. Very refreshing.

Finally the bock beer, Burg Stahleck – Verlies. Burg Stahleck is the castle overlooking the town of Bacharach, now a youth hostel.Bacchusbräu Berg Stahleck - Verlies Verlies is the German word for “dungeon”. They properly serve this strong beer in a hefty stone mug.

It is richly hazy, with a deep caramel brown color and creamy tawny head. The aroma is rich and sweet with caramel, dark fruit, and a rich spiciness of cinnamon and cardamom, pepper and cloves.

The flavor is malty and sweet. The spiciness on the taste is quite strong, dominated by cinnamon and pepper. The alcohol makes itself apparent with a warming sensation. The whole of it almost gives the impression of brandy. The Verlies is full but not cloying, active but not bothersome, and rich but still drinkable. Just well-crafted strong beer goodness.


4.2 (3-9-8-4-18)

++Burg Stahleck – Verlies

4.2 (4-9-7-4-18)


3.8 (3-7-8-4-16)


3.8 (4-7-7-4-16)

Brauerei Mortiz Fiege

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

I have three beers from the Privatebrauerei Moritz Fiege, located in Bochum, a city between here and Düsseldorf. The first is an alt, and as Bochum is so close to Düsseldorf, I feel it’s fair to count that as the first entry for the style in our little kölsch-alt battle. After that I have a schwarzbier and a pilsner to try.

Moritz Fiege AltEach of the Moritz Fiege beers has a pithy description beneath the name. The Moritz Fiege Alt says “the traditionally brewed altbier”. The alt pours with a thick, creamy beige head atop a beer that is either a dark honey color or a light caramel. The aroma is strong and also could be caramel, but there is a rich character of dried green herb and winter spice to it as well. There is the lightest hint of sulfur and a bit of alcohol noticeable.

There is a strong earthy hop flavor grounding the alt. This can get a little overbearing, as the toasty and sweet malt flavors are a bit weak. The hops and the alcohol combine to make something of a strange bitterness. It is a bit watery as well. If it were a bit sweeter all the problems would be solved.

Next up, the Moritz Fiege Schwarzbier, “the fine and spicy black beer”. To style, this beer is nearly completely opaque.Monolith This one reminds me of the monolith from 2001. There is a fair amount of coffee-tinted head,Moritz Fiege Schwarzbier which isn’t lasting, yet forms a lacing on the glass. There is hardly any aroma at all. The malt and yeast make some sort of chestnut character and the hops and perhaps the color produce the sensation of being in the woods.

The flavor of the schwarzbier is also very clean. There are some noble hop flavors and a bitterness from the hops as well as the dark malt. There is almost no malt flavor. The palate is so light and fresh it is almost sprightly, with an active carbonation that keeps the bitterness in check, making it relatively easy to drink.

Moritz Fiege PilsLast but not least, the Moritz Fiege Pils, “the characterful pils”. A bright straw, brilliantly clear, with a lasting creamy white head. The nose is mostly spicy hops, a mixture of pine and exotic spices. There is some pale malt aroma but not much.

The flavor of the pils is fresher still than the schwarzbier, probably by virtue of the absence of dark malts. A rich, spicy, earthy and herbal hop flavor and significant hop bitterness is balanced by a slight sweetness and a palate fullness. The hops linger a little bit on the tongue, but in a pleasant way.

+Moritz Fiege Pils

4.0 (4-8-8-4-16)

+Moritz Fiege Schwarzbier

3.9 (4-7-8-4-16)

+/-Moritz Fiege Alt

3.4 (4-8-7-2-13)

Berliner Kindl Jubiläums Pilsener

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Berliner Kindl Jubiläums PilsenerI was in Berlin this weekend for a day and a half. The only beer I had a chance to write notes about was the Berliner Kindl Jubiläums Pilsener, from the brewery now named Berliner-Kindl-Schultheiss-Brauerei.

The Jubiläums is a pale straw color and brilliantly clear. There is some pale white soft head. The light aroma is mostly bready malt and some herbal noble hop character.

For a pilsner it is a little sweet, but it’s worth it for the toasty pale malt flavor. Though not as much bitterness as I’d expect, there is a good herbal hop flavor to balance the malt. The body is full, but it remains refreshing with an active carbonation.

+Berliner Kindl Jubiläums Pilsener

3.7 (3-7-8-4-15)

Flensberger Pilsener and Scheyern Dunkel

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Hello, gentle reader!

Flensburger PilsenerIt has been quite a while since the last post. I have something of an excuse, though! I have been in Germany. Dortmund, to be exact, and I’ve been quite busy, apparently too busy to write.

No more! Without further ado, two beers. First, Flensburger Pilsener brewed at the Flensburger Brauerei in Flensburg, in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. Then, an Export Dunkel from Kloster Scheyern in Bavaria.

The pilsener pours a brilliantly clear straw with a thick white head atop. The aroma is relatively light,Kloster Scheyern Export Dunkel but there is malt like bread and a bit of citrus. There is a hint of pine as well.

The Flensburg is sweet, but not overly so. Some bitterness balances it out, though the malt sweetness is certainly more prominent. A piney hop flavor adds complexity to the taste. The palate is rich and full.

The Scheyern Dunkel has a creamy off-white head above this beautiful chesnut brown, mildly hazy beer. The aroma is sweet with caramel and toast. My only complaint is that it is too mild.

The taste is immediately rich and sweet. Thick bread, malt, and caramel flavors dance around each other, accompanied by herbal hops. The palate is very thick with sweetness, but still refrains from becoming cloying.

+Kloster Scheyern Export Dunkel

4.0 (4-7-8-4-17)

+/-Flensburg Pilsener

3.3 (4-6-7-3-13)

Spotlight Week: Moosbacher

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

2010-01-12-moosbacherThe tiny Bavarian village of Moosbach is located on the Czech border, just a stone’s throw from Pilsen. In the center of town, Brauerei Scheuerer was founded in 1887 by twenty-eight year-old Lorenz Scheuerer. Today the family brewery is run by fourth-generation Erhard, though they are proud that third-gen Johann II shows up every day, at least to drink “his 4 daily bottles!!!!”.

They package their beer in swingtops, which I like for three reasons. 2010-01-12-lagerFirst, you can drink half and leave the rest for later without losing too much carbonation. Second, as a homebrewer I’m always looking for ways to avoid capping bottles, so reusing swingtops is ideal. Third, I have a neat trick I can do with a swingtop bottle. Ask me sometime, I’ll show you.

Brauerei Scheuerer produces the Moosbacher beers, a pretty standard Bavarian lineup. Besides what I’ll be tasting they offer two export lagers (Export and Zoigl), a pilsner, and a shankbier for children and ladies, their Leichte Weisse. I have two lagers and two wheat beers to try tonight. I’ll start with the helles, called just Lager, move on to the Kellerbier, and then the Weissbier. Finally, I will be interested to see if the Schwarze Weisse is in fact black or just a normal dunkelweizen.

The Lager is a lightly hazy pale yellow. The head is bone white and creamy, leaves a lacing on the glass, but falls quickly. The aroma has good base malt character with just a bit of breadiness. Some noble hops and a level of Bavarian sulfur. A little sweet on the nose but still playful.

2010-01-12-kellerbierThe rich malt flavor practically sets you down in a Moravian barley field. Faint malty sweetness and strong hop bitterness (for the style). A healthy herbal hop flavor indicates the influence of the Czech way of brewing. Some contribution from sulfur compounds. Hints of many things, but none for very long: apricots, chocolate, peanuts, fresh cut grass. Full bodied but thoroughly refreshing. In my opinion this is among the top Bavarian lagers. The German Beer Institute calls helles lager a style of “infinite subtlety” and the Scheuerer family has certainly hit the mark there.

The Kellerbier pours a barely hazy caramel color. The off-white head is creamy, but again, could last longer. The aroma is practically non-existent, so drink this one relatively warm. Hints of caramel and toast and just a bit of sulfur. The flavor is also much lighter than the Lager. A smooth and creamy malt flavor is accompanied by the finest noble hop character, but it is all much too timid. 2010-01-12-weissbierAs it warms it picks up more caramel and toffee and gets a little sweet. Again the body is essentially perfect: a full mouthfeel but refreshing and quaffable. I was not expecting the kellerbier to take the subtlety so much further than the helles lager, but here we are.

As if to pay penance for the first two, the Weissbier is effervescent to a fault. I had to pour out a whole glass of foam at first! The carbonation supports a strong and thick pure white head atop this pale golden yellow beer. The nose is full of banana. Also, wheat character, banana, some nuttiness, banana, clove, and banana. Very appealing, but actually not as rich as it might seem (for all the banana).

And the taste is a total surprise. Clove city! I wish I knew what exactly creates a disconnect in flavor and aroma like this, because beers with this variety in their sensory experiences are such a treat. Strong piquant clove flavor with black pepper and oregano are accented by just a hint of alcohol spiciness. There is, of course, a banana character, and some wheat as well. The body is full yet smooth but borders on cloying, despite the extreme activity.

2010-01-12-schwarze-weisseLast but not least, the Schwarze Weisse, which turns out to be a disappointing pedestrian amber color. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful beer, it was just framed for me in a particular way that didn’t come to pass. Oh well. Fairly hazy, the Schwarze Weisse is a copper-colored amber with a decent amount of thick tan head. Nowhere near as excitable as its cousin the Weissbier. Subtle yet assertive, the nose is perfectly balanced. Cloves, bananas, and caramel malt come out in equal proportion. Really a textbook dunkleweisse aroma.

The flavor is much less impressive: too clean. The cloves are there, but get outshined by black pepper. The banana is almost gone. A reasonable toasty flavor and some sweetness are the bulk of the taste. A bit of bitterness and hop flavor disrupt the impression of a wheat beer without being serious enough to count, so the beer ends up tasting flat. The palate is full but there is a lingering sweetness that gets to be unpleasant. After the stellar aroma I am pretty disappointed by the taste.

++Moosbacher Lager

4.0 (3-7-8-5-17)

+Moosbacher Weissbier

3.7 (3-7-7-4-16)

+/-Moosbacher Schwarze Weisse

3.7 (4-9-6-3-15)

+/-Moosbacher Kellerbier

3.6 (3-6-7-5-15)

Oktoberfest: Domestics

Friday, October 30th, 2009

2009-10-30-lhThe month of October is almost over, and Munich’s Theresienwiese has been empty for weeks. Perhaps it’s about time for me to move on from my festbier stint. But before I do I must try a few domestic Oktoberfests. After all, they say the highest-selling festbier is not Bavarian, but American (Sam Adams). I won’t be trying that one tonight, but I do have a few good selections from Left Hand of Longmont, Colorado, Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, Michigan, and August Schell out of New Ulm, Minnesota.

The Left Hand Oktoberfest pours an orange-amber with a little creamy straw head. The nose is very thin.2009-10-30-bells A bit of herbal hops and the faintest hint of malt are overpowered by a strange vegetal character and cider aroma. A smooth malty flavor makes up for this. Rich toast character is backed up by a residual sweetness that is perhaps a little too strong, leaving a bit of a cloying sensation.

Bell’s Octoberfest is a yellower goldenrod with the same amount of white head. It also has a light aroma, with a good noble hop character and some toast. This same balance is reflected in the flavor, featuring a rich herbal and notably bitter hop profile accompanied by a clean malt taste. Just a bit of mouthcoating despite active carbonation.

The Schell Octoberfest is a gamboge color with a bit of bone-white head. A sweet, mildly malty nose almost escapes taint from the cider aroma.2009-10-30-schell A sweet, mildly malty flavor almost escapes taint from the DMS corn taste. The high level of residual sweetness and lack of bitterness throw the balance all out of whack.

+/-Bell’s Octoberfest

3.4 (3-7-6-4-14)

+/-Left Hand Oktoberfest

3.0 (3-5-7-3-12)

+/-Schell Octoberfest

2.6 (3-6-5-2-10)

Oktoberfest: Erdinger

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Yet another greater Munich area brewery, Erdinger Weissbrau is in the hamlet Erding at the end of the S2 northeast of Munich. Their festbier is also made with wheat, producing an Oktoberfest Weizen.

2009-10-14-erdingerThis Weizen is a somewhat hazy copper color with a visibly active carbonation. Its big and creamy off white head lasts forever. The nose is delicate but complex. A light banana character greets first, with rich caramel malt notes quick on the heels. Slowly it opens up into a big malty aroma accentuated by phenols and alcohols: cloves, cinnamon, pepper, and a bit of a warming tingling.

A creamy but not overpowering body and clean mild flavor make this a very drinkable beer. Rich dry maltiness comes through as toast. Pepper and a bit of herbal hops accompany, and there is the slightest hop bitterness.

If the goal of a festbier is to be drinkable for ten hours a day, the Erdinger undoubtedly passes. If the goal is an interesting beer highlighting the best Bavarian grains and hops, Erdinger has produced a triumph.

++Erdinger Oktoberfest Weizen

4.3 (5-8-8-5-17)

Oktoberfest: Weihenstephan

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

2009-10-07-weihenstephanBrauerei Weihenstephan is another Bavarian brewery that makes a non-Oktoberfest festbier. The oldest brewery in the world calls theirs Weihenstephaner Festbier.

The Festbier pours a crystal clear golden blonde. The head is bone white and lusciously creamy. The light nose is all dry pale malt, though it opens up a bit with time. There’s a growing alcohol tingle and just a bit of apples and and straw. There might be some DMS corn character, it’s hard to tell. Mostly the aroma is just malt.

Clean malt continues to dominate through the flavor. Some residual sweetness is balanced by hop bitterness and an earthy noble hop flavor. Some peppery character from combination of the alcohol and the hops. Lively body keeps the sweetness fresh, but it’s still a little thick.

Clean and drinkable, but not particularly interesting. This beer seems simply like their premium lager turned up a bit. Where is the generous Munich malt, with its toasty flavors? Where is the heavy hopping with the last of last season’s crop?

+Weihenstephaner Festbier

3.5 (4-7-7-3-14)

Oktoberfest: Ayinger

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Brauerei Aying is located almost at the east end of Munich’s S-Bahn 6 in the village of the same name.2009-10-06-ayinger-fest They are one of a few breweries around Munich just too far out to be allowed participation in the official Oktoberfest. They still make a festbier, called Oktober Fest-Märzen, an “Authentic Bavarian Festival Lager.”

The Fest-Märzen has a good tan head and clear dark goldenrod color. The nose is very malty, from good European 2-row barley. This warm, slightly sweet biscuit and toast aroma is accompanied by some earthy hops. Hints of alcohol add a spice but a bit of corny sulfur distracts.

The flavor is quite assertive. Rich malt flavor and sweetness are balanced by a significant hop bitterness. Light alcohol warming and herbal noble hop character create a wonderful complexity. Just the slightest sulfuric cooked corn flavor. Some sweetness, but not at all cloying. Rather drinkable, if somewhat heavy.

+Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen

3.6 (4-6-8-4-14)