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. 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. 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.
The 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, which 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. 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.
Burg Stahleck – Verlies