Archive for July, 2010

Alt im Zug

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Today is the last day my rail pass is valid, so to celebrate (mourn?) I am on the high-speed ICE traveling without any particular aim. Fortunately, I brought with me three altbiers, Niederrhein, Oscar Maxxum, and Hannen.

Niederrhein KölschAltbier is the competitor of kölsch, traditionally brewed in Düsseldorf. Together with kölsch it is one of the only top-fermented beers in Germany (other than wheat beer). While a great kölsch is pale, clean, and fresh almost like water, the best alts have a deep amber color and a strong, flavorful malt presence. Altbier literally means “old beer”, recognizing the fact that prior to the invention of pilsner malt all beer was dark. Düsseldorf was proud of their ale brewing tradition and refused to switch to the pale lagers that the rest of the world is inordinately obsessed with. Köln I guess took the middle path?

From the town of Korschenbroich, the brewery Kraushof-Vertriebs produces the Niederrhein Alt (literally “lower Rhein alt”).

The Niederrhein is a golden copper color and lightly hazy. The thick and creamy beige head lasts and leaves a lacing on the glass. The nose is fruity with hops, an exotic yet familiar dark fruit.Hannen Kölsch There is a caramel malt aroma that gets somewhat confused in the fruit. Unfortunately there is a bit of a papery character that disrupts the otherwise interesting aroma.

The flavor is full of spicy hops that come through as cumin, pepper, and some oregano. The malt contributes toast and some sweetness. The palate is just a little bit thick, and the cardboard character is somewhat present in the taste as well. It may just be that this bottle is a little old, but it claims to be good until October, though that may mean it was brewed last October.

Next up, the Hannen Alt (since 1725, supposedly), from Mönchengladbach, brewed and bottled for Carlsberg Deutschland. This alt pours a brilliantly clear ruddy copper. The meager off-white head does leave a decent lacing. The aroma is largely cardboard, though some caramel gets through and just the slightest bit of herbal hops.

Oscar Maxxum KölschThe greasy cardboard flavor leaves quite a bit to be desired. Some earthy hops come through, and a bit of caramel and toast from the malt. The palate is full and sweet, but still refreshing. This one says it will be good till next May, so there’s no excuse for age.

The last alt I will try tonight is the Oscar Maxxum, brewed for Trinkgut, a beverage discounter based in Krefeld. This alt is a brilliantly clear copper color. There is some off-white head but it is gone quickly. The nose is lively. There is a definite hop presence that manifests itself as dark fruit as well as spices and herbs, making for an intriguing aroma. Some sweet malt character rounds it out.

The flavor is, unfortunately, not quite as significant as the aroma. There is some caramel from the malt and an herbal hop flavor, but it seems a little bit flat. There is also a relatively strong bitterness that somewhat makes up for it. The palate is full, but the carbonation keeps it lively. Given that this is the house brand for a discounter, I am heartily impressed.

+Oscar Maxxum

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

+Niederrhein Alt

3.7 (5-8-7-3-14)

+/-Hannen Alt

2.9 (4-6-4-4-11)

Some Kölsch in Köln

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Frank MöhlenkampA few folks from my program and I went on a brewery tour in Köln last weekend. To me ‘brewery tour’ implies a tour through a brewery, but instead it was a tour around Köln with stops at beer halls. It wasn’t what I expected, but it was a very good time anyway. The guide was named Frank Möhlenkamp and he was quite entertaining. He had plenty of anecdotes about the history of Köln and a unique manner. He even gave a decent (if somewhat simplified) description of the brewing process. Not as much information about the beer as I would have hoped, but an entertaining evening nonetheless.

Brauhaus Sion

The first place we stopped at was the Sion Brewery. On the outside of this beerhall is the supposed founding date 1318, but Herr Möhlenkamp was quick to point out that this simply means there was a brewery in that building in 1318, not a particularly surprising fact given the brewing tradition of Köln.Sion Kölsch He observed that one may elsewhere inside find a date of 1511, or if one were to dig a little deeper find the year 1912. I have noticed that this temporal confusion is a problem endemic with German breweries.

The Sion Kölsch is a pale, brilliantly clear golden color with a thick white head that leaves a solid lacing on the glass. The nose is quite light, with just a bit of pale malt character and a fresh hop aroma.

The body is full but remains refreshing. A bready malt flavor is light and intangible like gossamer. There are hints of grassy and earthy noble hops. The flavor is barely disturbed by a corn taste coming through.

The second stop on our tour was a visit to the Köln bürgerhaus. When the Kölners rebuilt their city hall after the war, they built in statue enclaves that harken back to those for the saints on the outer walls of many gothic cathedrals.Köln Bürgerhaus However, the statues here are important figures in the history of Köln. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the figures underneath the statues, intended to represent what the person would see when they look in a mirror. The heroes of Köln would see angels and flowers and such, but the bottom row of statues holds the more infamous characters of Köln’s history, along with the Kölners’ impression of their true character.

Brauerei Gaffel

After the stop by the bürgerhaus we moved on to the Gaffel Brewery. Gaffell (along with Reissdorf) is one of the kölsch beers that are widely available in the states. Nevertheless I had yet to rate it on this blog.

Gaffel KölschThe Gaffel Kölsch is a brilliant deep gold. There was some big-bubbled head but it went away quickly. It has some light and refreshing malt aroma.

The flavor is somewhat malty, but mostly I just notice a sulfuric taste on the bottom of the tongue. It is also a little corny sweet and leaves a bit of a mouth coating.

Dom Brauhaus

Our last stop was at the Dom Brewery, but as I had already rated that kölsch a little while ago I just relaxed and enjoyed the beer and company, something that is quite easy to do in Köln.

+Sion Kölsch

3.8 (4-8-7-4-15)

+/-Gaffel Kölsch

3.0 (3-7-6-3-11)

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)

Drei kölsche Biere

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Früh KölschTonight I will taste three beers brewed in Köln (that’s Cologne to the uninitiated). Beer from Köln is called kölsch, and it is a strong, pale lager with a particular fresh taste. Köln and Düsseldorf are two cities on the river Rhine with a long history of competition, particularly on the beer front. This is my first in a series of posts that will attempt to answer the age-old question: which beer is better, kölsch or alt?

The first examples in the kölsch category come from three breweries I have otherwise never heard of. First up, an offering from Cölner Hofbräu Früh, the Früh Kölsch. After that I will try the beer made by Dom-Brauerei, Domkölsch. Finally I will have the one from Küppers Brauerei, Küppers Kölsch.

The Früh Kölsch pours a brilliantly clear, lightly gold-tinted pale yellow. The head was bone white and a bit spongey, but now it’s all gone. The nose is malty sweet, with hints of white wine fruitiness and a trace of corn.

DomkölschThe flavor is immediately rich with an herbal hop flavor. Some bitterness is present but is overtaken by a cloying sweetness. There is some malt flavor that comes through as bread, but mostly just the corny sweetness. The flavor lingers far too long, and the carbonation is not nearly active enough.

The Domkölsch is named after the infamous Köln Cathedral, the other important attraction in the city of nearly a million. This is made perfectly clear in the label’s text, which reads, “Dom und Kölsch sind für Kölner, was Romeo für Juliet war: eine echte Herzensangelegenheit.” Loosely, “The Cathedral and kölsch are for the people of Köln what Romeo was for Juliet, a true passion.”

The Domkölsch is also a brilliantly clear yellow, perhaps a little darker than the Früh. The head is likewise bone-white, but has a more structure and lasts a bit longer. The nose is cleaner, with only a light malt aroma and a bit of fruit.

Küppers KölschThe flavor is also cleaner: it is almost tasteless. Some pure pilsner malt comes out, and a hint of sweetness. Just a bit of herbal hops peek through. The body is certainly thick and full, but unlike the Früh, not at all cloying.

The Küppers Kölsch pours a brilliant yellow, paler still than the Früh. The head is white, but like the Früh, disappears very quickly. The aroma is almost nonexistent. A little corn is all I can get.

The flavor is a bit hollow. It would be perfectly fresh if not for the persistent corn flavor. A bit of malty sweetness tries to compensate but doesn’t quite make it. The palate is full and lively, making for a very drinkable beer.


3.6 (3-7-7-4-15)

+/-Küppers Kölsch

3.1 (2-7-6-4-12)

+/-Früh Kölsch

2.9 (2-7-6-2-12)

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)