Posts Tagged ‘kellerbier’

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)

My Homebrew Strategy: Serendipity

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Style. Possibly the most contentious issue in beer. It could be argued that beer styles didn’t even exist until 1977 when the late Michael Jackson (The Beer Hunter, not a particular recording artist) published his comprehensive World Guide to Beer. In one stroke he redefined what it means to appreciate beer, comparing local varieties from all across the globe. From Wikipedia:

However, despite an awareness by commentators, law-makers, and brewers that there were different styles of beer, it wasn’t until Michael Jackson’s World Guide To Beer was published in 1977 that there was an attempt to group together and compare beers from around the world. Jackson’s book had a particular influence in North America where the writer Fred Eckhardt was also starting to explore the nature of beer styles. The wine importing company Merchant du Vin switched to importing beers mentioned in Jackson’s book. Small brewers started up, producing copies and interpretations of the beer styles Jackson described.

Many brewers outside the U.S. microbrewing scene, Belgians especially, continue to brew without regard to style definitions such as those supported by the Beer Judge Certification Program. Many refuse even to acknowledge the existence of such a rigid framework. There are many good reasons for this repudiation. The history of categorization of beer is byzantine at best: spend a few moments reading Shut up about Barclay Perkins and you will get an idea of how convoluted nomenclature can be.

Further discussion on this topic will have to wait for another time. I am using this simply to illustrate the rationale for my strategy when homebrewing; that is, serendipity. To put it simply (as a certain homebrewer said): Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew. Beer has been brewed for millenia. In this modern age of scientific inquiry and quality malt, hops, and yeast, you can’t possibly make a beer any worse than somebody before you made. In fact, it is quite likely that it will turn out at least decent, and probably pretty good. It certainly won’t kill you. That’s the beauty of beer!

So when I sit down to hammer out a recipe, I am rarely thinking in terms of style, and never in terms of a single beer. Many go to great lengths attempting to recreate a particular commercial beer. This is entirely unproductive, as the adaptation considerations are uncountable. You will end up with a product somewhat similar but in truth not at all like the beer you were aiming for. It is much better to brew a beer and afterwards categorize it. Not only will you be more satisfied with the end product, you will learn more. You will get to know the tendencies of your yeast, the hardness of your water, and the flavor and aroma of your malt and hops. Following a recipe does not make a brewer. Enough didacticism.

My friend Jen recently gave birth to an adorable girl. Back in April she sent me this message:

You’re going to be an uncle! Well, you would be if you were my brother. Try to find the perfect beer for that!

So I started thinking about making her a fest beer to celebrate when she could drink again. It’s supposed to be a secret so don’t tell anyone, ok? Sure I had five months to plan, but I still didn’t get it done in time. Fortunately now she’s not getting any more not pregnant – as far as I know! Though I had decided on a recipe by August, I still didn’t get around to brewing it till September. Anyway, I went all out for this one: a ton of munich malt, real Hallertauer hops, and a double decoction mash. I lagered it for two and a half months in the cellar at Millstream and force carbonated (my first time!). It is obvious I am inexperienced, as the carbonation came out a little low, but not unpleasantly so.

The beer is named in honor of Skeletor, Jen’s daughter. Don’t worry, that’s not her given name, just what we called her in the ultrasound. It pours clearer than any homebrew I have made, just the faintest hint of haze. It is a shade of burnt orange and the head (what there is) is off-white. The aroma is supremely malty. Bread and caramel notes dominate, but some fruitiness comes through.

This beer is quite quaffable, but I must say the flavor is somewhat strange. Strong malt and bready character is most apparent. There is also a serious fruitiness that reminds me of raspberries or black caps. I notice a saltiness that I attribute to yeast autolysis (PDF warning). This beer is as dry as you can get. The light hop bitterness comes through the clean flavor. Even though the carbonation is much too low, the palate is quite lively.

So this beer is not too bad. But back to my point about serendipity. I had originally planned on brewing something like an oktoberfest for the celebration. Despite using lager yeast it ended up very fruity, and the remaining yeast gives a strange character. Fortunately in Germany they make a style of beer much like oktoberfest in strength and color, but with yeast in the bottle. They call it kellerbier (or cellar beer for germanophobes). That’s what I mean when I say don’t worry about style. Beer is beer is beer, and like that stupid quote goes, “shoot for the moon cause even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”

By the way, that Alt I referenced earlier is pretty good, I’ll post about it sometime. Now if only my Young’s glass didn’t have a chip.

+Skeletor Oktoberfest Kellerbier

RateBeer: 3.3 (3-7-6-3-14)

7 lbs. Munich malt
2 lbs. 2-Row malt
2 lbs. Victory malt

1/2 oz Hallertauer Tradition, 75 minutes
1/2 oz American (PNW) Mt. Hood, 75 minutes
1/8 oz Hallertauer Tradition, 30 minutes
1/8 oz American (PNW) Mt. Hood, 30 minutes

– Mashed in with 3 gallons 140F water to stabilize at 122F for 10 min protein rest
– Pulled first decoction (thickest 1/3), boiled, added back to stabilize at 150F
– Pulled second decoction, rest 20 min at 160F, boiled, added back to stabilize at 170F