Nine more beers fight for much more glory!

The countless millions of people who are regular readers of this blog will no doubt remember one of the great entries of 2011, namely the one where nine beers were fighting for glory by tempting the palates of five lucky beer tasters assembled for the occasion in my flat here in Konstanz. This was so much fun that when two beer-loving mates from Norway came to visit a couple of weeks ago, I stocked up again for a repeat session, albeit with a slightly different selection this time.

To ensure some continuity, two of the beers from last time were allowed back in, namely the Meckatzer Weiss-Gold (the winner from 2011) and Wernesgrüner Pils (5th). The methodology was the same: I dressed up the beer bottles (all half-litres) in German newspapers and opened them before placing them randomly in the fridge. Then, one of my friends who hadn’t seen any of this would pick a beer randomly and pour it into three anonymous glasses. We then proceeded to sniff, drink and score them one by one whilst the empties were placed along a wall in the order in which they were served. Finally, once all were empty, we ceremoniously disrobed the bottles to reveal which beer was which.

The selection this time was based around golden-coloured beers of various types, namely two Pilsners (one of which was cheap, the other ridiculously cheap), three Octoberfest-style beers, two Helles, one Bock and last, but not least, a very expensive bottle imported from Britain, labelled “VSOP”, which I believe is short for "Very Sour Old Piss", but since it tasted rather good it is possible that I may be wrong there. Incidentally, just to illustrate the price range we're talking about: I could have bought about 15 bottles of the cheapest beer for the same price.

The results certainly showed that price is not necessarily proportional to taste or quality. Our two favourites were the cheap and the even cheaper Pilsners, whereas the VSOP didn’t quite make it to the throne. A note to British readers out there: the "p" stands for "points" and not the price of the beer in pence (though I wish it was). The results:
1)      Wernesgrüner Pils (25p)
2)      Ratskrone Pils (24p)
3)      Pedigree VSOP (21p)
3)      Schussenrieder Helles (21p)
5)      Andechs Bock (19p)
6)      Augustiner Octoberfest (18p)
7)      Meckatzer Weiss-Gold (17p)
7)      Maiser Heinrich Urstoff (17p)
9)      Augustiner Edelstoff (8p)

The podium! And the others. And the poor beer that nobody likes.

The unobservant reader has by now no doubt failed to notice that last year’s winner didn’t do quite as well this year – it finished way down in 7th place. There could, of course, be any number of reasons for this, such as coincidence and Act of Gambrinus. However, I strongly believe that all the non-winning German breweries have taken note of the results last year and worked very hard to improve their brews, whereas the winner last year may have been a little complacent, resting on the hoppy laurels and basking in the malty glory for a bit too long. I expect greater things from everyone next year.

It should also be noted that this event took place on a Friday when the weather was unusually warm, so perhaps the Pilsners had a little advantage there. Furthermore, since the beers were served from the fridge at the same, cold temperature, the beers that should ideally be served warmer (especially the bock and the VSOP) probably had a disadvantage. It must also be admitted that two of the three tasters were already blind drunk since they had been following the Norwegian tradition of knocking back all alcoholic beverages within earshot since leaving Norway. So essentially, this turned out to be a giant excuse to get drunk and had nothing to do with a proper beer tasting session. Oh well, never mind.

It’s good fun though, drinking beer and pretending you know something about it. Furthermore, judging something that cannot defend itself in other ways than by losing its head gives you a sense of power. Moah-hah-hah!


Four more beers!

It’s been an inspiring few weeks for beer lovers. Whenever I’ve turned on the TV I don’t have (which, to be fair, wasn’t that often), read a newspaper or surfed the internet, I’ve been completely swamped by reports pouring in from a big country far, far away. The citizens of this country have, according to a Japanese news report I stumbled upon, just had a big erection. This sounds intriguing in its own right, but what I found even more interesting was images of crowds tens of thousands strong chanting “four more beers” whilst waving posters with logos for what I presume must have been various local breweries. I find such footage very stirring, and in my emotionally hoisted state I found myself drawn to my fridge. The rest is, as they say, a history I intend to share with anyone who can be bothered to read on.

Note that even the beer glass is right
The first beer I could lay my grubby mitts on was a fairly local one, in fact one that a colleague of my wife very kindly gave me a few weeks ago: a “Schwarzes Wäldle” brewed by Lammbrauerei from Weilheim, a small village tucked away behind some other equally obscure villages in the south-west of Germany. According to the Internet, this village has, together with its neighbouring village of Rietheim, a grand total of 2637 inhabitants – and one brewery making about 800,000 litres of beer per year. This corresponds to about one litre of beer per day per inhabitant, which sounds about right. I have tried both the pilsner and the “Schwarzes” (black beer, though it's not that black as you can see from the picture above) from this brewery, and in keeping with the output from almost all such small breweries around Germany, the beers are very good without being truly memorable.

A couple of weeks earlier, my wife and I decided to celebrate the unexpected arrival of winter by running a race in southern Bavaria, not far from Munich. After pounding through about 7km of mud with the snow whipping around our whiskers, it was a great relief to discover that the neighbouring hamlet, which boasted a total of 23 houses, had a very nice little brewery called Rössle-Bräu, with a pub attached. Therefore, after collecting a terrific toothbrush as the race prize, we made a beeline for the bar and begged for beer. The lady behind the bar obligingly started to pour me one, but then thoughtfully decided to change the barrel, which meant that I had the privilege, for the first time in my life, to drink the very first beer drawn from a completely fresh cask brewed less than 20 metres away from where I was sitting. Needless to say, this was a special occasion, and the beer did not disappoint: like all good Bavarian house beers it was copper-coloured, malty and beautifully balanced on the palate.

A copper-coloured blogger and ditto beer
The next day brought the opportunity to visit another two local breweries. First up was the Lövenbräu in Bad Wörishofen, a little spa town close, but not too close, to the motorway that goes through Germany. The brewery was classic Bavarian, essentially a brewpub except that unlike its many modern counterparts it’s been brewing for more than 100 years, serving the local population with tasty brews throughout this turbulent time in European history. I had the Export, which again was wonderfully fresh and malty even though it was just after 10 o’clock on a Sunday morning.

Finally, we made a brief stop at the Storchenbräu in Pfaffenhausen, which is situated conveniently a little further from the motorway. Sadly, the brewery pub had closed there, so we had to find the nearest outlet that served their beer, which was a whopping 120 metres away. They actually had a very good black beer, which I tried, but since I’ve forgotten what was nice about it I shan’t try to describe its lovely roasted coffee and dark chocolate notes.

No prizes for guessing what "storch" means
All in all, these four breweries illustrate very nicely what makes Germany such a great country to drink in. Most breweries are small, traditional, family-owned enterprises that serve up very good beer for the local population, and are happy to just do what they’ve been doing for hundreds of years without desperately needing to expand to foreign markets or employ fancy marketing tricks to appeal to new customer groups. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for innovation and new ideas when it comes to beer, but to balance this out it’s also great to have these old breweries where the only change happens every 30 years or so when the next generation takes over.

Anyway, I just heard someone say “oh bummer” on the radio, so perhaps this erection is finally over. Someone mentioned that it’s been the longest and most expensive one in history, so I hope it was worth it. Speaking for myself, the beers I had were certainly worth their malt and my time, and I look forward to yet another four more beers very soon. In the meantime, drink smart and have fun!