Sunday, 18 March 2018

Blind tasting Pils for our local

4 comments
There are a few things that are worth dusting off the old beer blog for, and a blind tasting is certainly one of them. In this case, a blind tasting to decide what pils will be served at our local.

Our local, Landgasthaus zur Linde, closed a couple of months ago, and now our friend, who actually owns the building, and lovingly renovated it five years ago, has chosen to run it himself, rather than seeking a another leasee. As part of that, there was of course the discussion on what beers to serve, so rather than take the word of the brewery sales people at face value, it was decided to do a blind tasting with five beers, four of which could be considered regional, and one big national brand.


The tasting had eleven participants, with only two of us knowing what beers were being tested, though not the order. The beers were labelled A to E, and were poured in the kitchen, and brought out into the main room one-by one to be tasted, with rating being done on a 1 to 5 star basis once all the beers had been tasted. Tasters could give as many stars as they like. After scoring, the five beers would be revealed, and participants would try to guess what beer was what.

The beers to be tested were:

  • Bitburger
  • Rothaus Pils (Tannenzäpfle)
  • Faust Pils
  • Eichbaum Ureich
  • Distelhäuser Pils 

Of course, the most fun bout a blind tasting is that it forces people to leave their preconceptions at the door. And we all had ours! There were a couple of confirmed Faust drinkers, and based on the sales guy’s pitch, the proprietor thought this would come out on top. I think all of us had a less than stellar opinion of Distelhäuser Pils. For years and years I’ve said that I don’t like the pils, but can drink the export. Tannenzäpfle was expected to do well, although the love was divided. It’s one of those beers that you seem to either love or hate, and my own feeling sways from always having a crate in the cellar, to being sick of it. Two of the five, Bitburger and Eichbaum Ureich used to be served at the restaurant, under the two previous leasees, with Bitburger having been present four of the last five years.


The results were very surprising, but the reveal will come at the end. As for the scoring, out of a total max potential of 55 stars awardable to a beer, these are the total and average scores.

Beer
Total Score
Average
C
44
4
D
31
2.8
E
28
2.5
A
27
2.5
B
21
1.9

Beer C was clearly the winner, by some margin, and B was a clear loser, with the rest filling up the middleground. The score distribution looked like this, and showed some interesting patterns.

Beer
1 Star
2 Stars
3 Stars
4 Stars
5 Stars
A
2
5
1
3

B
3
6
2


C


3
5
3
D
3
2
2
2
2
E

5
6


  • Beer A had mostly 2 stars, with three 3 star reviews bringing up its average. 
  • Beer B had also mostly 2 stars, but nothing above 3, so was very consistently rated low by the group.
  • Beer C, on the other hand, rated consistently higher, with mostly 4 star ratings, the most 5 stars, and nothing less than 3. 
  • Beer D had the widest spread, with two of each star, and one extra 1 star. So very hard to make any declaration, other than is was a divided room on it. 
  • Beer E received only 2 and 3 star ratings, so was generally considered to be average to low-rated. 

So what were the beers?  Here they are, revealed

in order of rating.

Beer
Beer Name
Total Score
Average
C
Distelhäuser Pils
44
4
D
Rothaus Pils
31
2.8
E
Eichbaum Ureich
28
2.5
A
Faust Pils
27
2.5
B
Bitburger
21
1.9

Literally everybody was shocked at this result. Based on people’s preconceptions, Distel came in almost as the underdog, with Faust being the one expected to do the best.

When it came to then naming the beers, the results were also telling, confirming the biases many of us had. This was done before the results were tallied, so people were guessing the brand based on their own personal notes and scores. Of all the beers, Ureich was guessed most correctly, by five of the eight who tried to guess. The best guesses were by one friend, Klaus, who correctly guessed three out of five!

My own rating was as follows. I was fairly close to the average score, except for the Rothaus, which surprised me at how badly I rated it, though of late, it was clear that my love for it has waned. I only guessed one correctly, the Ureich, and it is telling that I also expected Faust to be the top rated.

Beer
Beer Name
My Guess
My Score
Average
C
Distelhäuser Pils
Faust Pils
4
4
E
Eichbaum Ureich
Eichbaum Ureich
3
2.5
A
Faust Pils
Distelhäuser Pils
2
2.5
B
Bitburger
Rothaus Pils
2
1.9
D
Rothaus Pils
Bitburger
1
2.8

I’ll say one thing, though, Distel do also produce a decent Weizen, and a surprisingly good IPA and Porter, so it thy also get served in the local, I’d be happy enough. I guess I should buy a crate of Distel pils on Monday!

As this was held on St. Patrick's Day, I brought a little taste of Ireland to close the evening ;)

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Hops and Needles

6 comments
It's that time of year again, where I am planning my third annual Fichtenbier (spruce beer) brewday, and it put me in mind of a beer I tried last year in the tasting room of the then relatively newly opened Braukunstwerk bottle shop in Münster. Hops and Needles from Brewcifer is rather aptly named, as Brewcifer (who I believe brew on Buddelship's kit in Hamburg) sourced spruce needles from Sonnenkiefer, who produce a range of  products from coniferous tree bits.

Described as an IPA with spruce tips, it's got quite a fruity aroma, with tangerine, passion fruit and a minty, lemon verbena note that felt familiar. Flavour-wise, it's slightly medicinal, but with peach and strawberry cream on top of a biscuity base, dried out with mandarin pith, and light tannins. It's a nice, juicy kind of beer, and I liked it a lot, but I couldn't help thinking that the spruce was playing second fiddle to the hops (Simcoe, Amarillo and Citra, by the way), especially as I know what more spruce tastes like. Nevertheless, it added a nice edge, and I guess that's the main point.


Friday, 6 May 2016

The Session #111: Beer midlife crisis?

2 comments
I'm about the right age for a midlife crises, if such a thing exists, but our host, Oliver, wants us to focus on the idea of a beer midlife crises, something that I can probably relate to in one sense or another.

If this blog, and the (in)frequency of posts over the past few years is anything to go by, it would sure look like I lost the zeal for good beer. But for many, and I would include myself in those ranks, blogging is just an aspect of a hobby, a means to engage with a broader, international community of beer lovers. For others, it is a means to establish a brand, to launch into something closer to a job in the industry, as many of the new, glossy-looking German blogs seem to be, riding on the wave of a new German beer (sub) culture.

Truth be told, I had more pressing things to be doing, renovating a house, taking care of my family, and fitting into the new social dynamics of a small German village. But I will admit that over this period, while my core love of beer smoldered away inside, I was quite content, in the main, to buy beers I liked by the crate-load, and simply enjoying them without analysing. My home brewing was taking a hit, too, with a low point in 2012 of brewing only once in the entire year! And apart from the highlights of attending a festival or two each year, I had neither the time nor the money to be investing in what can be an expensive hobby. At least when trying to keep up with the new, usually dearer, specialty brews from new and old breweries here, while there were pretty decent "normal" beers to be had at very reasonable prices. So my broader explorations slowed, and I had to become more selective.

This period also saw a boom in what I suppose can be described the craft beer movement here in Germany. With my lack of time and money, to a degree it felt like watching from the outside, as the choices for lovers of interesting beer expanded, and the idea of craft finally came to Germany. However, observing an apparent swell of "me too" breweries, or often just brands opening up in the trendy parts of Germany, as well as large breweries co-opting the "movement", I think I probably reached, well, not a crises, but a kind of cynicism that is not really the way I like to see the world.

And that is probably as close to a crises that I will get in my beer life. The pleasure of experiencing a new beer, for brewing, for sharing and for actually being part of a community with a common interest, well, that never went away.

In the past 14 months, since moving into our house, my home brewing has increased pace again, and brew days have become more like a social occasion, as people usually pop around for a bite to eat and some beer tasting. I'm also planning on giving the home brewery a more permanent home in the barn, one of the many projects on my endless to-do list. Last August I completed a dedicated beer cellar, and plan to start cellaring certain beers properly, with a view to having vertical tastings in a few years, so the way I see it, beer has been incorporated into the very fabric of our home.

The social aspects of beer are also too important to forget. For me, beer has been like an "in", as a foreigner in a small village. Stammtisch people now introduce me as "the Irish brewer", if someone new pops in, giving two topics to immediately talk about. But more recently, my passion for all things beery has been re-awoken due to being around more people with similar interests, either home brewers, professional brewers, or simply neighbours of all ages just happy to objectively taste something new. Beer is ultimately a social thing, and it needs people to make it any way interesting at all.

I won't promise that this blog will suddenly be seeing more regular posting, nor am I ready to close its eyes and draw a blanket over it, as TheBeerNut put it. I will continue to occasionally post about things that grab my fancy, or that I feel need a bit of thought and exploration (purely for my own sake), or simply giving readers a view into what is happening in the German beer scene. But my personal interest in beer? That won't lessen any time soon. It's simply too much fun!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Reinheit celebration brews

0 comments
A few weeks ago, my wife returned from the local drinks store with a six-pack of a new beer from Distelhäuser, Jubiläumshopfen, a dry-hopped pils brewed in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Bavarian Rienheitsgebot. On the back label, it lists Citra and Cascade as the hops used to dry hop, and a swirl of the bottle shows plenty of hop debris (pellets, presumably) left over from the dry hopping process. A careful pour leaves these behind.

Fruity, with masses of passion fruit and mango, but also with a pungent, kind of crushed tomato leaf-marigold background that eases off a bit as the beer breathes, revealing a more delicate shade of mandarin and lime pith. It doesn't eel at all like a pils, in the classic sense, and given I'm not a huge fan of Distel Pils, I found this to be a relief. It's creamy and oily at first, though it does have a snap to the finish, offering a lightly tannic dryness. But the main act is the big fruit bomb, carrying the mango and passion fruit over from the aroma, with bitter mandarin in the mix to sharpen things up. All in all, a rather juicy drop. 


Having a contact in the brewery, I was curious about the hops used in the boil, and it's a rather long list, consisting of Northern Brewer, Perle, Tettnanger, Smaragd, Saphir and Centennial, plus the Citra and Cascade for dry hopping, as previously mentioned. Apparently the regular Pils also uses six hop varieties, though I am guessing more traditional types.

The second celebration beer came from an unlikely source, considering the trial that Camba Bavaria have been going through, taking their Milk Stout, Coffee Porter and other beers off the market, as the Bavarian rules won't let them cal them either beers, Brew Specialities, or even "mixed drinks". I received the bottle free from Camba as they saw on Twitter it was my birthday, and offered a drink on them, which was very kind.

I have to admit, I wasn't sure what to expect here. Would they be sticking it to the man, or playing it straight, but in a way, it was somewhere in between. The aroma wasn't standout, reminding me a little of hay in a dry, dusty field, with grassy highlights. This belies the fruit-forward flavour of this Helles. Where the Distel was bright and sharp, this contrasts by being earthy and deep, with strawberry, melon and tropical fruits, ending on a mineral, chalky, herbal note. Both have their merits!


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

With a little help from my friends

0 comments
The occasion of #OpenIt a couple of weeks ago happened to coincide with a small, pre-birthday gathering, at which I had already planned to open a selection of bottles, some of which had been languishing in my cellar for a few years. Ever the one for experimenting on my friends and neighbours, I thought it would be a chance to share some big bottles, and get some feedback in the form of a casual tasting.

After filling bellies with chili and a selection of my own humble beer offerings of porter, pale ale and saison -- people always seem to go for the homebrew before the commercial stuff, which is endearing -- we had, at the end, five volunteers, plus a few backseat drivers, for a tasting. I gave them sheets to write down their thoughts, as it wasn't a free lunch!

The first beer opened was Jeff's Bavarian Ale from Maisel & Friends. This was only in the cellar only a few weeks, as I had bought the rather well-priced big bottle on a whim, while waiting for a physio session in nearby Mosbach. I had avoided reading anything about it, but was not surprised to later learn it's based on Weißbier, as the aroma is distinctly fruity, with banana and bready yeast overtones. It is, however, quite a bit richer than the average Weißbier, leaning more towards a Weizen Doppelbock (well, yes, it would at 7.1% ABV), with plenty of vanilla, fruity elements recalling summer berries, and a sweetish, crème caramel base. The finish is sweet and oily, leaving a warm, spicy feel. Words used by the group to describe it included: blackcurrant, fruity and mild, liquer-like.

I was a little hesitant about opening the Chimay Bleue Grande Réserve 2008, that I bought in some newsagents in Münster in 2009. It had been moving about with us, so has seen four difference "cellars" over the past seven years, and the amount of gooey-looking sediment at the bottom of the bottle gave me pause. I decided it was best to decant it, and we got a lovely clear beer for serving. It had a gorgeous, rich, sherry and port-like nose, and a flavour laden with raisins, dates, vanilla and toffee. And all of this on a silky-smooth, creamy body that masked the 9% well. It certainly wore its age well, and everybody seemed to enjoy it. Words used to describe it included vanilla, honey, chestnuts, nutty. Quite perceptive, this bunch.


Maisel & Friends was chosen by the group for the third round, as they all liked the sound of Marc's Chocolate Bock, a  7.5% creation that the blurb says is his interpretation of an Irish stout... eh, ya wha? Rich and fruity, with dried fruits, dates, and yes, a suggestion of chocolate. It has a lovely velvety texture, with vanilla, caramel and chocolate mousse. All rather nice in the mouth, but although the finish was certainly chocolaty, that in itself a great feat, it was of a type that didn't appeal to me. The team described this beer as dark caramel, bitter chocolate and a bitter, burnt aftertaste.

The final beer we shared was Bergmann Adam.  Bergmann is a Dortmund brewery I've covered before, but I'm not sure if they are yet brewing at their own facilities by now. This was a beer I had been greatly anticipating, as there was some personal interest in how it turned out. Back in 2010, I had irregular mail correspondence with the owner -- in 2009, I'd arranged a visit to the brewery with the The Beer Geeks, Chris and Merideth -- and he'd told me of his intention to remake an Adambier, which originally came from Dortmund. Out of curiousity, I contacted Ron Pattinson to see what insights he had on the original Adambier, and he kindly given me some info that I passed on to Dr. Raphael:
Dortmunder Adambier was a strong, sourish top-fermenting beer. Wahl & Henius ("American Handy Book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades", 1902) has an analysis of the beer performed in 1889. It was around 18º Balling, 7.38% alc. by weight (9.4% ABV) and a lactic acid content about half that of a contemporary lambiek. In contrast to sour beers such as Gose and Berliner Weisse, Adambier, also called Dortmunder Altbier, was heavily hopped. It acquired its sourness much like Porter - through a long secondary fermentation. Bacteria in the lagering vessels slowly changed the beer's character. It needed to be stored for at least a year for this process to take place. At the end of the primary fermentation the beer it was not sour at all. Another beer of this type was Münsterländer Altbier - stilll brewed by Pinkus Müller in Münster today. (Source: "Jahrbuch der Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei in Berlin, 1911", p.522)

Now, they didn't want to introduce lactobacillus, as they were contract brewing, but said they would use lactic acid to add sourness. Nevertheless, it was something I was eager to try. However, getting a bottle seemed to be difficult, as it sold out quick every time it was made, and it wasn't till I think last year that my colleague Markus generously gave me a bottle. Needless to say, I was excited to be trying this for the first time!

A respectable 7.8% ABV, Adam was not what I expected. On the nose, I found it fruity, with soft, ripe berries to the fore, with a soft, yeasty edge. Expecting to pucker up, the flavour was also more in the direction of fruit, with a slight bite of cranberry drying up what would otherwise be sweet caramel, and just a hint of a roasty edge. Maybe the cranberry dryness was a hint of the lactic acid, but then, maybe I've been desensitised, as it was nowhere near "lactic acid content about half that of a contemporary lambiek". Not that it's a bad beer in its own right, but its wasn't lagered for a year with bacteria doing interesting things to it. The group however said they did pick up a sourness, and along with the Chimay, this rated highly. Malty explosion, mildly sour and smokey were descriptors used by the victims volunteers.


It was a fun evening capped off by this tasting, and those who remained for it all said it was great fun. There's plenty more waiting in the cellar!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Reinheitsgebot - A Personal Voyage

0 comments
Yes, it's that time of year when German Beer Day comes around, but as everyone knows, a special year, with today being the 500th anniversary of the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot.

I'm not going to go into the arguments for and against it. They have been done to death already this year, and most of the arguments are ones I've seen repeated frequently over the past three to four years, especially since the rise of the Craft Beer Scene in Germany. I've attended talks at the likes of Braukunst Live, have read plenty of the new wave of German beer blogs, seen interviews with prominent members of the growing craft brewing community, and enough YouTube recordings of panel discussions to be well versed in the main points against the Reinheitsgebot. At least they are consistent, and indeed, they are arguments that I've used myself, after moving here in 2008 and starting this much-neglected blog soon after. I've also seen enough of the marketing from the Deutsche Brauerbund to know what the pro argument sounds like. So this is more about my own perception of the gebot, and how views seem to be shifting.

At the time I left Ireland, it was a country seeing a surge of interest in good beer from small, local breweries, and I admit, I missed it when I came over here. Not that I wasn't prepared in some way for the relative conservatism, but in a way, I had to retrain my expectations, hitting the reset button if you will, and came to realise that there was plenty to enjoy from the rich German brewing traditions, if you knew where to look.

Sure, I railed against the gebot often enough, while at the same time thoroughly enjoying fantastic German beers, with the odd Belgian, US or English import to add a spark and remind me what I was missing. Then. in 2010, the first Festival der Bierkulturen happened, which was billed as going "beyond the Reinheitsgebot". This was a first peek at a small section of the brewing community doing something different, and I loved it.

But after three years living here, I began to rail less against the instrument of the gebot itself, as it was simply a marketing tool, and instead, more or less concluded it was the German drinkers on the whole that were stultifying German beer culture. What I meant by this was that on the whole, and certainly at that point in time, it was fair to say that the general populace were happy with the status quo. And given that most were happy that way, and with what the Reinheitsgebot appeared to promise, then the impetus for change would simply not happen, the Reinheitsgebot would go unchallenged, and we'd continue ad nauseum.

But I hadn't realised that things really were already starting to change. Hopfenstopfer had started brewing a single hopped pale ale that year, the now classic Citra Ale. Braufactum appeared with incredibly different beers, beautifully marketed. Online stored were increasing their foreign offerings. Something was stirring. And then, in 2012, Braukunst Live started. In a way, this felt like a shift, as it was a big festival in the most conservative of brewing cities, and there was a huge focus on "craft", with the accompanying debates on the limitations of the Reinheitsgebot.

The growth of the craft beer sector has continued unabated since then. In many ways, it mirrors what I saw happening in Ireland, and indeed the UK, also with the eventual existential crisis about what exactly is craft beer? Berlin and Hamburg are thriving centres for this new "movement", and there are new breweries and contract brands, popping up regularly, as more and more want to be part of the action. In the 5 years since I moved to south Germany, two new breweries have opened in my former home town of Münster, one by a friend who has an avid interest in pre-Reinheitsgebot beers. And the arguments against it get louder.

It has now gotten to a stage where my 50-year-old neighbour turns around to me and says "I like that craft beer stuff. I've been buying all sorts of new beers to try. Have you tried this"? The older people at our Stammtisch are no stranger to my own beer creations, often featuring spruce tips, or eldar flowers, and although they sometimes mischievously ask if a given beer is Reinheitsgebot, I know full well they don't give a shit if it is not, and they enjoy it for what it is. There are now two glossy beer magazines on the market that feature the words Craft in their titles. Mainstream much?

Thinking back to that piece I wrote five years ago, and just getting a feel for the mood in the beer community, and articles in even regional newspapers over recent weeks, I get the impression that regular drinkers -- beyond the feedback loop of the craft beer circles -- are on to the Reinheitsgebot. They are beginning to understand that it is not necessarily an assurance of good-tasting beer. They are beginning to experiment and buy that odd bottle that has appeared on the Getränkemarkt shelf. They are lifting their heads above the parapet, just a little mind, but enough to make me think that now might be the time for some practical change..

I wouldn't say throw the Reinheitsgebot away completely. It's too valuable as a marketing tool, and sure, it has historical and cultural significancef. But let's not be stupid by saying this means other fermented beverages based on malted barley, but perhaps with some coffee added, are not allowed to be called beer. Let those who brew according the gebot use it as a seal of sorts, and extend the actual brewing rules laid out in the Vorläufiges Biergesetz (1993) to allow anything brewed with natural ingredients to be called beer. It surely must be that simple!

But for me, the real tipping point is the negative marketing, bordering on propaganda from the Deutscher Brauerbund. That alone is what makes me rail against the Reinheitsgebot. Skip to 2:10 on this video below, published by the Brauerbund. In my poor translation, they say "So, no artificial ingredients, enzymes, colouring or aromas. Brewing beer is therefore more demanding and complex than in most foreign breweries". Reading between the very wide-spaced lines, they are essentially tarring most foreign beers as being riddled with chemicals and being generally awful. And this messaging transferrs to those German beers influenced by foreign styles that are currently in vogue. This is exactly this kind of crap that tips my opinion enough to say I don't like what the Reinheitsgebot represents. With that kind of propoganda, it's no wonder it has taken this long for the blinkers to be shed. Let the brewing traditions of Germany open and grow, to give the beer-drinking public what they want, and see a rejuvenation of  German beer culture at a time when the trend has been away from beer.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Artbrau 2016 - Part 2: Eichbaum Experimentals

3 comments
On my train ride to Heilbronn, I had tweeted something to the effect of wondering what Eichbaum would be bringing to the party this time. Last year, it was one of the bigger surprises. To reiterate, I know Eichbaum well. Based in Mannheim, they are probably our biggest regional brewery, and are independently owned, at least since a management buyout following bitter strikes in 2006. So their beer is everywhere to be seen here, a bit like Distelhäuser. Eichbaum Ureich is probably the most popular around here, and I'll buy a crate now and again if I've a bunch of pils drinkers coming over. Well, either that or Tannenzäpfle. But as I've said before, with their pils, export, weizen, kellerbier. --you get the idea -- they never rated high on my radar, other than the fact that their beer is colloquially referred to as Leichenwasser, or "corpse water", owing to the brewery's proximity to the main Mannheim graveyard! Last year changed that view a bit, but was a bit like peeping through a keyhole, or bunghole, if you will, catching a glimpse of odd things they were experimenting with. Odd, but in a rather good way! So I found myself at their stall again this year, where at first glance, the choice seemed similar to the year before, but oh how wrong I was.


One enigmatic entry on the blackboard was simply listed as Eichbaum Experimental, which turned out to be rotating all day. At the time I asked, it was a 7.5% beer aged on juniper wood, which was referred to as a "gin beer", and using the hop variety Relax, which the server told me was normally used in herbal teas. It had a powerful aroma, reminding me of pine-scented cleaning fluid (I want to say Jeyes, but my childhood memories are not what they were), and yes, gin aromatics, that reach right back into your sinus cavities. Somehting that strong can't help but be carried over into the flavour, and while being perhaps one of the more unusual beer flavours I've had (on a par with some of the unreleased prototypes from Gruthaus up in Münster), it's bloody fascinating. Woody, for sure, with a camphor-like effect gasping into the finish, but under all of this is a sweet, malty, fudgy base, with surprisingly delicate fruit flavours, evoking peach. I was surprised to be able to pick up anything like that after the aroma, but certainly a good experiment to try.


I thought a palate cleanser might be in order, so ordered a Eichbaum Enigma Zwickl, an 5% ABV, dry-hopped Kellerbier on draft, using Tettnanger Herkules and Czech Aurora in the kettle and dry hopped with Australian Enigma hops. A good solid beer this, with a honey-melon like flavour, a light vinous highlights, evoking summer berries. It was about this time that I got a bit distracted from the note-taking, as I began talking to the brewer, Tom Majorosi. One of my neighbours did his apprenticeship at Eichbaum, and it turned out is was under Tom, so we ended up having a great chat over quite a few of his experimental brews.


What was described as a Double IPA was pushed on me, brewed last year using a new, and as yet unnamed trial hop variety that I noted as 08/33 Tettnang. Big fruits on this one, with strawberry, raspberry and apricot  to the fore. I was amazed to find it has 13% ABV, which was incredibly well hidden, as was the 50 IBUs. It's more lush than bitter, and with a lingering vanilla finish, it put me more in mind of a barley wine than a double IPA, not that I was complaining!

During our chat, various bits of information were dropped that were at least new to me, like the fact Eichbaum brew Lidl's craft beer range (confirmed by a quick web search). I haven't even tried those, but I suspect I'll have my eyes peeled next time I'm in a Lidl.

For fans of wood, the bottled Cabernet Franc Bock probably ticks a lot of boxes, being a dark Doppelbock aged for 14 months in a Cabernet Franc cask. And it really is sublime. Massive vanilla with a smear of raspberry jam on the nose. And either the newer bocks being produced are more attenuated than the older, more traditional types, but the mouthfeel of this was more "spritzig" and light, than the sugary sticky that I often expect, and this served to lift up the barrow-load of flavours, with more raspberry, a bite of cherry, and a lick of tea-like tannins punctuating it. Apparently hopped with just Herkules hops (25 IBUs), the beer seems to be a vehicle for the barrel itself, and was one of my highlights of the festival.


After all these heavy-hitters, the next beer was somewhat of a surprise. Jean de Wit, named after Jean du Chaine, a Wallonian gentleman who founded "Zum Aichbaum" in 1679, is most certainly a nod to the Belgian Wit style, with 4.8% ABV and infused with coriander seed and orange peel. And it shows. It opens with a zippy, fresh mandarin and lemon sorbet aroma, following through to the flavour, which takes on an additional spicy note, with a sherbet zing. I noted lemon-barley water (does Robinson's lemon barley water still exist?), but also . A refreshing, summery, beer for sure.

Staying in the wheat zone, but more in the Germanic tradition, Equinox/Nelson Weisse was next. As the name suggests, a Hefeweizen dry hopped with US Equinox hops and Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand. Perhaps taking inspiration from Schneider's lovely Nelson Weisse. In effect, nothing like a traditional German Weizen, but juicy as hell with luscious fruity flavours and "super süffig", according to my notes.

And so back to the bigger beers, with Eichbaum Barrique Bock on draft, an 8 % Doppelbock dry hopped with Amarillo, Simcoe and Cascade. I'm well familiar with Eichbaum's Apostulator Bock, and while it's fine, it doesn't press so many of my buttons. But I hadn't realised that that was essentially the same beer, just bunged into a barrique and dry hopped. And really, it does alter the beer, to a stage where buttons were being pressed. Vanilla again comes to the fore on the aroma, with the barrel having a loud voice, but the added fruitiness of the hops, and perhaps also the tannin effect from the barrique itself, seems to result in a lower perceived residual sugar. That's just an awkward way of saying it felt drier than the regular bock, which is something i much prefer. Cherry, vanilla, and an oily mouthfeel all added to make a rather comforting drop.

By this time, my friend, Frank, from back home had arrived, and I did another round of the stalls with him, and stopped taking notes. But we did return to Tom and Eichbaum for one more. Eichbaum Lambexico is a Lambic beer with 8% ABV aged for 14 months in Tequila barrels. I think my little mind stopped working at this stage, so no more notes, just enjoying the last beers and some excellent three and five-year-old cheeses provided by Tom from (I think his friend) Lothar Müller, the Cheese Master at Käsemanufaktur Hockenheim, one of which was washed in in an Eichbaum Experimental. Many thanks to Tom for the hospitality!

And that's it for Artbrau. There were a few more beers had that I won't go into detail on, from Schneider and Welde, but my memory is not so reliable, other than the fact that I tweeted the Schneider Marie's Rendevous was an awful mess of sweetness. "Liquidised lollipops" was what I actually said.

I like this festival. It had a decent trade by the evening, but never got uncomfortable, and it had a nice atmosphere, making it easy to strike up conversation with random strangers. My only complaint would be on the food side, as the options were few, and pretty expensive. However, compared to other festivals, the entry cost was very reasonable, and the beer servings generous, so balance is restored. I'm certainly looking forward to next year.