German Revival

Posted by on Mar 5, 2014

Following Oktoberfest I kind of went off German beer. And not just in a ‘I had a lot of Festbiers recently so I’m going to try something new for a change’ but in a ‘Day in and day out I’d honestly prefer to have anything other than a Pils or Hefe’ way.

More than anything, I blame it on the weather. These beers were all too light and drinkable for those cold winter months which demand high-gravity Belgians and Bourbon barrel aged stouts. But when I went to the pub a few weeks back and decided to indulge in a Weinstephan Hefeweizen I was reminded of one thing: spring is coming. And spring- and summertime drinking demands sessionability, aromatic boquets, and refreshing, quenching finish. Simple. Clean. German.

I don’t mean to bash the brewing talents of anyone else, but German, and German-style beers, are typically very hard to brew correctly because there aren’t a lot for off-flavours and aromas to hide behind. Helles beers and Hefeweizens need a delicate touch to bring out the best of hops, malt, and yeast and I was ready to re-explore the best that Germany had to offer on Monday night. Even so, I am very conscious of the fact that most people tend to think of the aforementioned beers when Germany is brought up and so I decided to bring out an eclectic mix to show that the range of German beer styles is really quite significant.

1) Hacker-Pschorr ‘Hells’: Hailing from Munich, this beer is exactly what you want from a German Helles. A very light and soft body with subtle bready notes from start to finish. The hops are very restrained, and you can easily go through a number of these beers without realizing it.

2) Karg ‘Dunkels Hefe-Weissbier’: The dunkel, or ‘dark’, versions of hefeweizens typically have a bit heavier, more caramelized flavours to compliment the textbook banana esters. This beer was very reminiscent of a dark banana bread with a very creamy mouthfeel and a definite wheat tang on the finish.

3) Schlosser ‘Alt’: ‘Old’ beers are so called because they use the older ale yeast as compared to the younger lager yeast which most German beers are brewed with. Though I’m repeating myself, this beer also had a very bready characteristic, but more in the sense of a dense grain bread than the fluffy white loaf that the Helles brought to mind.

4) Kostritzer ‘Schwarzbier’: Continuing on with German logic and simplicity, ‘Schwarz’ means ‘black’, and so I would hope I don’t need to say how it poured. Despite the subtle roastiness at the start, the beer is very light and drinkable; something like a dark Pilsner without so much hop bitterness on the end.

5) Weihenstephan ‘Vitus’: If ever you wonder what kind of flavours are typical in a wheat beer, drink a Vitus. This is appreciably stronger than your typical hefe, and so all the flavours and aromas are scaled up accordingly and in perfect harmony: banana comes out at first with a bit of bubblegum and then clove following in its wake. It’s gold medal at the World Beer Awards is well-deserved.

6) Aecht Schlenkerla ‘Doppelbock’: I often describe this brewery’s signature Marzen as the Marmite of the beer world. Schlenkerla use beechwood smoked malt in most of their brews, and this Doppelbock is no different. A waft and swig of this beer brings to mind hickory smoked bacon in full and it ends with an appreciable warming alcohol sweetness.

Rallying it all together, the voting was split between the Hacker-Pschorr and the Kostritzer.