This is another attempt to ‘graph our relationship with beer‘. This time, it’s about capturing the various qualities that give a particular beer value in our eyes.
- Sentiment: homesickness, happy memories, family connections.
- Taste: how nice is it?
- Complexity: and how deep?
- Tradition: does it connect us with history and a particular culture? (Cask ale does this.)
- Value: i.e. value for money.
- Rarity: how likely are we to find this beer again any time soon?
- Novelty: Schlenkerla’s smoked maerzen scores highly here.
- Sessionability: we like beers we can drink a few of.
- Refreshment: sometimes, we want beer to quench our thirst and cool us down.
For example, we know, objectively speaking, that Butcombe’s cask bitter isn’t the world’s best beer but, nonetheless, we value it
more highly than almost as highly as Duvel. That sounds nuts, right? But we’re not saying it’s as great a a better beer, only that, for us, a pint of Butcombe Bitter is tied up with happy times in Somerset pubs with Bailey’s parents (sentiment); and, especially when we lived in London, it had a certain rarity value.
Even we were surprised to see that St Austell’s Black Prince Mild has the highest value of any beer on the chart, but then again, it is remarkably rare; gives us a powerful sense of engaging with brewing tradition; taps into all the sentimental associations we make with mild-loving grandparents; and is a wonderful session beer.
Schlenkerla Maerzen scores highly because, not only does smoked beer have novelty value, and a taste we happen to like, but even the merest whiff of it transports us back to Bamberg.
We could record marks for every beer we drink against this system. It might be interesting to see, after a year or two, which ends up having the most ‘value’, and whether we would also consider it our favourite beer.
I was lucky enough to spend two weeks at the World Cup in Germany in 2006 with various friends. We had tickets for five games but also made a point of watching every other match we could in pubs, restaurants and beer gardens. As you might expect, there were many memorable beer occasions, but the one that sticks with me most is spending a few days in Rothenburg ob der Tauber between matches. Even in those pre-blogging days, I was sufficiently interested in beer to want to try as many as possible, whereas my main travelling companion was a fan of “normal lager, like normal people drink”.
We camped out in the back room of a café that specialised in Flammkuchen to watch all three of the day’s matches, while the staff brought us pint after pint of Ochsenfurter Kauzenbrau, which I found remarkably delicious. Unfortunately, as my friend did the ordering, I have no idea which one of their range it was (“I just ordered normal beer”). I drank at least six pints, way more than usual — it was just impossible to stop. Serious nectar-of-the-Gods territory, with a deep malt flavour that I sometimes think I can still taste. They were three very memorable matches, too, particularly the Czech Republic vs USA, made even more enjoyable by the banter with three Americans on the table in front of us.
The disappointing postscript to this is that, on a subsequent trip to Franconia, I dragged Bailey round every pub we could in and around Rothenburg until we found the legendary brew that I’d been banging on about. It turned out to be…OK. Possibly my biggest ever beer let down, and more evidence, perhaps, of “the time, the place”.
Other beery highlights from the world cup include watching a Germany match in the Englischer Garten in Munich, where the efficient German machine managed to serve more than 3000 litres during half time.
The other day, we asked if there was a beer equivalent of Hay-on-Wye and, pondering the responses, we began to wonder if our question was the right one.
Steve Lamond suggested York as a candidate. One of the things we love about York is that, unlike most British towns and cities, it has a bona fide walled Altstadt, within which, crucially, most of its good beer is easy to find on foot, with no need for trams, buses or trains, or worrying walks through industrial estates. So, yes, York could be a British Bamberg, if not a Hay-on-Wye.
Of course, another thing that defines Bamberg is just how dominated the landscape is by brewing: Weyermann’s maltings loom on the skyline and the air is filled with the smell of brewing. We were reminded of this on arriving in St Austell on Thursday, getting off the train to be struck by an almost overpowering smell of stewed hops and sweet wort on the wind. The brewery building sits on a hill overlooking the town taking a place which, in other towns, would be occupied by a Norman castle.
It might only have one brewery, and scarcely any pubs of note, but it is a beer town through and through.
The St Austell visitor centre bar is the best place in Cornwall to get a wide range of their beers in good condition (but still no Black Prince mild). We enjoyed Raspberry Porter, brewed by Roger Ryman on his small experimental kit, and reminiscent of the fruit beers from Saltaire.
We haven’t taken part in the session for a couple of years, mostly because we found ourselves struggling to fit in an opportunity to, e.g., drink a particular type of beer before it rolled around.
Anyway, it’s time to get back in the saddle so here we are again to talk about the art of beer labels, caps and coasters, for this month’s session hosted by HopHeadSaid.
We have a particular interest in commercial design and illustration and when it relates to beer, all the better. We’ve posted about it on more than one occasion and have been really enjoying this excellent blog about beer branding recently.
The image above is one of our favourite bits of beer-related design and, perhaps not so coincidentally, comes from one of our favourite breweries.
What’s not to like? There’s sans serif typography (we have some sympathy with the Helvetica nerds), a simple colour scheme reflecting the flag of Franconia and an equally simple graphic. All of this reminds us vividly of their pub in Nuremberg and their beers, all of which are also simple, unpretentious and clean.
You’ll note that the image above is a bit rough. It needed some restoration because this beermat, along with a stack of others from Germany, the Czech Republic and Belgium, lives in our kitchen and gets used every day. It’s a little bit of Nuremberg we can enjoy every day. As a result, it is covered in beer stains.
Mind you, that Satan cap art isn’t bad either, and nor are the twin labels for the Brooklyn/Schneider collaborations.
Last year, we met up with Ron Pattinson in Cask and spent a few hours discussing Franconia, East Germany and His Big Book. Ron spotted Schlenkerla Helles in the fridge and recommended it.
We’d not tried it before and loved it. There is no smoked malt in the beer but, being brewed in the same building and with the same equipment as their darker smoked beers, it can’t help but pick up a bit of smokiness.
We never got round to writing this up and, in the months since then, we haven’t seen it on sale in Cask. Our favourite London pub has recently, however, even further expanded it’s beer selection and the Helles has popped up again so were able to enjoy a couple of bottles this week.
In fact, if you’re a fan of Rauchbier, Cask now has several different varieties on offer, in addition to the usual suspects from Schlenkerla.