Beer heroes of the month (May) – Landbierparadies, Nuremberg, Germany

A litre krug from landbierparadiesThe first of a monthy series where we honour those who have gone the extra mile to promote good, interesting beer.

This month – Landbierparadies, Nuremberg, Germany. I came across this while researching pubs and breweries for our recent trip to Bavaria.

Landbierparadies is a company that showcases beer from small breweries in Franconia. I don’t read much German, but they proudly announce (in the “Uber uns” section) that they are not just a large off-licence and pub chain – they are “eine Philosophie in Bier”. They deplore the trend towards homogenous beers produced by large companies, and instead provide an outlet for the hundreds of small village breweries that can be found around Nuremburg, Bamburg and Bayreuth.

We went to the shop first – an enormous warehouse with at least fifty types of local beer, none of which we had ever heard of. We almost despaired – we were due to travel home the next day, and I’m not sure one lifetime would be enough to try everything there, let alone one night. Still, in the knowledge we’d be going to one of their pubs, we settled for a couple of litre krugs as a souvenir. (NB – this was the best place we found to buy krugs and glasses – a fantastic selection from various local breweries, priced very reasonably).

Krugs safely back in the hotel, we then went out to one of their five pubs – we found that the one on Rothenburger Strasse was the easiest to get to on foot from the town centre. The surrounding area was not the most attractive, and the pub was rather quiet – but this could have been because FC Nuremberg were playing in the German cup semi-finals that night and the pub didn’t have a telly.

We were blown away by the choice of beer – they had one on tap, and over 30 in bottles. I’m not sure where the one on tap came from – it was just called “Landbier vom Holzfass”, which my primitive German dictionary translates as “Country beer from a wooden barrel”. Incidentally, according to the German Beer Institute, Landbier is “general term denoting a simple everyday session or quaffing brew”, with few other specific characteristics. All the “Landbiers” we found in Germany were unfiltered, and we wondered whether “Landbier” was the German equivalent of “real ale” – it seems to be in sentiment if not strict definition.

Anyway, this particular variety was very “ale-like” (i.e. did not taste like a lager) and was very refreshing.

We then moved on to the bottles. We had six different types in total; what was interesting was that they all tasted very different. Most were amazing, but a couple were not very nice at all – but after a couple of weeks of fairly similar German lagers, we could take the occasional duff one in return for the fabulous variety. (Again, the parallel with “real ale” in the UK – some of it tastes foul, but I’d rather have the variety any day.)

The beers we particularly liked were;

  • “Schluekla”, a smoked beer from Brauerei Saurer in Gunzendorf – this was a much more subtle smoked beer than the more famous “Schlenkerla” of Bamberg. It didn’t smell of bacon, like some smoked beers I’ve tried, but had a lovely smoky aftertaste. It also tasted very malty, i.e. you could taste other malts other than the smoked element.
  • “Dunkles Vollbier” from Brauerei Drummer in Leutenbach – served in a “Buegelflashe” ( a swing-top bottle). This was fabulous – it had an amazing burnt sugar / candyfloss aroma with a roasted, slightly smoked malt taste. There was a great balance between sweetness and bitterness.
  • “Dunkles Vollbier” from Brauerei Penning in Hetzelsdorf – roasty, smoky with a bitter aftertaste. Tasted a lot like a dark ale or porter, due to the lack of carbonation and the bitterness
  • “Schwarze Anna” from Neder-Brauerei in Forchheim – a dark beer that, once warmed up a little, tasted a little smoky with a hint of coffee.

Good effort, chaps. Well done.

Info

From the Landbierparadies homepage, “Laden” will take you to details about their shop, and “”Wirtshauser” lists the pubs by address.

The Franconian beer guide is an extremely useful website which lists breweries and pubs in Franconia. It lists all the producers of the beers mentioned above, plus many more, with advice on how to get there by public transport. It also has some “road trip” articles to inspire you…

Boak

A German Beer Trail: New York Times

The cathedral in Cologne, home of KoelschThe New York Times travel section has a fantastic piece on German beer culture. German beer is fantastic – almost invariably – but it can be frustrating to go to cities hundreds of miles apart and find that the menus have the same four styles: helles, pils, dunkel and wheat beer. Where have all the local speciality styles gone, asks Evan Rail?

“It happened very quickly,” said Ron Pattinson, whose European Beer Guide lists many obsolete and rare German beers, including broyhan from Hannover, mumme from Braunschweig and keut from Münster. “The older styles were overwhelmed, and what we’ve got left are just the odd remnants of beers. It’s like a landscape that has been swamped, and you can just make out the odd tree and hilltop.”

Rail hunts down the remnants of local German beer styles, including Leipzig’s Gose:

The Gose was amazing, with a mild taste of salt immediately noticeable in its thick, mousse-like head. Its body was light and slightly spicy followed by a remarkably bright finish, more crisp than the most crisp riesling, sharper than the sharpest Chablis, and a better match for tricky citrus and vinaigrette than any wine I’d ever encountered.

Now that’s what I call writing.

A German Beer Trail: Searching for Local Brews – Travel – New York Times

Light Lithuanian Lagers – face-off round 1

We’ve enjoyed Svyturys a lot in the past, and were wondering whether any of the other Lithuanian lagers that are often available in London cornershops would prove equally enjoyable.

utenos.jpgSo we popped into our local store and picked up some Kalnapilis (Original) and some Utenos. These were both ostensibly “Muenchner Hell” types, i.e. light lagers. (NB – both these breweries do pilsners and, more interestingly, baltic porters, but these are less readily available. Will do a taste test one day).

Kalnapilis had the prouder boasts (“finest Saaz hops”) etc but it was Utenos that won the day – quite a hoppy taste for a light lager, and very smooth and easy to drink. The Kalnapilis, if it tasted of anything at all, was rather sweet.

The websites for these beers do not fill the real ale / craft beer lover with joy – both are proudly boasting their “Ice” brand – boasting an even milder version of their current products. And I’m sorry, but counting the tinned version of your brew as a different product from the bottle (when both are pasteurised) just doesn’t convince…

Next round – Svyturys v Utenos… then we can move away from light lagers and tackle the heavy stuff.

Boak

P.S. the Lithuanian word for beer is “alus”. Presumably some sign of the old Indo-European roots of our word “ale”?

American Craft Beer Week

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The gentlemen at Hop Talk have kindly reminded us that it’s American Craft Beer Week.

This set me thinking about (a) how much I’d like to be able to get hold of more American beer in the UK and (b) what a nice term “craft beer” is.

There’s something a bit sanctimonious about the term “real ale”. And it’s also a very vague term – you need to know a lot more to understand what qualifies a beer as “real”. “Craft beer”, on the otherhand, is a quieter term, and also tells you something specific about the beers it’s applied to – that they’re “crafted”. In other words, some care has gone into their design and manufacture.

I’m not bothered, especially, whether my beer comes from a cask; whether it’s bottle-conditioned; or even whether it’s ale.

All I ask is that it shows evidence of someone having thought about it, tasted it, and changed the recipe to make it taste nice or at least taste interesting. I’ve had plenty of “real ale” which didn’t have much craft in it (a load of pale malt, a ton of fuggles hops, hand-drawn label) and some which was, as a result, barely drinkable. Equally, I’ve had beers from very big breweries which indicate that someone, somewhere in the organisation, still cares about their craft.