The Session #19 – German beer

The cap from a bottle of Rothaus Tanen Zapfle
The cap from a bottle of Rothaus Tannen-Zaepfle beer

This month’s Session has been set by Lootcorp 3.0 and is on the subject of German beer.

…the goal is to dig a little deeper and write about how German beers and beer culture have worked their way into your life (and hearts)…

We’ve already blogged about this — our conversion to good beer took place in Germany, so it’s a pretty key part of our beer-drinking lives. We try to go there at least once a year, and I’ve even started learning German so I can have all those fascinating conversations with Franconian brewers about their mashing schedules.

It’s a bit easier to get a regular dose of German beer culture in London, now that Zeitgeist has opened up. So to celebrate this month’s session, so we popped along there.

Zeitgeist is aimed at homesick Germans, so the beer list reflects what Germans actually drink. Therefore most of what’s on offer is the usual mass-produced, nationally available lagers — Bitburger, Warsteiner, Koenig Pils etc. In a shrewd move, reflecting the tendency of Germans to boast about their local beer, they also offer a number of big “regionals” – eg Gaffel Koelsch (on tap), Schloesser Alt and Tannen-Zaepfle, by the Baden-Wuerttenberg state-owned brewery.

Last night, we had a little virtual tour round Germany. We started in the former DDR, with Wernesgruener, before moving to the far north-east west for some Jever (seriously cheesy website, BTW). I don’t think we’ve actually blogged about this before, which is surprising, given how much we drink it. There’s just something about its bitter kick that makes us come back for more. Tastes a bit like hay, in a good way.

Gaffel Koelsch went down well. While it’s not our favourite koelsch, we prefer drinking this one fresh out of the barrel than drinking a tired bottle of a better one. It’s always refreshing, and drinking it next to Wernesgruener and Jever brings out the malty, fruity flavours.

Then down to Baden-Wuerttenburg, where we sampled Eichbaum and Rothaus Tannen-Zaepfle. The Eichbaum was pretty dull (too much hopfenekstrakt and no hops?) and the TZ was OK. When we were on holiday in Heidelberg, we drank it there and noted that it’s a lot fruitier than other pils. It’s drinkable enough, but really not terribly exciting, unless you’re from the area and feeling homesick.

Finally, into Bavaria for Schlenkerla Maerzen. Mmmmm. Frazzles and fruit. Does it for me every time.

Boak

Marketing beer to geeks

The latest issue of WiredWired magazine has several full page advertisements for upmarket beer in its current issue, including Michelob’s range of fancy beers (maerzen, wheat, pale ale and porter).

This, coupled with their recent coverage of the hop shortage, suggests that the marketing men, at least, perceive a link between geekiness and the appreciation of beers other than American light lagers.

The Michelob ad is interesting. It talks about the particular malts used (with pictures) and explains how they’re responsible for the colour and flavour of the beer. In other words, they announce that beer, just like computers, music, TV, film and collecting plastic action figures, is something you can be geeky about.

They’re not advertising to beer geeks — they’re trying to create new ones loyal to their brand.

Is beer a luxury, or a right?

This post over at Appellation Beer made us think again about beer’s status in the world.

A lot of people see it as a basic right in life. They get annoyed when it’s taxed and/or the price goes up.

Unfortunately, it’s a heavily processed product. Yes, beer is a processed food. And like all processed food, it is very energy intensive. Think about the energy used in growing barley; malting the barley; mashing the barley; throwing most of it away and boiling the remaining liquid; chilling the remaining liquid; moving, storing and distributing the the finished product, sometimes to the opposite side of the world.

And then, nature takes a funny turn for a year or two, malt and hops go up in price, and we suddenly find that what once we drank as a cheap alternative to clean water has become an expensive luxury.

So, beer really ought to be expensive, and we probably ought to consume it more thoughtfully.

What options do the brewers and distributors have for keeping the price down? Reducing the quality, for one. Or squeezing the people in the supply chain, as in this depressing tale from Tyson.

Personally, we’d rather pay a fiver for our pint than damage the planet, or people’s livelihoods. Is that what it’s going to come to?

For a lot more on related topics, from a more learned writer than us, see Chris O’Brien’s Beer Activist blog.

Bailey