Tag Archives: Schwarzbier

Wot no gose?

Statue of JS Bach outside the Thomaskirche, Leipzig
Statue of JS Bach outside the Thomaskirche, Leipzig

Leipzig is blessed with yet another excellent brewpub, the Brauhaus an der Thomaskirche, right in the middle of town. When we went, they were offering a pils, a Rauchbier and a “Spezial” schwarz.

The Spezial reminded us of Sam Smith’s Oatmeal stout — goopy and warming and definitely not one of those thin German schwarzbiers. The Rauchbier was outstanding — straight out of Franconia, with its balanced malt and smoke mix. So nice that we had another, instead of trying the pils.

The Brauhaus was doing a roaring trade both on premises and in their takeaway service, and it was good to see how popular the Rauchbier was. Perhaps there’s hope for diversity in German brewing after all. Now if only they would try their hand at a Gose as well…

Brauhaus an der Thomaskirche is next to the Thomaskirche (surprisingly), where JS Bach composed hundreds of works. The pub is also an Italian restaurant.

Wuerzburg part 2 – Wuerzburger Hofbrau

Wuerzburger Hofbrau dominate the town. Their logo is all over the place, and is one of the first things you see when you get out of the station. They also have three beers in Michael Jackson’s “Great Beer Guide” (aka The 500).

Their Ausschank is over the river, on the Marienburg side, in an enormous beer garden. The pub and garden combined probably has the capacity for several thousand people.

We wonder whether Michael Jackson may have been (overly) influenced by the wonderful surroundings, because although his selections from the Wuerzburger offerings are very nice, they’re not that special, in our humble opinion. For example, the Schwarzbier was better than say, Koestritzer, but still tasted mostly like fizzy watered-down treacle. The dunkleweiss was also not that exciting – rather sweet and unbalanced.

However, there are loads of other offerings at the Ausschank. The Zwickl lives up to potential, being a nice fruity, partially cloudy lager. It’s refreshing, with a long aftertaste. And once again, the pils did well – it’s very bitter and aromatic. It’s nice having all these great pils – it can be such a boring style.

Finally, we had “Werner Alt-Fraenkischer Dunkel”. Werner were taken over by Wuerburger in 1999, according to their website. This was a luvverly drop, toasty, nutty and ale-like.

All in all, worth the walk as it’s a delightful beer garden with lovely beer.

PS – if you’re going from Heidelberg to Wuerzburg, you can do it for just eight euros by getting a couple of local trains and going via Osterburken. It only takes a little longer than going via Frankfurt, and is 36 euros cheaper, plus it goes up the Neckar valley and is much more picturesque. Just thought this information should be somewhere on the web in English.

Baltic Porters again

A little while ago, we wrote about a handful of Baltic porters we’d been able to get our grubby hands on. After much hunting and hoarding, plus a generous gift, we’ve got enough together for a second round.

D. Carnegie & Co Stark Porter (Sweden)

The label boasts that this was first brewed in 1836 and is still brewed to the same recipe, although now by Carlsberg Sweden. Michael Jackson penned an article over 10 years ago about the brewery’s founder, a Scot, which you can find here.

Once again though, for us this was a case of the history being more interesting than the beer. It’s a lovely opaque black, with a pillowy head. There’s a hint of coffee in the aroma, but not much else. The initial gulp is lovely — milk-chocolate and coffee flavours, some wine-like fruit and a good bitter kick at the end — but then it’s gone. What aftertaste is left is a bit like Marmite.

It’s pleasant enough and reminded us of Sam Smith’s Oatmeal stout. It’s definitely got a heavy stout-like body. It tastes stronger than it is (it’s “only” 5.5%).

Baltika no 6 “Porter” (Russia)

We’ve been looking for this little beauty for ages, ruthlessly scouring every new Russian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian shop to open in our manor. Finally, a new Lithuanian shop called “Tradicia” at the bottom of Walthamstow Market was able to deliver. [The shop has lots of other goodies too, which may fuel a blog post or two…]

It was worth the wait. It too is inky-black with a slightly off-white head. It has an oily, slightly bubbly texture, definitely lighter than the Carnegie. The aroma reminded me of creme caramel.

As for the taste, there’s a huge explosion of roasted malt, biscuits and molasses. It’s rich without being sickly sweet, and has a fruity aftertaste (cherry?) that lingers. It slips down way too easily for 7%.

I think this is what we were after when we went looking for a Baltic porter. Something where the English stout influence is clear, but that has evolved into something else. All the publicity says that this is brewed to a traditional English recipe and is bottom fermented, but there were definitely elements of Schwarzbier in there too.

Pardubicky Porter (Czech Republic)

In response to our first post on Baltic Porters, Evan Rail drew our attention to the tradition of Czech “baltic” porters, telling us that Pardubicky had been the only regular example for a while. Upon hearing that we couldn’t get it in London, he sent us a bottle in the post. Top man. Sorry it’s taken so long to review it…

This is definitely an interesting beast. On their website, this also claims a nineteenth century recipe. It looks great, with a fluffy head, and smells a bit Belgian — candy sugar and booze!

Tastewise, it has a pleasing sourness that the other two didn’t have, as well as notes of molasses and port. At 8% it’s also stronger than the other two. Overall we probably preferred the Baltika, but this one’s definitely worth trying, and also delivers the right mix of the familiar and the exotic…

Boak

Krusovice schwarzbier

krusovice.jpg Last night, I really wanted to drink a beer I hadn’t tried before, so I rummaged about in the “cellar” (garage) and found a bottle of Czech Krusovice  schwarzbier someone had left after a party.

It’s a very gentle 3.8% (perfect for a school night). In the glass, as you can see from the photo, it was very dark, but still transparent, with a nice off-white head. The taste, however, was disappointing at first.

I’m one of those suckers who expects dark beer to taste stronger than lighter coloured beers — even though I’ve done blind taste tests on glasses of helles and dunkel and not been able to tell the difference! This beer was very light bodied and lightly flavoured, despite its colour.

After the initial let down, though, I decided this beer was in the subtle category, rather than being bland. Or perhaps “mild” is the right word because, yes, this looked and tasted not unlike a dark English mild. Not much in the way of hop flavour, aroma or bitterness — just some sweet, chocolate-like malt and a refreshing wateriness. I know wateriness is not something people generally praise in a beer, but I don’t always want goop.

With hindsight, I wish I’d drunk it with a desert, or perhaps just with a juicy orange, rather than a big salty pizza, which might have brought out some bitterness, but I enjoyed it anyway. Worth a go if you see it about.

Baltic mild? Ochakovo premium dark (light)

We thought we might have discovered a new beer style yesterday – one not covered by the Great American Beer Festivals 75 (75!) categorisations. This style is “Baltic mild” and we discovered it by drinking “Ochakovo premium dark” yesterday.

On our never-ending quest for Baltic porter in London, we had examined a bottle of this in Utobeer (the excellent beer shop in Borough Market, featured in this blog a couple of weeks ago). However, from what we could decipher of the bottle (it’s all in Russian), it didn’t seem like it would be a porter, particularly at 3.9%. So we put it back and went for something else. We may have even madeOchakovo dark premium some unfair assumptions, along the lines of “it’ll only be another tasteless dark lager”.

However, we then went to the Rake bar, Utobeer’s “sister” pub round the corner. What started as a swift half or two rapidly became a session. (A table came free. It was a sign)

We noticed the Ochakovo in there and asked the knowledgeable barman about it. He hadn’t tried it either and wasn’t sure what style it would be. We tried to decipher the label but there were no obvious clues. So we gave it a go.

It looked good – very dark-brown colour with burnt meringue head. The aroma was very tempting too – dark sugar and slight chocolate notes.

As for the taste – it initially tasted strongly of molasses; sweet, but not overly so. It was hardly bitter at all, and not particularly fizzy for a dark lager. The bottle didn’t say whether it was top or bottom fermented, but we assumed bottom. A medium-full body – pretty good for something that’s only 3.9%. It was very drinkable – could definitely have drunk a lot more of these.

The seemingly-contradictory “light” reference in the title comes from the Russian description on the label and is presumably a reference to its “weak” strength. At the risk of making gross generalisations, it’s rare to find good Eastern European beers under 5% (at least in the UK), and certainly rare to find one this tasty.

So: dark colour, weak strength, low bitterness, strong malt flavour, probably lagered – ladies and gentlemen, I give you Baltic Mild.

Of course, on sober reflection the next day, I think this probably falls fairly and squarely into the category of “Schwarzbier”;

“These very dark brown to black beers have a mild roasted malt character without the associated bitterness. This is not a full-bodied beer, but rather a moderate body gently enhances malt flavor and aroma with low to moderate levels of sweetness. Hop bitterness is low to medium in character. “

But if the good folks behind the Great American Beer Festival can define a new style on the basis of one or two beers, then so can I.

Boak

Notes

  1. The Rake is at 14 Winchester Walk, London SE1 9AG (near London Bridge). It’s an excellent but tiny pub / bar, set up by the people at Utobeer. They have around 10 beers on taps, in different styles, and probably a hundred in bottles. Friendly staff too. Beers cost around £3 – £3.50 a bottle. They do not appear to have a website, hence no link – will happily add one if someone can provide!
  2. Internet searches have revealed that Ochakovo are based in Moscow and are one of Russia’s biggest beer producers, but exports so far seem to be limited to the ex-Soviet Union. Haven’t had any of their other stuff, but I note that they were experimenting with an unfiltered, unpasteurised beer that lasts no more than 14 days. So perhaps we can add Baltic “real” ale / lager to the list too? You can currently get Ochakovo premium dark from Utobeer and the Rake bar, together with another pale beer they do.
  3. The beer classifications comes from the Great American Beer Festival’s listing, which I found here. There was a good debate on Lew Bryson’s blog (Seen through a Glass) about the US v UK approach to categorising beer. Personally, I’m not too bothered about styles when I’m drinking beer, but I find it useful to read about more detailed classification systems when trying to brew the stuff.