Lederhosen in Lidl, Beer for Breakfast: Some Reflections on Munich

We’ve been to Munich several times, but rarely for more than a couple of days, and not often together.

This time we went with the spe­cif­ic inten­tion of real­ly being in Munich – not jump­ing on trains to oth­er near­by towns, or rac­ing from one beer des­ti­na­tion to anoth­er in pur­suit of ticks and tro­phies.

We began by find­ing accom­mo­da­tion in the sub­urbs, part­ly to save mon­ey, but also because the best times we’ve had on recent trips abroad have been beyond the imme­di­ate cen­tres of cities.

The neigh­bour­hood we end­ed up in was one where peo­ple live, walk their dogs, drowse on bench­es, smoke behind school bike sheds, and use ten-foot plas­tic pluck­ers to pick plums. The hous­es were post-war but con­ser­v­a­tive (Bavaria is not a hotbed of mod­ernism) with con­crete lions on their gateposts and plas­tic elves in their flowerbeds.

Every cor­ner had a polit­i­cal poster or two: BAVARIAN PARTYCHOOSE FREEDOM! ÖDPYOUNG, AND FIERCELY ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS! The only AFD posters we saw in our part of town had been either torn down or van­dalised, the can­di­dates giv­en square black mous­tach­es with swipes of mark­er pens.

We drank our first beer in Munich at a pub-restau­rant above the tube sta­tion, on the main road into town, as rain ham­mered the para­sols in the emp­ty beer gar­den.

Ayinger Helles beer.

Ayinger Helles isn’t from Munich, it’s from Aying, and after a twelve-hour train trip, tast­ed great.

The pub was some­how both a bit too posh (table­cloths and orna­ments) and noth­ing spe­cial – limp sal­ad, ser­vice on the SCREW YOU! end of brusque – but the beer was served with all due cer­e­mo­ny. The glass, a sim­ple Willibech­er, was so clean it sang at the touch of a fin­ger, and had plen­ty of room for a crown of foam.

Look at the room through the beer and every­thing seems clear­er than with­out. It cer­tain­ly looks warmer.

A touch sweet, a touch of corn, almost watery, and yet… Yes, anoth­er, please.

After all, as every­one knows, sev­er­al thin coats rather than one thick leads to a more even, con­sis­tent fin­ish.

A good start.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Leder­ho­sen in Lidl, Beer for Break­fast: Some Reflec­tions on Munich”

The First British Attempt at German-style Wheat Beer

Vaux Brewery logo

In 1988 a new German-style wheat beer was launched on the British market – the first, its brewers claimed, brewed in the UK.

This post fol­lows on from our con­tri­bu­tion to the Ses­sion back at the start of July in which we were frus­trat­ed in our attempts to pin down when Samuel Smith start­ed brew­ing Ayinger wheat beer under licence.

As it hap­pens, the August 1988 edi­tion of CAMRA’s month­ly news­pa­per What’s Brew­ing con­tains two arti­cles use­ful for pin­ning this down:

  1. A dou­ble-page pro­file of Samuel Smith and its head brew­er by Bri­an Glover.
  2. A back-page splash head­lined FIRST BRITISH WHEAT BEER!

The for­mer lists all of the Ayinger-brand­ed beers then in pro­duc­tion at Smith’s from D Pils to VSL (very strong lager, we think, at about 8% ABV) but does not men­tion a wheat beer.

The lat­ter tells us that Britain’s first Ger­man-style wheat beer was brewed in… Sheffield. It was brand­ed as Vaux Weizen­bier but brewed at a Vaux sub­sidiary, Ward’s.

Vaux beermat.

The oper­a­tions direc­tor at Sun­der­land, Stu­art Wil­son, explained the think­ing behind this remark­able first:

We have not­ed the pop­u­lar­i­ty of wheat beers in West Ger­many and in the USA. Wheat beers are 15% of the Bavar­i­an beer mar­ket. So with the increas­ing inter­est in spe­cial­i­ty beers, we have decid­ed to brew this clas­sic style.

The arti­cle tells us that the beer had an ABV of 5% and was served on draught from “ornate ceram­ic founts” in elab­o­rate brand­ed glass­es, with slices of lemon avail­able “for those who pre­fer to com­plete the Bavar­i­an pic­ture”. Odd­ly, per­haps, it was fil­tered and pre­sent­ed clear – cloudy beer being per­haps a step too far for British drinkers in 1988?

Michael ‘The Beer Hunter’ Jack­son blurbed the new prod­uct: “[It has] a clean, light­ly fruity palate.”

In a fol­low-up piece for The Times on 11 May 1991 Mr Glover was still cred­it­ing Vaux with launch­ing the first UK-brewed Ger­man wheat beer (mean­ing nobody came for­ward to prove oth­er­wise) and stat­ed that there had been no oth­ers since.

But by 1994 Roger Protz was report­ing in the Observ­er (29 May) that Vaux had begun import­ing Spat­en wheat beers, with no men­tion of their own-label prod­uct.

So, there you go: Sam Smith didn’t get into the wheat beer game until the 1990s, and any­one Googling ‘first British wheat beer’ now has a plau­si­ble answer. (Unless any­one out there knows oth­er­wise.)

Timeline

  • 1988 Vaux brews the first British take on Ger­man-style wheat beer
  • 1988 Hoe­gaar­den hits UK mar­ket
  • 1991 Tay­lor Walk­er begins sell­ing Löwen­bräu across its estate
  • 1993 Hoe­gaar­den in Whit­bread pubs
  • 1994 Alas­tair Hook begins import­ing Ger­man wheat beers to the UK
  • 1994 wheat beer fes­ti­val at the White Horse organ­ised by Hook and Mark Dor­ber
  • 1994 con­ti­nen­tal wheat beers in UK super­mar­kets

Session #137: “Banana Beer”

This is our con­tri­bu­tion to Ses­sion #137 host­ed by Roger at Roger’s Beers.

Our introduction to German wheat beer happened long before we were interested in beer and before we’d ever thought of going to Bavaria.

It was at the Fitzroy, a Samuel Smith pub in cen­tral Lon­don, in about 2001, where the house draught wheat beer was a ver­sion of Ayinger brewed under licence in Tad­cast­er, North York­shire.

We had encoun­tered Hoe­gaar­den by this point – it was ubiq­ui­tous in Lon­don at around the turn of the cen­tu­ry – but hadn’t con­sid­ered order­ing any oth­er wheat beer until a friend urged us to try Ayinger. “I call it banana beer,” they said, “because it tastes like puréed banana.”

At first we didn’t quite get it. To us, it tast­ed like beer. Weird, soupy, sweet beer. So we had a few until we under­stood what he meant. And yes, there it was – the stink of black­ened bananas left too long in the bowl. “It gives you ter­ri­ble hang­overs, though,” he added, a lit­tle too late to save us. We couldn’t think of it for a year or two after that ses­sion with­out feel­ing a lit­tle over­ripe our­selves.

Pin­ning down any­thing relat­ing to the his­to­ry of Samuel Smith beers is trick­i­er than it ought to be but, in the absence of firm evi­dence, we reck­on it’s a safe guess that they start­ed brew­ing Weizen in the 1990s, dur­ing or after the brief craze for wheat beer among the British beer cognoscen­ti (Hook, Dor­ber et al) dur­ing 1994–95. (As always, sol­id intel prov­ing oth­er­wise is very wel­come.)

Sam Smith’s take might not have had the cool of a gen­uine import – the hip kids raved about Schnei­der – but it had the advan­tage of being both acces­si­ble and acces­si­bly priced, and we can’t help but won­der how many oth­er British beer geeks were first intro­duced to Ger­man wheat beer this way.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 12 May 2018: Bass, Bavaria, Bambini

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from the masculinity of beer to the fascination of Bass.

Dea Latis, an indus­try group ded­i­cat­ed to pro­mot­ing beer to women, and chal­leng­ing the idea that beer is a male pre­serve. It com­mis­sioned a study from YouGov into women’s atti­tudes to beer which is sum­marised here, with a link to the full report:

Beer Som­me­li­er and Dea Latis direc­tor Annabel Smith said: “We know that the beer cat­e­go­ry has seen mas­sive progress in the last decade – you only need to look at the wide vari­ety of styles and flavours which weren’t avail­able wide­ly in the UK ten years ago. Yet it appears the female con­sumer either hasn’t come on the same jour­ney, or the beer indus­try just isn’t address­ing their female audi­ence ade­quate­ly. Overt­ly mas­cu­line adver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion of beer has been large­ly absent from media chan­nels for a num­ber of years but there is a lot of his­to­ry to unrav­el. Women still per­ceive beer brand­ing is tar­get­ed at men.”

We’ve already linked to this once this week but why not a sec­ond time? It’s a sub­stan­tial bit of work, after all.

There’s some inter­est­ing com­men­tary on this, too, from Kirst Walk­er, who says: “If we want more women in the beer club, we have to sweep up the crap from the floors and admit that flow­ers are nice and it pays not to smell of horse piss. How’s that for a man­i­festo?”


Bass Pale Ale mirror, Plymouth.

Ian Thur­man, AKA @thewickingman, was born and brought up in Bur­ton-upon-Trent and has a lin­ger­ing affec­tion for Bass. He has writ­ten a long reflec­tion on this famous beer’s rise and fall accom­pa­nied by a crowd-sourced direc­to­ry of pubs where it is always avail­able:

It’s dif­fi­cult for me to be unemo­tion­al about Draught Bass. It was part of grow­ing up in Bur­ton. But what are the facts.

The EU AB InBev careers’ web­site accu­rate­ly describes the rel­a­tive impor­tance of their brands to the com­pa­ny.

The UK has a strong port­fo­lio of AB InBev brands. This includes, glob­al brands, Stel­la Artois and Bud­weis­er, inter­na­tion­al brands, Beck’s, Leffe and Hoe­gaar­den, as well as local brands, includ­ing Bod­ding­tons and Bass.”

We’re fas­ci­nat­ed by the re-emer­gence of the Cult of Bass as a sym­bol of a cer­tain con­ser­v­a­tive atti­tude to pubs and beer. You might regard this arti­cle as its man­i­festo.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 12 May 2018: Bass, Bavaria, Bam­bi­ni”

Session #134: Zum Biergarten

For the 134th edi­tion of The Ses­sion, in which beer blog­gers around the world write on the same top­ic, Tom Cizauskas has asked us to think about beer gar­dens.

A good beer garden is a kind of fairy tale that allows you to wallow in summer, and to imagine yourself above or outside the modern world.

We first became aware of how mag­i­cal a Ger­man beer gar­den could be after Jes­si­ca went to the World Cup in 2006 and came back in love with the Englis­ch­er Garten in Munich where she saw thou­sands of foot­ball fans served litre after litre of Helles with unruf­fled effi­cien­cy.

A sunny beer garden.

When we think of Ger­many, we think of beer gar­dens: the high alti­tude majesty of the gar­den at the top of the Staffel­berg; the back­up gar­den of Würzburg­er Hof­bräu we found by acci­dent, which feels as if it’s deep in a for­est despite the ring road on the oth­er side of the hedge; or the river­side idyll of the Spi­tal­brauerei in Regens­burg where this blog was born.

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