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.