Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Beer Tasting

During the past week Toni's place on Freiburg's Münsterplatz celebrated its 10th anniversary. On the occasion the Ganter brewery had revived a dark lager as the jubilee beer and Ganter's beer sommelier organized a tasting. My loyal readers may remember my wine marathon last year. This time the stuff to be tasted and tested was beer.

We must face it: the variety of beers brewed in Germany does not correspond to the number of ways bread is baked and sold in my country. You may already have guessed why: the reason is the German Reinheitsgebot, the famous purity regulation first issued in Bavaria (where else?) in 1516, stipulating that only barley malt, hops, and water may be used in the production of beer. However, in olden times beer tasted different even when brewed at the same brewery as the founding fathers had forgotten to codify the yeast. Only later when the fermentation of beer had been fully understood special yeasts for brewing were cultivated and added to subsequent charges assuring a similar taste. Although in Germany adding cherry syrup or caramel as they do in Belgium is not allowed there are still differences in the taste of beer depending on the type of yeast, the temperature, the length of fermentation, and the method and duration of storage before drinking.

The following photo shows the three beers that we as future experts had first to describe and then to identify. No, I am not and I was not drunk: I count four glasses too. The fourth glass, still full on the photo, was offered as a bonus after the hard work and contains the jubilee dark lager beer.
Sommelier Bernd Ruth told us that beer tasting (also called beer sensory) is distinct from wine tasting. 80% of our impression of the taste of beer is determined by the sense of smell whereas only 20% passes through the sense of taste. With wine it is just the other way around. On a tasting form (Verkostungsbogen) we had to note the color, the clearness, the foam, and the smell of the brew. As for the taste when drinking the connoisseur distinguishes between the beginning (Antrunk), the presence (Rezenz, whatever that means in German) and the past (Nachtrunk). This word in everyday German rather has a connotation referring to the practice of some hit-and-run drivers. Following a collision they rush home, open a bottle and drink until the police arrive to prove that they had been sober when they caused the accident.

The first of the tasted beers was easily identified as a Pils. For the second I had some difficulty to recognize it as a Weizenbier (weissbeer) for it had been served much too warm. The third one showing the brown color I got wrong for I had marked it to be the jubilee dark lager beer. It was, however, the Ganter Wodan strong beer that contrary to Bavaria, where such a brew is served during the Lenten season, flows from the tap in Freiburg throughout the year.

The following beers were all on the house but I did not stay on as the following morning I had to catch an early train taking me to my next cultural event in Weimar.

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