Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What's Brewing

was the title of a beer workshop Freiburg's Carl-Schurz-Haus had organized last week. Red Baron had registered early and was later asked whether he intended to show up. The reason was that the workshop was overbooked, so the director of the Carl-Schurz-Haus eventually decided to organize an additional one.

In earlier blogs, I had lamented about the dullness of German beer and later described some highly welcome craft beer startups in Germany. To a certain extent, the workshop was a continuation of my beer tasting in April 2012 at Toni's place and of a pub crawl in Madison at the beginning of September 2013 when an over-hopped Hopalicious beer had numbed my taste buds for hours.

At the What's Brewing Workshop, our masters of ceremony were two beer experts, one from Belgium and one from California. The following graphic shows the fantastic world of beers. Even if you cannot read the names, the diversity of brewing is impressive.

On the menu, our sommeliers had put eight different kinds of beer. Their tasting was accompanied by scientific and historical comments and video clips. In the end, one participant had lined up one can and seven bottles for a photo shooting.

Here comes a short description of the beers we tasted. We started with a traditional American Blue Ribbon Beer. It reads: This is the original Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Nature's choicest products provide its prized flavor. Only the finest of hops and grains are used. Selected as America's Best in 1893.

Next came an Anchor Steam Beer from San Francisco, a beer first brewed at the Anchor Brewery in 1896.

We continued with a Liberty Ale also produced by the Anchor Brewing Company, an Indian pale ale (IPA) first brewed in 1975 commemorating the American Revolution 200 years earlier.

The Post Road Pumpkin Ale was next. It is brewed by the Brooklyn Brewery. The ale was already celebrated in 1643 with the first American folk song: For we can make liquor, to sweeten our lips, of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.

The Schneider Weisse Tap 5 for me was a perversity. Wheat beers are typical summer drinks like the Berliner Wei├če or the Bavarian Weizenbier. If you do not like the alcohol, there are alcohol-free varieties for hikers and bikers who, rather like Weizenbier, as a refreshing isotonic drink, replenishing lost minerals in their body.

There is a distinct difference in taste between a normal and an alcohol-free wheat beer: alcohol surely serves as a flavor enhancer. However, when I took a sip of the Schneider Weisse Tap 5, I tasted alcohol only. Once the famous physicists Isidor Isaac Rabi had asked the pertinent question: Who ordered that muon? Because that elementary particle is not needed to create the world we live in. Let me add here: Who ordered that Schneider Weisse Tap 5 with its alcohol content of 8.2%?

Red Baron studying a label (©Carl-Schurz-Haus)
Black Chocolate Stout from 1999 brewed by the Brooklyn Brewery contains caramel, and as the beer hunter Michael Jackson once stated: The ultimate dessert beer. This stout tastes like Sacher Torte, the dark chocolate and apricot cake of Vienna.

The next one was an Original Ritterguts Gose. A gose is a top-fermented beer and in its early form conforms to the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot (purity law) of 1516: To any beer, no more ingredients than barley, hop, and water shall be taken and used. In my blog from 2011, I remarked that they had forgotten the yeast. Well, what is common today was not known in the primitive days of beer brewing. The prepared mash tun was left open to the surrounding air until (mostly) lactose bacteria started the fermentation, eventually leading to a beer with a sour taste. Nowadays, a controlled mixture of beer yeast and lactose bacteria is added to the mash resulting in a gose of consistent quality. As you may imagine, a gose tastes a little sour and was particularly appreciated by Wolfgang Goethe when he was a student at Leipzig University.

The word gose comes from the town of Goslar where the beer was first documented. Gose is not to be confused with the Belgian geuze, where the name instead refers to the carbon dioxide gas.

The highlight of the evening was the Black Sheep IPA 2014, a beer unlike the rest of the flock. We read on their website the following expertise: Our Black Sheep IPA is what you get when four brewers from three different continents collaborate and hit the beer scene in Freiburg. It has an abv of 6.9%, yet it is dangerously smooth. Amarillo and Simcoe hops give our beer an explosion of flowery and citrus aroma, backed by a spicy finish that leaves you longing for another sip. The Black Sheep IPA is the first craft beer from Freiburg, it is brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot with color, aroma, and taste all it's own. It is massively hopped, unabashedly bold, and uniquely refreshing.

Thanks to our sommeliers, I learned a lot about beers I did not know before. Tomorrow I shall be in Munich putting my newly acquired knowledge into practice.

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