Sunday, 21 September 2014

Post-Holiday Goodies

I narrowly avoided an excess baggage charge for this little lot!

Last night I polished off the last of the bottled beers I brought back from my recent visit to Munich. There were 11 of them in total and, as my suitcase was right on the limit for an excess baggage charge, I don’t think I could have brought any more home than that.

Beer is cheap in Germany, but only when purchased from a supermarket. Pub prices are on the whole, similar to what one expects to pay in the UK, and the same applies to much of the rest of Europe, (Scandinavian countries excepted of course!). Beer is also cheap when bought direct from the brewery, and many German breweries, particularly in the more rural areas, sell their beer at the brewery gate – but normally, only by the crate. This is fine if you live locally and have a car, but not much use for visitors relying solely on public transport. Some though are more accommodating, and on a visit to Bamberg, during the depths of winter, I was able to purchase a selection of different bottles from both the Mahrs and the Schlenkerla breweries.

On the recent Munich trip I bought the majority of the bottles from supermarkets, and was pleasantly surprised at managing to find some less common brews amongst the more usual Munich “Big Six” offerings. Beers from Arcobräu, Chiemgauer and Kloster Scheyern are not the sort of brews I would expect to see in a large supermarket, particularly in view of the very localised nature of the German beer market, and the marked conservative attitude of many German drinkers.

The market is obviously changing, but I have to say I quite like the structure of the fragmented German market, and the fact one has to travel to the home town or village in order to sample those beers with a limited or restricted availability. This is a situation which reminds me very much of the UK beer market back in the mid-1970’s, which was when I first became interest in tracking down and sampling different beers.

A localised market is still much in evidence in the Federal Republic; as proved by us having to travel to places like Ettal and Mittenwald in order to sample the beers brewed there.

Anyway, being quite an organised individual (well sometimes), I have got into the habit of making brief tasting notes of  beers I have drunk at home. So for those who like this sort of thing, here are my notes for the goodies I brought back from Munich:

Chiemgauer Brauhaus – Chiemseer Hell 4.8% - A pale golden Helles from Chiemgauer of Rosenheim. Has a slight floral hoppy nose, and is medium bodied, reasonably well-hopped and refreshing. The beer is described as a typical Bavarian Helles, full of character, it is pale gold in colour, easily digested, fresh and pleasantly mild in taste.(Direct translation from German description)

It would be nice to sample this beer on its home turf, over-looking the shores of Lake Chiemsee, a large and picturesque lake, situated roughly halfway between Munich and Salzburg.

Chiemgauer Brauhaus – Braustoff 5.6% - A very pale golden coloured beer, with quite a malty nose. Pours with a nice firm head, and has a pleasant, refreshing taste which belies its 5.6% strength. Another good beer from this south Bavarian based local brewer. It would certainly be good to make that trip to Lake Chiemsee, to sample this one at source.
Ettaler Klosterbrauerei – Kloster Dunkel 5.0% - Dark brown in colour, rather than jet black, this full-bodied Dunkel pours with a nice contrasting white lacy head. It tastes extremely good with toffee and caramel flavours off-set by just the right amount of hopping. Brewed using pure mountain spring water, and the finest malting barely and hops, this beer from the Benedictine monks of Kloster Ettal is a definite winner.

Ettaler Klosterbrauerei – Curator Dunkler Doppelbock 7.0% - a thick, rich, dark strong beer with roast malt flavours to the fore. Pours dark brown in colour, with virtually no head, but a tremendous amount of flavour is squeezed into this full strength, strong dark beer. An ideal nightcap.

Ettaler Klosterbrauerei – Heller Bock 7.2%  - a pale bock beer, deep golden in colour with a rich, biscuit maltiness balanced by just the right amount of bitterness. Dangerously drinkable for a beer of this strength, as despite its high gravity the cloying overtly sweet taste often associated with high abv beers, is thankfully missing.

The attractive label depicts a goat (the traditional symbol associated with Bock beers), in front of the imposing abbey church of Kloster Ettal.

Giesinger Bräu– Naturtrübes Kellerbier 5.2% - I picked this one up direct from the brewery  last month. Situated halfway down a back street, close to Munich's Max Weber Platz underground station, Giesinger Bräu have been turning out some interesting beers, from a converted double-garage, since 2006. The company are in the process of constructing a new brewery and Bräustüberl, which should be opening in October this year.

Unfiltered, so naturally cloudy, the beer is pale yellow in colour with an almost lemon-like flavour present. A pleasant summer beer, probably best drunk from a ceramic stoneware mug.

Gräfliches Brauhaus – Arcobräu Urfass 5.2% - A very pale coloured, Helles style beer from Arcobräu of Moos, in lower Bavaria. Quite sweet in character, and malt-driven, rather than overtly hopped, with the malt quite evident on the nose. The brewery describes URFASS PREMIUM HELL as a lager beer, which is fragrant in flavour with a pronounced spiciness

Arcobräu is a brewery with royal connections, which is now quite a large, regional concern, with its headquarters at the Schlossbrauerei Moos. The company title came about when Count Ulrich Philip von und zu Arco-Zinneberg combined all breweries owned by the his family under the name of Arcobräu.

Kloster Scheyern – Kloster Export Dunkel 5.0% - Dark brown in colour, with lots of interesting toffee, chewy malt. Some roast malt also evident in the beer. Another good example of a traditional Bavarian Dunkles.

Brewed at the abbey of Kloster Scheyern which dates back to 1119. Brewing recommenced at Scheyern in a brand new brew-house, in May 2006. Previously the beers had been brewed under license by a brewery in Augsburg.

Kloster Scheyern – Kloster – Gold Hell 5.4% - Another beer from the abbey of Kloster Scheyern; this time a pale golden Helles. Pours with a nice fluffy head, full-bodied and quite sweet tasting, with a pleasant hop aroma and a nice refreshing bite. It would be nice to try this beer within the confines of the abbey itself.

Mittenwalder Berg Gold Export 5.2% - Like its name suggests, gold in colour, and darker than the Helles we drank on draught in Mittenwald itself. Lots of sweet juicy malt, with a delicate floral hoppy nose. Not particularly challenging, but a very pleasant and enjoyable beer nevertheless.

Mittenwalder Jager Dunkel 5.2% - A really full-bodied Dunkel, with lots of mouth-feel. Notes of toffee with plenty of chewy malt present in the beer. Like the Ettal example, dark brown in colour, rather than black. A really satisfying example of a south Bavarian Dunkel; perfect for a chilly night in the mountains.

Both beers are brewed by Brauerei Mittenwald; the highest privately owned brewery in Germany. 

Which beers were my favourites? Definitely the Dunkles (dark beers). The examples from Kloster Ettal and Mittenwalder being particularly good. Out of the Helles (pale lagers), the two offerings from Chiemgauer Brauhaus really shone out.


BryanB said...

Agreed with you on the Ettaler and Mittenwalder Dunkels!

You're quite right about how localised the beer market is, although certain of the Bavarian beers do travel a bit, mainly to specialist drinks shops. Scheyern is fairly widely distributed for instance, certainly you can find it in the north, sometimes the Mittenwalder Jager Dunkel too.

It probably doesn't count here, but just as a matter of interest, if you've had a Brewers & Union German-style beer you've had Arcobräu beer - at least, I think it's all still contracted to there.

Paul Bailey said...

I have had a Brewers & Union German-style beer before, Bryan. It was a bottle that Tandleman kindly gave me two years ago. I wrote about it here

Speaking of bottles, I still have your botle of Night Porter, which I brought back from Dublin for you. I will hang on to it until I next see you. That may be sooner than you think, as I have recently joined the British Guild of Beer Writers.