Author Archives: A Tempest in a Tankard

The Setting Sun: Five of Vienna’s Best Spots for a Late Summer Beer

A colleague of mine at the Wien Museum (Vienna’s city history museum) asked me over lunch today about some of my favourite places to have a beer in Vienna. It was a fitting question. He had recently participated in a learn-to-brew day at Brauwerk and has kindled an interest in beers beyond his favourite styles. It was also a timely question. Today was my last day at the Wien Museum. Two years in this fine city, and five days left.

As any regular reader of Tempest has probably noticed, I don’t normally do “best of” lists. But today I’ll make an exception. Maybe you, like me two years ago, have arrived in Vienna to work for one of Vienna’s many top-notch cultural institutions or international organizations. Perhaps you’re winding down a trip through Europe with a few days in Vienna. Maybe you’re a student who has arrived from abroad for a semester at one of Vienna’s many colleges and universities. Whatever the case may be, right about now you probably need a beer.

This is not a comprehensive guide to all that is new, hip, and happening on Vienna’s beer scene. Rather, this is a very personal tour of my favourite locales, places where I’ve taken old friends and made new ones.

Hawidere

Located in Vienna’s gritty 15th District (Rudolfsheim-Fünfhausen), Hawidere attracts a mixed crowd of beer enthusiasts and locals out for a drink. Hawidere pays tribute to an old Viennese salutation (“Hab’ die Ehre”) that means something along the lines of “I’m honoured to meet you.” The name of the pub may well be redolent of Alt Wien and the ambience evocative of a traditional Viennese tavern (Beisl), but the good people at Hawidere are very much attuned to the moment. A continually rotating selection of fourteen beers on tap and roughly seventy bottled varieties comprise the cutting-edge selection of beer from around Austria, Europe, and beyond. You’ll also find brews from “Collabs,” the owners’ own nomad label featuring (you guessed it) collaborations with breweries across Europe. And if you’re hungry? They have some of the heartiest burgers anywhere.

Kängaruh

In a city that has seen the likes of Brickworks and Mel’s Craft Beers and Diner pull in the craft beer crowd with admirable beer portfolios at (super) premium prices, it’s refreshing to see that the old-school Kängaruh still manages to keep a lid on things. But it’s not just the extremely fair prices that make Kängaruh so special. If Belgian beer is your thing, you won’t find a better range of styles and bottlings anywhere outside of Brussels. The candlelight ambience within and the small terrace outside invite you to dream of Belgium while sipping on a Cantillon, a Westy XII, or any other Belgian beer you haven’t heard of yet. A true gem of a place on the eastern edge of Vienna’s 6th District (Mariahilf).

1516 Brewing Company

Considering just how close this excellent brew pub is to where I worked for the past two years, it’s a shame I didn’t stop in more often. Lunches here were always a fine proposition: ample portions of North American-style pub food with an Austrian twist, and an ever-changing menu of creative beers to wash it all down. If you’re one of those who has an inexplicable allergic reaction to the German Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Laws) promulgated in 1516, fear not: you’ll be able to find your jasmine IPA here. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find some superb Central European-style beers brewed according to that very Reinheitsgebot to which 1516’s name refers. If you can’t make it for lunch, stop by in the evening. You won’t be alone.

Schweizerhaus

Few other al fresco drinking spots in Vienna combine shaded chestnut groves, roasted pork knuckles, conviviality, and freshly tapped Bohemian beer (Budweiser Budvar) the way the Schweizerhaus does. If it’s warm and sunny and you have time to go nowhere else in Vienna for a drink, go here.

*For more on the history of the Schweizerhaus and its Prater surroundings, check out my Exploring Vienna’s Beer Gardens

Medlbräu

Say you’ve just spent the day exploring the stately rooms and sprawling manicured gardens of Schloss Schönbrunn. You could do much worse than to quench your thirst at Medlbräu in nearby Penzing (Vienna’s 14th District). Medlbräu is one of the older “Hausbrauerein” (brew pubs) in Vienna, and they don’t venture far from the tried-and-true classics. For those of you missing full-flavoured lagers and maybe a decent Hefeweizen to top things off, this place is like an oasis in a town where it’s surprisingly hard to find a compelling Helles, Dunkles, or Märzen.

Five nights left as the sun sets on my two years in Vienna. Cheers to your first five days here!

Related Tempest posts:

Beer for a Day: Living the Good Life in Salzburg

Prelude to a Drink: Vienna

Beer Travel off the Beaten Track: Austria’s Innviertel

Exploring Vienna’s Beer Gardens

Vienna, City of Beer Gardens

All images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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Beer Flights: The Smart Way to Drink

5300-plus breweries in the United States and counting. Another 775 in Canada as of 2016 (and counting). A veritable explosion of new and innovative breweries in Europe’s strongholds of brewing tradition: Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and Belgium.

Judges at the 2016 edition of the Great American Beer Festival evaluated 96 general categories of beer covering 161 beer styles.

Never before has such a prodigious diversity of beers been available to those of us who like to drink them.

With all this variety, beer flights are more important now than ever before. I’m sure many would agree –– fortunately, flights are ubiquitous at North American craft-influenced establishments, and are on the rise in Europe. But occasionally I’m left scratching my head when hostility to flights bubbles to the surface.

Vinepair recently posted an article asking brewers to name a beer trend “that needs to die.” One response had to do with flights. Patrick Barnes of Islamorada Beer Company in Florida offered this response to the question of which beer trend he’d like to see go the way of the dodo bird:

“Beer flights. Beer is meant to be drunk by the pint, not by the shot. There are a lot of flavors and aromas that are lost in small tasting glasses, as well as switching back and forth between tasters wrecks your palate.”

Since the Vinepair article started making the rounds, more than a few friends, acquaintances, and members of Facebook beer groups have voiced support for doing away with beer flights. (Incidentally, this isn’t the first time that someone has expressed an antipathy toward flights. Back in early 2015, a barkeep in New York’s capitol region wrote an incredibly subtle think-piece entitled “Flights are dumb, and you’re dumb if you like them.”) Why this hostility to flights, perhaps one of the better ideas to come out of this phenomenon we call craft?

Before going any further, though I do have something against the typical shaker-type pint glass for reasons I’ve touched upon in my “Five Ways to Become a Better Drinker,” I have nothing against pint measures and have drunk my fair share. They have their time and place. Like in a beer garden, for example.

But to return to Barnes’s response: the assertion that beer is meant to be drunk by the pint is absurd. Why by the pint? Does every style of beer lend itself to being drunk by the pint? And why don’t we drink wine by the pint? After all, German late-harvest Rieslings have often have a lower alcohol percentage than many imperial stouts.

It’s similarly misguided to suggest that flavours and aromas are lost in small tasting glasses. A 4-ounce snifter that tapers toward the rim concentrates far more aromas than any 16-ounce pint glass of the shaker variety ever will. (I’ll go out on a limb here and assume that the vessel to which Barnes refers when he speaks of pints is the common shaker glass.)

Granted, switching back and forth between tasters can wreck your palate, especially if you have a high-IBU double IPA, an intensely hopped NEIPA, or a wild/sour in the flight. But let’s step back from the bar for a moment. Before the flight even gets off the ground, as it were, it’s the brewer’s or taproom manager’s responsibility to make sure his or her staff are familiar with the best ways to construct a flight so as to avoid palate fatigue. This could take the form of in-house training or subsidized Cicerone courses, or what have you. (Yes, I know that many breweries and taprooms already engage in this best of practices, but since some folks keep trashing flights … .)

Even the oldest brewery in the world is getting into the game

Now, one could adduce more potent arguments against flights along the following lines: Assembling a flight ties up a member of the bar staff who has to pull a number of 3- or 4-oz pours instead of one nice, hefty 16-oz pint. The bar staff then has to make sure that the drinker knows what each beer is. Though I do empathize with harried taproom staff, flights eminently address that wonderful issue of variety I mentioned at the outset. After all, the way I see it, a significant part of being a “craft” brewery or taproom involves education about beer and its myriad styles. Flights are the way to go.

An enlightening side-by-side tasting of gueuze and kriek: Boon, Tilquin, Cantillon, Girardin, etc.

  • Flights allow you to taste beers side by side. Depending on the flight that you or the bartender put together, you can taste a number of similar beers to see what makes a style tick, you can taste stouts next to porters to see what makes these styles subtly or not so subtly different, or you can run the gamut from a lager to a lambic. Say a brewery offers a range of IPAs –– something not entirely uncommon these days. Try them all next to each other in a flight. If you’re at a taproom, put together a flight of IPAs from different regions and taste them next to one another. Not only is this fun, it’s educational. Tasting beers side by side is much more of a revelation than drinking beers in succession.
  • For people just getting into craft beer –– or even for seasoned veterans –– flights provide an easy and enjoyable way for brewers or taproom staff to introduce drinkers to new styles, innovations, or experiments without the visitor needing to go “all-in” on a pint. (That smoked meat and maple syrup porter aged on juniper branches and blueberries sounded interesting in theory … )
  • Knocking back a few pints in a beer garden or in the pub on the way home from work is great if the beer clocks in at 4.8%-5% ABV. But when you’re talking American-style IPAs and numerous latter-day stouts, many of which clock in well north of 6.5% ABV, you’ll be feeling the hit sooner than later. Flights can make the next day that much more bearable.
  • Sure, anyone living in the vicinity of a particular brewery can head over from time to time to taste his or her way through the brewery’s offerings, pint by pint. But if I’m traveling through town and have only one shot at experiencing what a brewery has to offer, a flight means that I don’t have to get hammered in the process. I might eventually settle on a pint; offering a flight of beers gives me a chance to find that beer or beers.

So there you have it. Flights are smart, and you’re smart if you like them.

And sometimes only a pint will do. Cheers, everyone!

Related Tempest articles:

Five Ways to Become a Better Drinker in 2015

Epicurean Unbound: Five Ways to Expand Your Drinking Horizons

Three Vintages of Goose Island’s Sofie

All images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

The Beer Gallery: Highlights from Belgium, Bavaria, and Bohemia

Cologne, Sunday, 11:30 in the morning. The server, called a Köbes in Cologne, brings me my second glass of Kölsch and makes another mark on my beer mat. I’m not the only one here. Around me sit a mix of regulars populating the area around the bar, elderly couples who have come to sip on a few beers after mass, a family stopping in for a light snack and a beer before their afternoon outing, and a handful of English-speaking beer enthusiasts at a nearby table who, like me, are here for the Kölsch. It’s a scene that plays itself out endlessly in the traditional taverns of Cologne and Düsseldorf.

Regensburg, Monday, 2:30 p.m. It’s almost too cold on this late spring day to sit out in a beer garden, but we’re rewarded with a magical view of Regensburg’s gothic cathedral and medieval town center on the opposite bank of the Danube. The Steinerne Brücke dates from the middle of the twelfth century, and was the only bridge across the Danube when it was built. Regensburg may not be Munich, but the beer’s just fine and it’s an ideal base from which to visit two of Bavaria’s more iconic breweries: Schneider Weisse in Kelheim and Kloster Weltenburg a half an hour from there by boat.

Kloster Weltenburg, Tuesday, 9:30 a.m. We made it to Kelheim in time for the first sailing along the Danube in the direction of the Donau Durchbruch, the stunning gorge that serves as a gateway to the equally marvelous Kloster Weltenburg. The Assam brothers designed the opulent church and monastery; Kloster Weltenburg brews a Doppelbock in their honour. It’s one of my favourite Doppelbocks, but it tastes even better underneath the chestnut trees of Kloster Weltenburg’s beer garden, rain be damned.

Goes great with Spargel

Prague, Wednesday, 6:00 p.m. From the terrace in the shadow of the Strahov Monastery the Malá Strana and Staré Město districts spread out beyond a stretch of urban orchards and vineyards. Once we’ve imbibed the view, we head off to rub shoulders with the early evening drinking crowd at the Pivnice u Černého Vola, one of many traditional Prague pubs. Fortunately, you’ll still find plenty of these gems amid the deluge of tourists and the bars that cater to them.

Prague: more than just pivo

Bruges, Thursday, 4:00 p.m. We walk past the place where I first encountered Belgian beer, way back on a misty late-autumn eveing in 1991. The beer looked like the pilseners and lagers I had just learned to appreciate in Germany, but something was just a little different. I downed it and ordered another. I drank this one a few seconds more slowly and noticed that the beer had a certain richness and residual sweetness to it. Not long into my third beer I noticed something else – a bit of an unexpected kick. This time around I discover a nice twist on this beer they call Tripel: Cuvée Soeur’is, an oak-aged triple kriek from Brouwerij de Leite served up in the dimly lit surroundings of ’t Brugs Biertje.

De Halve Maan brewery in the background

Bellegem, Friday, 8:30 a.m. After a night exploring the beer cafes of Brussels, I head out with an old friend to western Flanders. We were there for the Flemish red ale, and for a tour of Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghiste. Neither disappointed. And I made a new friend named Le Fort Tripel.

Foeder room, Omer Vander Ghiste

Munich, Saturday, mid-morning. The weather has finally turned the corner, and the Aumeister beer garden in the northern reaches of the Englische Garten is just the perfect place to be. It appears we’ve beaten the crowds this morning, but it won’t be long before we’re joined by three thousand like-minded folks on this balmy summer day.

Tea for two

***

This itinerary combines four different beer-related journeys upon which I’ve been lucky enough to embark over the past few months. Now that the “field research” is behind me (somebody’s gotta do it, right?), I’ll have time over the summer to put pen to paper and round out these sketches of life in Europe’s beer centers.

Here’s to hoping that you, too, will be able to dust off your travel gear and head out somewhere – anywhere! – in search of good beer. Prost!

Related Tempest articles:

The Colour of Fall Leaves: Tasting Notes on Märzen, Oktoberfestbier, and Vienna Lager

Let Us Now Praise Famous Lagers: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.3)

Where the Wild Beers Are: Brussels and Flemish Brabant

All images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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How Paulaner’s Salvator Doppelbock Got Its Name

Paulaner may well have become one of the world’s leading brewers of Weissbier in recent decades, but its Salvator Doppelbock remains inseparable from the history of the brewery’s famous Salvatorkeller beer garden atop Munich’s Nockherberg.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung journalist Astrid Becker begins a recent article on Paulaner with an anecdote about a church bell. Markus Gottswinter, pastor of the Mariahilf church east of the Isar River, saves the bell for only the most special of occasions. And with good reason. When rung, the seven-tonne behemoth resounds with a force so thunderous that tiles fall from the roof of the church. The name of the bell: Salvator.

Cast in Erding in 1952, the bell was never intended for this church in the shadow of the Paulaner brewery. But the truck hauling it to its destination broke down in Nockherberg. The parishioners wasted little time in interpreting this fortuitous turn of events as a sign that the bell was meant for their church.

It’s also no surprise that the parishioners who inherited the bell called it Salvator. For here, in the vicinity of their church, the history of another behemoth named Salvator began: with the Paulaner order of Franciscan monks, who originally settled in 1629 in the Neudeck ob der Au monastery to the south of Mariahilfplatz.

The Paulaners inherited the right to brew in 1634 when the parents of one of their monks passed away. It just so happened that the parents came from a well-established brewing family. With their passing, the order acquired the Lerchl family’s brewing right (Braurecht), albeit with tight restrictions imposed by the city council. The Paulaners could brew beer in the Lerchlbräu brewery, but only for their own consumption.

Yet what the authorities decreed was a matter of indifference to the monks. They drank the beer they brewed, served it to the poor –– and sold it to the locals. Starting in 1651, the monks brewed a particularly strong beer each spring to honour the founder of their order, Franz von Paola (Francesco di Paola). Back then, the beer was euphemistically called “Sankt-Vaters-Öl” (oil of the sacred father) because the monks were allowed to consume plant oil during the Lenten fast. This salutary beverage found quite a following on account of its reputation for quality, and soon became the chief source of income for the order. So beloved was this beer that it engendered no small amount of consternation among the other brewers in the area. Their complaints kept the local magistrates busy, but to no avail. No amount of persistence could bring about a prohibition of the monks’ special form of hospitality –– perhaps because the magistrates, too, were convinced of the merits of the Paulaners’ strong beer.

It’s not entirely clear when the Paulaner monks began to brew Bock beer, a style that was all the rage in Munich well before the Paulaners came along. One detail is certain, though: the Paulaner interpretation was more formidable than the Bock that flowed forth from taps controlled by the secular authorities at the Hofbräuhaus. Not only that; the beer was also more substantial in a nutritional sense –– brewed strong enough, in fact, to carry the monks through the Lenten fast. This sweet, dark drink tapped every year on the occasion of Franz von Paola’s feast day went by several names: “Sankt-Vaters-Bier” (beer of the sacred father), “des heiligen Franz Öl,” (oil of the Holy Franz), or, simply, liquid bread.

Despite the prohibition of public sales, the good souls of Munich flocked to Nockherberg in droves every year on 2 April for a sip of that potent elixir. The beer-drinking public had spoken, and in 1660 the order’s brewing right was finally confirmed. In 1751, the Prince-Elector Max III Joseph legalized the sale of the beer for eight days in April. After all, he, too, was an enthusiast of this famed beer.The Paulaner Brewery experienced a dramatic shift when Bavaria became a kingdom in 1806. As a result of the secularization accompanying the Napoleonic Wars, the brewery was expropriated from the monks. Eventually, one Franz Xaver Zacherl acquired the brewery and all rights associated with it.

As we have seen, Paulaner’s strong beer had been known by many names over the centuries. Zacherl, however, recognized the need to sharpen the beer’s identity and worked tirelessly to turn it into a brand that beer connoisseurs recognize to this day. Inspired by the expression “Salve Pater Patriae,” he coined the term “Salvator” (saviour).

Given the popularity of the style, other breweries began calling their strong beers “Salvator.” Zacherl, one of the early combatants in the nascent field of trademark disputes, was not impressed with the flattery. He filed suit against his imitators, but passed away in 1849 before he could savour his success. In the end, the judges ruled in his favour: In a nod to tradition, the name Salvator was to remain a possession of the Paulaner Brauerei, but other brewers could use the suffix “-ator” in the branding of their Doppelbocks.

And with that begun over a century-and-a-half’s worth of Celebrators, Triumphators, Maximators, Liberators, even Alligators. The latter are particularly dangerous.

Related Tempest articles:

A Season for Strong Beer

From Horse Races to Beer Steins: Oktoberfest Since 1810

Where Did All the Märzen Go? Provisioning Oktoberfest Imbibers over the Centuries

Sources:

Astrid Becker, “Vater aller Starkbiere,” in Süddeutsche Zeitung (ed.), Mir san Bier: Braukunst und Biergärten in und um München, 2013.

Ursula Eymold (ed.), Bier.Macht.München: 500 Jahre Münchner Reinheitsgebot in Bayern, exhibition catalogue, Münchener Stadtmuseum, 2016.

Images:

Salvator-Ausschank auf dem Nockherberg, lithographed placard, 1951

Paulaner logo by Paulaner

Remaining images by F.D. Hofer

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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A Season for Strong Beer

You have to admire a city where the rhythms of life revolve around excuses to tap a keg and raise a mug of good cheer.

Munich is one such city where the seasons are marked by festivities that involve a healthy amount of imbibing. Most of these beer festivals have their roots in Catholicism and are, more often than not, bound up with the arrival of spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

Salvator atop the Nockherberg

Not only is Oktoberfest famous the world over; residents of Munich survive the Lenten fast with hearty steins of “liquid bread,” and then ring in the threshold between spring and summer with Bockbier. Summer may not have its own beer –– plenty of helles Lager and the occasional Pilsner to go around, after all –– but it is the season for something quintessentially beer-related: the beer garden. Once the weather warms up, folks in Munich (and everyone else who happens to be in town) flock to shade of the stately chestnut trees to down liters of beer in the company of as many as 8000 like-minded connoisseurs of the leisurely life. We all know what transpires in Munich during September and early October. Then comes winter, and winter, too, demands a richer beer befitting the season.

***

Since the weather still hasn’t turned beer garden in Central Europe, let’s dwell, for the moment, with those last drops of Doppelbock trickling from casks in Munich.

Doppelbock has a history that dates back a few hundred years, and is intimately bound up with the Paulaner monks and the beer garden atop the Nockherberg where both monastery and brewery once stood. Already in 1843, visitors to Munich took notice of this Starkbier (strong beer) that flowed in abundance during Lent and was popular enough to occasion a festival:

On particular feast days during the spring and summer, the citizens of Old Munich cultivated the habit of seeking out houses of God beyond the city walls to perform their devotions. The church of the Paulaner monastery in the Au district counted itself among those places. Here, the monks held an eight-day festival in honour of the founder of their order, the holy Father Franz von Paula. The so-called “Festival of the Holy Father” began, as a rule, on 2 April and is said to have radiated a particular charm among the male population as far back as the eighteenth century. One reason for this may well have been the “Holy Father Beer” brewed by the monks, which just so happened to be served during these festive days. The beer was also called “Oil of the Holy Father” (Heil Vater Öl), on account of the fact that the Paulaner monks were only permitted to nourish themselves with oil during the Lenten fast. Apparently this particularly strongly-brewed beer counted as such.

No less a literary luminary than Friedrich Schiller penned these observations about Munich and its manifest love of Starkbierzeit (the season of strong beer). But how did Nockherberg reach such a pinnacle? Or, put differently, why was it –– and why is it still –– that aficionados of Doppelbock make their way up the Nockherberg to the Salvatorkeller, as it’s known in the vernacular, that pinnacle of Starkbier where “the father of all strong beer” was first brewed?

~Stay tuned!~

Paulaner am Nockherberg

Related Tempest articles:

O’ zapft is! Oktoberfest 2016

From Horse Races to Beer Steins: Oktoberfest Since 1810

In the Cool Shade of the Beer Garden

Sources:

Süddeutsche Zeitung (ed.), Mir san Bier: Braukunst und Biergärten in und um München, 2013.

For the Schiller passage, see Ursula Eymold (ed.), Bier.Macht.München: 500 Jahre Münchner Reinheitsgebot in Bayern, exhibition catalogue, Münchener Stadtmuseum, 2016, p.312 (translation F.D. Hofer).

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

Beer for a Day: Living the Good Life in Salzburg

It’s been awhile. Blame Vienna. It’s not the first time I’ve done so over the course of the past eighteen months. Rather than sit here and tell you about all the cool stuff I’ve got in the works, I thought I’d dash off a quick post about my recent visit to Salzburg en route to the mountains around Zell am See. I’ll save Salzburg’s rich history for another day and head straight for the Wirtshäuser (taverns) and beer gardens.

Build up your appetite with a walk up the Kapuzinerberg

Salzburg isn’t exactly a beer pilgrimage site like virtually all of Belgium and Bavaria, but it’s worth a visit should you end up in Munich one of these years for Oktoberfest. For starters, it’s a gem of a baroque city. Then there’s all those tasty Mozartkugeln, a pistachio core surrounded by nougat surrounded by chocolate. Of course, there’s the whole Sound of Music industry, too. (Trivia: yours truly spent half a year in Salzburg in the mid-nineties working for a company that did Sound of Music tours.) Last but not least, the person for whom the Mozartkugel is named was born in Salzburg.

***

If you’ve spent any time in Salzburg at all, chances are you’ve noticed the intricate wrought-iron signage. Some of these signs convey extremely useful information.

We got horses, we also got beer

Formerly Gabelbräu. Gösser will do in a pinch.

More signs of the good life in Salzburg

After walking up, down, and around the Kapuzinerberg, you’ve probably worked up a bit of an appetite. Zwettler’s is a cozy place not far from the cathedral square. The hearty Austrian cuisine is on point, as is their beer, especially their Kaiser Karl Weissbier (brewed at the Brauerei Schwendl in Bavaria).

In case you’re wondering, it’s called Gerösteter Knödel mit Ei — a Wirtshaus classic

Now that you’ve satisfied your hunger, it’s time to make the trek to the Augustiner Bräustübl in Mülln. No beer trip to Salzburg is complete without a trip to this beer hall and garden run by the monks. Here’s the drill: Choose between the 1-liter or half-liter steins, give your stein a good rinse, tell the cashier which beer you want (usually they just have a Märzen, but depending on the season you might be lucky enough to find a Bock beer), and then give your stein to the person tapping the beer from wooden casks.

Take your pick

Give it a rinse

Give it to the man with the cask

Then go find a seat in the beer hall

Once you’ve hoisted a few steins in the beer hall or the beer garden, you can head back in the direction of town via the scenic route over the Mönchsberg. This has two advantages: You’ll catch stunning views both of the fortress that dominates Salzburg’s skyline and of the Untersberg that looms up over it all. You’ll also effectively make room in your stomach for your next round of beer. Assuming you’ve managed to navigate the trails successfully, you’ll pass under the fortress just above the Stieglkeller. When the weather’s nice, nothing beats a mug of beer on the terrace of the Stieglkeller with Salzburg’s Altstadt (old town) spread out below. (Stiegl, incidentally, is Austria’s largest private brewery. Skip the Goldbräu and grab a Pils. Better yet, order anything that they have on tap from their Stiegl-Gut Wildshut experimental brewery.)

Festung Hohensalzburg

The Stieglkeller terrace. Not a bad place for a stein.

The night is young, as they say, so before heading out to Die Weisse, Austria’s oldest wheat beer brewery, take a stroll along the Salzach River back in the direction of the Augustiner for some unforgettable Austrian cuisine in one of Salzburg’s legendary Wirtshäuser (tavern). The Bärenwirt has been doing its thing since 1663, and the portions truly are bear-sized. Wash it all down with beer from the Augustiner.

They call this a Vorspeise (appetizer)! Geräuchertes Saiblingsfilet (char) mit Oberskren (horse radish in whipped cream)

If you haven’t succumbed to a food coma yet, walk off dinner en route to Die Weisse. There, you can tuck into some superb wheat beers, or you can kick up your heels in the attached night club. Me? I’ll just stick to beers this time around. Gotta be up to catch the early train to Zell am See.

Prost!

*Of note: Be sure to sample some beers from Salzburg’s Gusswerk, one of Austria’s pioneer craft beer breweries.

Related Tempest posts:

In the Cool Shade of the Beer Garden

Beer Travel off the Beaten Track: Austria’s Innviertel

Vienna, City of Beer Gardens

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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Brown Beers (Still) Get No Luvin’

Brown beer has an image problem.

Joe Tindall over at The Fatal Glass of Beer (host of this month’s “The Session: Beer Blogging Friday”) sums it up well: “The unglamorous brown middle ground is consistently neglected.”

I wrote about this very same topic a few years back, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m going to cite some of that article here. For that piece, I cobbled together a 6-pack of brown beers that are still worth your time, so check ’em out. This time around, I’m going to give you the view from Continental Europe.

Though decidedly brown in colour, Scottish ales don’t languish under the same stigma as their counterparts south of the border.

But first I have to admit that I haven’t had too many beers that announce themselves as “brown beer/ale” since I’ve been in Vienna. For the most part, they’re just not that widely available. Most new’ish European brewers stick to styles that have stood the test of crowd-rated time, so to speak. IPAs and pale ales abound among Euro craft brewers, as do stouts, porters, and the occasional sour or barrel-aged beer. Beers that have “brown beer/ale” on the label? Not so much. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of amber/copper/brown beers that you should check out in Europe or in the Euro aisle of your favourite bottle shop. There are. But these Bocks, Märzens, Dubbels, and Quads manage to avoid that never-land between Nacht und Nebel, night and dawn. (Ever heard of Aventinus getting dissed for being a brown beer? Me neither.)

So today I’m going to head out to my favourite bottle shop, BeerLovers, to see how brown beers are doing in Vienna’s vibrant craft beer community. While I’m doing that, here’s what I wrote a few years back:

Brown beers get no luvin’. And that’s a crying shame.

Maybe it’s our infatuation with IPAs and IBUs. Maybe it’s brown beer’s vaguely middle-of-the-road status: Brown ale has precious little in common with a lager, Pils, cream ale or Kölsch, and doesn’t quite match the intensity of most porters and stouts. Brown ale ranges in colour from dark amber to chestnut to copper-brown, sometimes even dark brown. But other beers that aren’t subject to the brown beer stigma share these characteristics as well, like some pale ales and old ales.

Some English bitters flirt with the outer edges of brown––no less brown than a Sam Smith Nut Brown, which is actually of the dark amber persuasion. Many barleywines exhibit varying hues of brown as well, and guess what? They don’t suffer from any image problems. And then there’s all those lighter-coloured and less intensely-hued porters. Doing just fine too. Brown beer loses out because it’s called Brown Beer. I mean, can you really call a beer “Back in Brown,” or “Fade to Brown,” or “All Cats at Night Are Brown”? No. “My Brown Cardigan” might be as good as it gets. If that fails, name the beer after your (brown) dog.

But is this a mere hue and cry over colour? It’s more than that, I think. The colour spectrum of brown beer shades over into a hybridity of aroma and flavour as well: not quite pale ale, not quite porter. We’re at a loss when confronted with a brown beer. Are brown beers malty or hoppy? Full-flavoured or a well-choreographed ballet of moderate levels of malt and hops? Sessionable? Dry or slightly sweet? All of the above? Brown beers may well be the quintessential “undecidable” beer style. Which is, perhaps, why we decide against it when the choices at our local bottle shop or taproom are so vast.

[…]

*The Newcastle Brown Ale website suggests a serving temperature of 38-40F (3-4C), but in my experience these beers do much better at cellar temperature. If you drink them cool or cold, you won’t get any of the subtle malt characteristics that only come into their own around 50F (10C) or higher.

***

Now for those beers I rustled up at BeerLovers. Notably, Austria’s Bierol (rhymes with Tirol, where they’re from) suggests a serving temperature of 10C for its entry into the rather barren field of Continental European brown beer, so we’ll start our 2017 six-pack of brown beer here.

Going Hazelnuts (Bierol, Austria, 5.7%). As the name suggests, this beer has been finished with hazelnuts –– organic, no less. Going Hazelnuts exhibits none of the extract character that plagues so many browns ales featuring nuts. Toasty caramel, mocha, chocolate almonds, dried cherry, a hint of char, and earthy hop-spice round out the distinctive coffee/chocolate and roasted barley aromas, while creamy carbonation adds richness on the palate. Nut liqueur (Frangelico), and bitter chocolate set the stage for a mild floral-spicy hop note mid-palate that shades into licorice root and dark cherry near the off-dry finish. A classic brown ale that hits all the chocolate, coffee, and nut notes –– helped along by a well-integrated charge of hazelnuts.

Jackie Brown (Mikkeller, Denmark/Product of Belgium, 6%). The colour of milk chocolate, Mikkeller charts compelling new territory with a beer that uses American hops without hitting you over the head with them. Jackie Brown is also the kind of beer that highlights how much brown beer can have in common with barley wine. It starts off with malt aplenty: Ovaltine, toast, caramel, and black tea hinting at mugi-cha.* Earthy with some licorice, the aromas are also reminiscent of cherries and cinnamon-spiked cocoa. Give the beer some time to open up and you’ll be rewarded with another cascade of aromas and flavours: fir tree, caramelized orange zest, dates, Oloroso-like nut notes, a sassafras/root beer spiciness, and even some Japanese-style brown sugar (kuro-sato). Jackie Brown is no wall flower, with a clean bitterness that lends the beer a certain levity in the face of all that rich caramel. Intensely flavoured yet elegant, with a long, herbal-bitter finish accented by fruit and nuts. One Tankard

*Mugi-cha is a refreshing cold barley tea brewed up in Japan to combat the summer heat and humidity. It has a distinctive quality reminiscent of roasted barley, bran, and brown malt.

Imperial Brown Ale (Nøgne Ø, Norway, 7.5%). Nøgne Ø notes that what makes their IBA unique is their blend of English malts and predominantly American hops. In this case, claims of uniqueness bear themselves out. From the moment the beer hits the glass, its opalescent dark amber-bronze colour with orange hues clearly states that brown beers can look mighty fine. The “woodsiest” beer of the bunch, Nøgne Ø’s IBA exudes aromas of forest floor mixed with dark forest berries such as black berry and wild raspberry. Fir needles and caramelized orange zest meet rich brown sugar and toasty biscuit/cookie malt notes, and a dusting of baking spice adds depth. The beer’s a riot of flavours, but a contained one. American-style hops are clearly present in the high end of the mix, balanced by a hint of molasses and brooding toast-toffee-anise bass notes. A digestif-like bitterness contributes additional layers of complexity to the beguiling residual sweetness, while dried apricots linger in the aftertaste. Pleasantly warming alcohol makes this the perfect beer to cap a day in the snow. Cellar-worthy. Two Tankards

Mochaccino Messiah, Coffee Brown Ale (To Øl, Denmark, 7%). It seems that Scandanvians like their brown ales, nomenclature be damned. To Øl’s entry into the field makes use of flaked oats, lactose, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Mochaccino Messiah is slightly darker than milk chocolate, with a foam cap reminiscent of the crema atop an espresso. The aromatics are distinctly coffee-driven: roasted coffee beans with that green/jalapeno “bite” common to many coffee beers, and with an interesting top note that flirts with cassis. Hints of fir emerge from behind the coffee screen along with a suggestion of baking spice and vanilla. Carbonation is lively, uniting with the bitterness to create an uplifting peppery effervescence. Bittersweet chocolate makes a cameo appearance, along with cocoa and a hint of cinnamon/cardamom. As the beer warms, it takes on a wine-like character that gestures toward toasty-oak Cabernet Franc with raspberry-jalapeno-pepper. But in the end, it’s all about the coffee, perhaps too much so.

Northumberland Brown Ale (Austmann Bryggeri, Norway, 5.5%). Rounding out the Nordic entries in this 6-pack is Austmann’s tribute to dark mild ale. Inky dark chocolate brown in colour, Northumberland looks like a porter. Expect plenty of freshly ground dark-roast coffee along with fruity chocolate notes that fold in raspberry, boysenberry and plum-cherry yeast aromatics. Firmly bittered and slightly acrid, the beer offers up licorice root and dark-roasted coffee, with plenty of bitter chocolate, a dash of chocolate liqueur, raspberry, and hazelnuts. The effervescent carbonation borders on prickly, making for a bracingly taut beer –– the liquid analogue of dark berry compote over toast with your morning coffee on the side.

2015 Wildshuter Männerschokolade (Stiegl, Austria, 5.5%). Bookending our 6-pack of Continental brown ales is a fine beer from one of Austria’s regional breweries. Ales aren’t the first thing that come to mind if you’re familiar with this brewery whose majestic beer garden overlooks the old town of Salzburg. But Stiegl recognized that there was something to this whole craft beer thing, and started a line of 750-mL releases under their Stieglgut Wildshut label. The brewers make astute use of alpine peacock barley, chocolate wheat malt, and black oats to create this chestnut brown ale that delivers luscious malt aromas and textured flavours in spades. Ovaltine, mugi-cha, cocoa, dark chocolate, brown sugar, black cherry, roasted nuts, and salted caramel make up a malt palette that recalls Baltic porter at times. Dates, raisins, and figs contribute to the dried-fruit complexity, while a hint of alpine meadows from the Central European hops carries over onto the palate. Cola-sassafras and a subtle mid-palate pepper-herbaceousness add a playful bright note to the crème caramel-like malt richness. Despite all the chocolate, mocha, and dark cherry malt character, Männerschokolade finishes dry with just the slightest suggestion of chocolate cake-like sweetness. A smooth, flavourful, and extremely drinkable beer that won’t knock you to the floor after a few glasses. Two Tankards

***

If you’re in Europe, grab a six-pack of these under-rated beers to sip over the weekend! If you’re in North America, ask your favourite bottle shop to check availability with its distributors. Enjoy!

Related Tempest Articles

A World of Stouts for Your Weekend

Brown Beers Get No Luvin’: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.2)

Say No to Style Loyalty

The Lost Abbey’s 10 Commandments: A Warming Beer for Winter Evenings

Further Reading

Jamil Zainasheff and John J. Palmer, Brewing Classic Styles (Boulder: Brewers Publications, 2007).

Michael Jackson, The New World Guide to Beer (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1988).

BJCP Style Guidelines, 2008 and 2015 editions.

Images

With the exception of the Session Friday logo and the logos and labels from brewery and bottle shop websites (Mikkeller, Nøgne Ø, Stiegl, BeerLovers), images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

A Pivo Pilgrimage to Pilsen

Grab your favourite beer steins, folks! We’re heading to the source for a pilsener.

To many a beer drinker, the city of Plzeň (Pilsen) is virtually synonymous with its storied brewery and famous beer style. But beer in this western Bohemian town wasn’t always the kind of liquid sustenance that inspired pilgrimages.

About That Beer We Call Pilsener

Rewind to the early nineteenth century, a time when the good citizens of Pilsen were brewing anything but good beer. The brew had gotten so foul, in fact, that city councilors publicly dumped out thirty-six barrels of it in the town square in 1838. Quelle horreur! So intense was the humiliation that some of the burghers who owned brewing rights banded together to found the Měšťanský Pivovar (Civic Brewery), precursor to what is now Pilsener Urquell. They would soon turn their reputation around.

To the south and to the west of Pilsen, the Viennese brewer Anton Dreher and his Bavarian companion Gabriel Sedlmayr (of Spaten fame) had made significant strides in developing a bottom-fermented and lagered beer that held up admirably over time. Other Bavarian brewers embraced these technological advances, and it wasn’t long before word about these beers spread well beyond Bavaria and the capital of the Habsburg Empire. Enter Martin Stelzer, head of Pilsen’s Civic Brewery, who journeyed to Bavaria in 1842 to interview the son of one of these successful brewers. Invited to Pilsen on a three-year contract, the 29-year-old Josef Groll fired up the brewhouse on 5 October 1842, beginning work on a beer that would revolutionize the entire concept of the beverage –– but not, according to rumour, before he convinced a Bavarian monk to smuggle the all-important Bavarian yeast into Bohemia (Weyermann, 2009, 12; Ensminger, 1997).

It wasn’t just the yeast and the local Saaz hops that were to shine in this new beer. Groll’s central innovation was on the malting floor, where he embraced a relatively new technology from England patented by Daniel Wheeler in 1817. Previously, malt had been kilned directly over smoky fires, but Groll astutely recognized the potential of this novel kilning method to yield a cleaner and lighter-hued malt.

A month after mashing and boiling his first batch, Groll unveiled the first-ever golden-coloured sparkling beer. The suds that flowed forth on 11 November 1842 looked and tasted mighty fine, immediately captivating the beer-drinking public in Pilsen and garnering further European attention during the Paris World Exposition in 1867.

Alas, Groll passed away unaware of his contribution to brewing history. He didn’t stay long in Pilsen, returning in 1845 to his native village of Vilshofen, where he inherited his father’s brewery. He expired in relative obscurity at the ripe old age of 74 in his favourite tavern, the Wolferstetter Keller, tankard in hand (Weyermann, 2009, 13).

* * *

Pilsen today is a vibrant industrial city where the kolaches are fine and the city square magnificent. Set amidst the Baroque and Renaissance facades, the Gothic spires of St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral rise 102 meters above the city. Those who venture up the tower are rewarded with vistas in the direction of the Great Synagogue (the world’s third-largest Jewish temple) and the Skoda works to the west, and the sprawling Plzeňský Prazdroj (Pilsener Urquell) brewery to the east.

Pilsener Urquell is, indeed, one large concern, owned until 2016 by SABMiller before being spun off to Asahi as part of the shake-out from the AB-InBev merger with SABMiller. Pilsen’s Brewery Museum is affiliated with Pilsener Urquell, as are a number of restaurants and taverns in the center of town. Not that Pilsener Urquell is in any way bad –– far from it –– but the company’s long reach means that you’ll have to look a bit harder for liquid sustenance that isn’t part of the Pilsener Urquell portfolio of brands.

Beyond Pilsener Urquell

A growing number of brewers and taproom proprietors supportive of artisanal/craft beer have responded to Pilsener Urquell’s dominant presence, with one taproom owner, Jaroslav Jakeś, going so far as to open up shop in the shadow of the Brewery Museum. During an enjoyable evening at his Na Čepu taproom, Jakeś explained that he aimed to convince his fellow Pilseners that there’s more to beer than Pilsener Urquell. It’s an uphill battle, but he seems to have struck a chord with his lively taproom. Along with characterful takes on Czech classics, we tried a white IPA and a stout from Pivovar Raven, a Pilsen brewery that is creating quite a stir in Bohemia and beyond. (For more on the bottle of stout I brought back to Vienna with me, see A World of Stouts for Your Weekend.) We also had a polotmarý from Pivovar U Lenocha, another local David taking on Goliath. Polotmarý is a fine example of what happens when intrepid homebrewers and craft brewers pick up on a tavern favourite: a half-and-half mix of a light-coloured and a dark-coloured lager. The result is a rich, caramel-toasty amber beer that includes a mix of some or all of the following ingredients: pilsener malt, Vienna malt, Munich malt, a caramel malt like CaraAmber, and (usually) Saaz hops.

U Pašáka is another place to sample the non-Pilsener Urquell wares of the city. Their beers hew fairly close to tradition (unfiltered lagers and amber lagers), but they’re well-crafted and the food is a nice change of pace from the heavy (but tasty!) fare you’re likely to encounter at many other taverns in Pilsen. Their farmers’ board came with crackling spread spiked with onion, paté with cranberry confit, and head cheese marinated with peppercorns – the perfect accompaniment to their beers.Last but not least, there’s Pivovar Groll, a brewery named in honour of the hero of Pilsen’s beer narrative. Though the name pays homage to a beer legend, the beer that we sampled on that cold December night was far from legendary. Try it, though. Maybe they’ll have sorted out some of their issues by the time you visit.

… And Back to the Source

It’s an interesting state of affairs that’s brewing in Pilsen. People like Jakeś are getting an impressive artisanal/craft beer scene off the ground, and it’ll likely be all the more vibrant by the time you visit. For many non-European beer travelers, though, Pilsen is a destination precisely because of its historically significant brewery. To be sure, Pilsener Urquell was already a highly industrialized operation by the latter half of the nineteenth century, with an annual output of 221,720 hectoliters by 1878. But it has maintained a reputation for brewing flavourful lagers without recourse to cost-cutting ingredients, even as other brewers of Pilsen-influenced beers drove their recipes into Blandsville. Pilsener Urquell remains tasty enough, its open-fermented and cask-aged version even more so.

So down that IPA and let’s head over to this fabled brewery for a visit. (After all, we’re here on a beer pilgrimage.) As for the brewery tour, it presents a fairly standard origin story of beer, offers up plenty of cool copper kettles, and shows off the always-fascinating bottling lines. But beyond the slick multi-media presentation lies something deeper. Literally.

As the lights dim on the last of the surround-sound shows detailing the ingredients that go into your beer, the tour guide swings open a door that leads down to a different century. Film noir meets Stieglitz-inspired black-and-white photos of glistening cobblestones in this byzantine network of lagering cellars sunk in 1839. Here among the row upon row of barrels you’ll see the tools of the trade employed by the hewers of ice who kept the cellars cold. You’ll also get to taste a Pilsener Urquell brewed the old-fashioned way: open-fermented in oak vats and lagered in casks. When Pilsener Urquell switched over to stainless steel fermentation in 1992, they claimed that they had managed to preserve the traditional character of the beer (Ensminger, 1997). Maybe it was the magic of the surroundings, or maybe it was the über-freshness of the beer I was drinking straight from the cask, but I enjoyed that glass of Pilsener Urquell more than any other pint I had while in Bohemia.

You can take my word for it that the beer tastes better straight from the cask, or you can find out for yourself. I recommend the latter.

Addresses:

Brewery Museum, Veleslavínova 6, 30114 Plzeň. See their website for opening hours and rates. Tucked into a 15th century brewing house, the museum traces the history of beer in the city and region with ample displays and informative wall texts. All roads lead to Pilsener Urquell, but to the brewery’s credit, the connection is understated. I’m slowly working on a piece on beer and brewing museums in Europe, so I’ll say more there.

Na Čepu, Veleslavínova 57/8, 30100 Plzeň

U Pašáka, Poděbradova 12, 30100 Plzeň 3

Sources:

Brewery Museum (visited 29 December 2015). General brewing history of the region and information/stats specific to Pilsener Urquell.

Sabine Weyermann, “On the Trail of Josef Groll: Rediscovering Authentic Bohemian Malt and Beer,” Scandinavian Brewers’ Review, Vol.66, No. 6 (2009). Given her name, it’s hardly surprising that Weyermann delves into the maltier aspects of Groll’s contribution to brewing history.

Peter A. Ensminger, “The History and Methods of Pilsner Urquell: Divining the Source of the World’s Most Imitated Beer,” Brewing Techniques (May/August 1997), provides a comprehensive account of the history of Pilsen’s famous beer.

Related Tempest articles:

Pictures at a Czech Beer Exhibition: Pilsen, Budweis, Český Krumlov

Beer Travel off the Beaten Track: Austria’s Innviertel

O’ zapft is! Oktoberfest 2016

Vienna, City of Beer Gardens

Images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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The Lost Abbey’s 10 Commandments: A Warming Beer for Winter Evenings

The last autumn leaves cling to the trees, holding out against the onslaught of wind and the first snowflakes of the season. A dense fog shrouds Vienna’s church spires in mystery. Night has descended, and the last faint warmth of the day has long since faded. I cut through the park and pause at the side of a partially frozen pond where a few ducks seem to be wishing they had followed the geese south. Spring is a long way off, I think to myself, and make for home where a warming drink of malty goodness awaits.

***

The Lost Abbey brews just the kind of hearty, Belgian-inspired beer that is the perfect antidote to a frosty early winter’s eve. As the story goes, Vince Marsaglia, owner of Pizza Port Brewing and co-founder of The Lost Abbey, took a shine to the divinely rich abbey beers of Belgium but lacked an abbey in which to brew (as most of us do). Thus was born the notion of the “lost” abbey. But the concept was destined to wander endlessly in the wilderness for wont of a brewer who could conjure up these otherworldly Belgian-style elixirs. Enter Tomme Arthur, one of North America’s more famous brewers. After several years with Pizza Port, Arthur set to work with Marsaglia in 2006 to lay the metaphorical foundation stones of The Lost Abbey in a facility that Stone Brewing Company had outgrown.

The results of their efforts lean heavily in the direction of malt-forward, age-worthy beers fit for evenings of contemplation or good cheer. Avowed malthead that I am, it’s rather fitting that I’m celebrating three years of Tempest with a beer from a brewery that is celebrating a decade since opening.

***

Back in late September I stopped off at one of Vienna’s best-stocked beer shops, BeerLovers, to pick up a nice bottle in anticipation of Tempest’s three years. After my customary conversation with a few of the staff members, it was past closing time. To my pleasant surprise, I spied something from The Lost Abbey: a 2014 vintage of 10 Commandments. I gathered it up with the rest of my hastily selected beers for the weekend, and headed off into the evening.

At 12% ABV, Lost Abbey’s 10 Commandments is a prodigious farmhouse-style ale brewed with honey, raisins, and rosemary. Tomme Arthur notes that orange peel makes a cameo appearance, as does a splash of Brettanomyces at packaging. Not only that: the raisins get the flame treatment to further caramelize the sugars.

Darkly hued, this copper libation with mahogany highlights hints at the tapestry of malt spread out beneath the dark pecan-brown collar of foam. And then comes the cascade of aromas and flavours: a pleasant jumble of sensory associations wrapped up with memories of getting to know good beer with good friends. A swirl of Ovaltine, Swiss milk caramel, and caramelized brown sugar welcomes the Slivovitz plum fairy bringing gifts of Belgian chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Fresh chocolate-spiked cream melding seamlessly with chocolate almonds, cocoa-dusted ganache, caramilk chocolate, and bourbon vanilla bean. Chocolate liqueur that’s been aged in a rum barrel. And rum-raisin to spare, with hints of hazelnut and Black Forest cherry cake.

Those are just my first impressions.

I’m transported back in time to a Nepalese tea hut on the crest of a mountain pass in the Annapurna region, warming myself by the fire after the long day’s trek. Winter nights spent sheltering from the wind and snow, with something to lift my spirits. “Spiritual,” even if the beer’s warming alcohol isn’t yet in spirit territory.

Licorice rounds out a touch of earthiness reminiscent of aged saké. Dried fruit, but elegantly so––perhaps even with a hint of earthy “leather” that I find so beguiling in certain red wines. Plum on the nose, but also prune in the finish. Honeyed dried Calmyra figs meet rum-soaked plums. Warming alcohol, but never hot. Creamy, full-bodied, and richly complex. In short, something new with each sniff and each sip. And worth every penny. Three Tankards

***

With two years of age on The Lost Abbey’s 10 Commandments, the rosemary is more of a suggestion than anything else. (In fact, I probably wouldn’t have guessed that it was there if it weren’t written on the label.) That’s just fine: It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had a beer brewed with rosemary in which this assertive herb overpowers everything else. The Brettanomyces is also very subdued, expressing itself, I’d hazard to guess, in the beer’s earthy notes.

As for the “10 Commandments” listed on the back of the bottle? They read more like a cross between a credo and a set of maxims rather than a series of imperatives and prohibitions. But earnest maxims they are, with integrity, honesty, passion, and inspiration prominent on the list. Number 4 is particularly salient in our contemporary craft beer moment that fetishizes freshness above all else: “Fresh beer is great. Aged beer is better.” I’ll drink to that.

Related Tempest Articles

Craft Beer at Time’s Precipice: Cellaring Tips

The MaltHead Manifesto

Winter Nights and Warming Barleywines from Sussex, Texas, and Québec

Images

Vienna City Hall by F.D. Hofer, 10 Commandments bottle from The Lost Abbey website, and BeerLovers logo from their website.

*If you visit Vienna, be sure to check out BeerLovers’ exceptional selection of beers.

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

Tankards Everywhere: Tempest’s Beerscapes of 2016

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Fermentation in progress, Weihenstephan

I was at Schloss Belvedere a few days back, the famous Viennese museum that houses the even more famous Kiss by Gustav Klimt. Alongside some of his other iconic works such as Judith und Holofernes hung several paintings dating from the year of Klimt’s death in 1918, all containing the word “unvollendet” (incomplete) somewhere in the title. Like Schubert’s 8th Symphony –– Die Unvollendete –– Klimt’s incomplete works gesture tantalizingly toward what would have been.

The same cannot be said for my growing stack of paper and metaphorically bulging computer file filled with work in various stages of incompletion: inchoate thoughts on everything from the German Purity Laws to the perennial debates about canning and canons of taste; travelogues that set out on a journey with no end; and the myriad attempts to turn aroma and flavour sensations into transcriptions of my imbibing pleasures.

One aspect of my attempts to put pen to paper on a regular basis has remained relatively constant since I arrived in Vienna: I get side-tracked too easily by all there is to see and do in Vienna, in Austria, in Central Europe, and elsewhere on this continent. The desire to post regularly has remained just that. I have to admit that I considered putting Tempest on ice on more than a few occasions, but the sheer enjoyment of writing about all things fermentable keeps drawing me back to the keyboard.

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The Speyside Way in the Scottish Highlands

Almost every one of my trips over the past three years has involved the cultural history and contemporary moment of drinking up. This year alone I walked 15 km from one distillery in Aberlour to another in Ballindalloch along Scotland’s Speyside Way.

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Kloster Andechs. I suspect that most of the visitors aren’t here to attend mass.

I followed in the footsteps of thirsty pilgrims in search of spiritual and corporeal solace at Kloster Andechs.

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A local beer from Carinthia’s Loncium at the Dolomitenhütte

I hiked up a mountain for a view of the Austrian Dolomites and a much-deserved local beer at the top, and cycled with friends along the Danube in Austria’s Wachau region during the height of the grape harvest.

And that’s not all. As I began to gather my thoughts for this piece on the occasion of Tempest’s third trip around the orange orb, I realized that it’s been quite the ride since this time last year.

České Budějovice (Budweis), Plzeń (Pilsen).

Polished coppers at Pilsner Urquell

Polished coppers at Pilsner Urquell

Austria’s Innviertel.

Bogner, makers of some of the best Hefeweizen in Austria

Bogner, makers of some of the best Hefeweizen in Austria

Brussels and Flemish Brabant.

You really can't go wrong with a wheel of lambics.

You really can’t go wrong with a wheel of lambics.

Munich, with its expansive beer gardens and lively beer halls, and Ayinger a half hour away. img_8346

A top-notch hop museum in the Hallertau and several museum exhibitions in Munich commemorating the 500th anniversary of the German Purity Laws (Reinheitsgebot).

The German Hop Museum in Wolnzach (Hallertau)

The German Hop Museum in Wolnzach (Hallertau)

Oktoberfest in Munich, and a hop harvest festival in Freising, home of Germany’s oldest brewery.

You won't go hungry in Bavaria.

You won’t go hungry in Bavaria.

And Scotland! Edinburgh’s majestic pubs.img_0722

The search for a 60 Shilling ale which proved about as fruitless as trying to sight the Loch Ness Monster. And drams of whisky to chase whatever Scottish ale I did find.img_0902

So here we are. Some of the notes and fragments detailing my adventures will see the light of day in due time, but in the meantime I offer you a few words’ worth of images, a visual down payment on writing to come.

Cheers to you, my fellow imbiber, for accompanying me on my journey these past three years! It’s you who keeps me writing.

**

Check back in a few days for my write-up about the outstanding beer I cracked to celebrate three years.

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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