Tag Archives: Bavarian beer

Reflections and Resolutions

So here we are again. One more turn around this mortal coil, drinking to forget the follies of an old year and toasting the auspiciousness of the new. For me 2017 has been extremely enjoyable, uncanny parallels between the 1930s and the present notwithstanding. I hope it has been the same for you.

Enjoyable but busy — which is why you haven’t heard too much from me in 2017. Fortunately, life hasn’t been all work and no play. And you’ll hear more about all of the play in 2018. See under: Resolutions (below).

For now, I’m going to do something rather out of character as we sail into the sunset of 2017. Any long-time reader of Tempest knows that I’m not a fan of “best-of” lists, but since I’m already hearing the siren call of New Year’s Eve festivities, I’ll make an exception of sorts. Following is a list (in no particular order) of five beers I drank for the first time this year and found particularly impressive. I’m picking more or less at random here, but they’re all beers worth searching out. Three Tankards, if you will. Along with these five beers, I’m including a list of five stellar beer-related places I visited for the first time this year. All are places that you’ll want to put on your travel bucket list for 2018 or further in the future.

Reflections I: Beers

Birra Baladin, Elixir. My first beer of 2017, Baladin’s Elixir set quite the tone for the year. This beer is a malthead’s dream: honeyed malt sweetness to spare, rum-soaked dark cherries, lush caramel, and Calimynra figs mingling with vanilla and toasted coconut. Demarara sugar and high-end milk chocolate (Italian or Belgian, take your pick) follow the initial crescendo of aromas and flavours, all accented by a “Belgian” yeast character that’ll bring plum, baking spice, and overripe banana to mind. If you’ve ever eaten Spanish fig chocolate cake, you’ll love this beer.

Brouwerij ’t Verzet, Oud Bruin. I had visited Cantillon for my second time in as many years the day before, and I could just as easily have listed their superb 2013 Lou Pépé Framboise or their 2016 Saint Lamvinus Grand Cru (featuring Merlot grapes) here. But fortunately we took the word of a woman who has been leading tours of a famous brewery in nearby Bruges for years now. When she’s not regaling beer tourists with stories of her well-respected brewery, she’s singing the praises of up-and-coming younger brewers in the region. And the folks at ’t Verzet are on to something. This copper-garnet beer offers up aromas and flavours you’d usually expect to find in an Oud Bruin, but with a twist: liquid caramel with a dusting of sea salt, chocolate reminiscent of the filling in a Belgian truffle, and a bright balsamic character that heads in the direction of cherry-like Chianti wine. The beer is sour but full-flavoured — a difficult feat to pull off. A green apple/apple cider-like acidity rounds out a subtle earthiness that shades into Amontillado sherry and aged saké.

pFriem Family Brewers, Frambozen. You know what, I didn’t take any notes on this beer. But it has stuck with me. A wonderful mix of fresh raspberry and wild-fermentation funk reminiscent of horse blanket, elegant Band-aid (if ever there were an elegant Band-aid … ), and fresh-cut meadows. North America doesn’t get much closer to Belgium than this.

Fremont Brewing, 2017 B-Bomb (Coconut Edition). I’m a huge fan of just about any imperial stout but tend to gravitate, firstly, toward barrel-aged versions, and, secondly, toward less austere and more rounded expressions of the style. Freemont’s 2017 version starts out as a fine example of blending virtuosity: a mix of their 9-, 12-, and 24-month Winter Ale aged in 12-year-old American Oak bourbon barrels. Add in some toasted coconut and you end up with an exquisite blend of milk chocolate, vanilla, cacao, dates, toasty malt, mocha, and, yes, a clearly present but well integrated aroma and taste of toasted coconut guaranteed to make you bolt in the opposite direction from that next “coconut stout/porter” spiked with extract you’ll probably encounter this year.

U Trí Růží, Tmavý Speciál. Czech dark lager doesn’t get much press back at home, but it has, at least, achieved minor fame as a BJCP beer style in the 2015 guidelines. And long overdue at that, considering the pedigree of a place like U Fleků, that Prague institution that brews and serves one beer and one beer only. And do make the trek to U Fleků for a night on the town singing Czech folk songs with suitably inebriated patrons, one and all quaffing the urban brewery’s signature dark lager. Assuming you likely will (or have) visited U Fleků, here’s another spot that lies a mere hundred meters from the hustle and bustle of Charles Bridge and all the congested pubs in the vicinity. This is the beer that inspired me to take a crack at brewing the style a month back. Needless to say, mine’s but a pale reflection of this stellar beer that features rich cocoa, dark chocolate, freshly ground coffee, and just a touch of dark cherry. Wondering what the difference is between a Czech dark lager and a Munich dunkles Bier? All I can say without getting into too much detail is that they’re similar but o-so-different: like twin cousins.

Reflections II: Places

I don’t want to spoil anything for 2018 (see under: Resolutions), so I’ll operate here under the assumption that a photo is worth a cliché’s worth of words.

‘t Brugs Beertje, Bruges. A classic Belgian watering hole. And a stellar selection of western Flanders beers that’ll help you make sense of the tile patterns on the floor.

Kloster Weltenburg, eastern Bavaria. Serves up one of Germany’s best Doppelbocks named after two of Bavaria’s best Baroque architects, the Assam brothers. Should you tire of the beer on offer (heaven forfend!), you can admire the surrounding monastic architecture to which the aforementioned Doppelbock pays tribute. I’m leaving out a whole lotta Bavaria here, including Nürnberger Bratwurst Glöckl am Dom, a Munich gem hidden in plain sight serving up superb Bratwurst accompanied by Augustiner Helles fresh from the barrel. But that’s fine. The beer, the architecture, and the scenic voyage through the stunning Donaudurchbruch (Danube Gorge) is worth the trip from Kehlheim of Schneider Weisse fame. Make it a two-for-one.

Zum Uerige, Düsseldorf. All the trappings of a classic Altbier tavern and then some. It’s everything you’ve heard about the place. Some claim that the Altbier is better in other taverns. It may well be. And I could certainly give you recommendations for more “off the beaten track” Altbier breweries. But this warren of dark rooms, dimly lit Ausschank areas (where they roll out the barrels), and convivial spaces where the whole family gathers after church in the half-light of stained-glass windows is one of those iconic Euro beer spots that every beer enthusiast should visit at least once.

Päffgen, Cologne. You’ve stepped out of the train station and stood in awe of the cathedral. As a beer drinker, you’ve probably already realized that it’s about a 30-second walk from the train station to the Gaffel shrine to Kölsch. Maybe you have decided to see another 5-minutes’ worth of the town before succumbing to the temptation of checking out what the Köbes (Cologne’s famous Kölsch servers) are up to at Früh. No one will judge you for either of these choices, least of all me. But if you spend a few more days and peel back the proverbial layers, you might find yourself in the Friesenviertel. Some say Päffgen’s is the best Kölsch in town. Whatever the case may be, it is, without doubt, one of the most traditional places to find a Kölsch. (I could have put “traditional” in scare quotes, but I’ll save that for another year. Hint: Kölsch ain’t all that old as a style. Suffice it to day, though, this place has all the requisite “X-factor” stuff going on when compared to the other places.)

Letná beer garden, Prague. Pilsener Urquell and Kozel Černý in plastic cups. Forget everything I’ve ever written about proper glassware and just enjoy the stellar view.

Resolutions:

Write more in 2018.

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All the best for 2018, everyone!

Further Tempest reading:

A Pivo Pilgrimage to Pilsen

Where the Wild Beers Are: Brussels and Flemish Brabant

Of Coolships, Cobwebs, and Cantillon

How Paulaner’s Salvator Doppelbock Got Its Name

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

All images by F.D. Hofer

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

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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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.

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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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