Tag Archives: Berliner Weisse

Augurs of Spring: Wheat Beers Belgian, German, and American (Sat. 6-Pack, Vol.4)

Warmer days and cool nights. April showers on the horizon. The occasional spring frost following upon a stretch of summer-like days.

Time to lay those warming Russian Stouts and barley wines down to rest for another season.

* * *

The quintessential beer for your rites of spring, be they seeding the garden or cleaning the cobwebs out of the grill, is one that’ll quench your thirst on a sunny afternoon yet stand up to an evening chill. You won’t go wrong with a hoppy and refreshing American brown ale, and nor would a porter be out of place on a cooler day. For this Saturday’s six-pack, though, I’m going to suggest a selection of beers that stays within one (admittedly broad) family, a family of beers that hits all the registers of spring in its arc between winter and summer: wheat beers.

Van Gogh - Wheat-Fields-at-Auvers-Under-Clouded-Sky_July_1890 (WikiCommons)

Weizenbock: Vitus, Weihenstephan (Germany)

Weihenstephan has been making beer in Freising near Munich since 1040, so they’ve had a few years more than most brewers to perfect their recipes. And this Weizenbock (wheat bock) recipe comes as close to perfection as you’ll get among a stable of beers that also includes Weihenstephan’s sublime Hefeweissbier. Weihenstephan-Freising (weihenstephaner-de)

Vitus is the epitome of unctuous, and makes for an ideal transition between seasons. Aromas of honeyed light brown sugar, wheat, clove, allspice, and white pepper cascade out from underneath the epic pearl-white mountain of foam, with the slightest trace of butterscotch and a suggestion of saline minerality lurking in the depths.Weihen-Vitus (weihenstephaner-de) Swiss milk caramel shines through on the palate along with spiced honey, all exquisitely balanced by ripe banana, clove, and cinnamon en route to a velvet finish of marzipan and pear-banana-allspice.

At a honeyed, aromatic, and richly textured 7.7%, Vitus hides its potency well. But fear not if you overindulge your inner entertainer after drinking a few of these, for Vitus just so happens to be the patron saint of dancers, actors, and comedians.

Three Tankards.

Witbier/Bière Blanche: Blanche de Namur, Brasserie du Bocq (Belgium)

Wheat has deep roots in Wallonia and Flanders. Records of wheat grown for beer brewing date back to the time of Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire. Established in 1858, the Brasserie du Bocq in the heart of the Condroz is a family operation that adheres to the traditional process of secondary fermentation in the bottleBrasserie du Bocq bldg (www-bocq-be). The name of their witbier, Blanche de Namur, also evokes local tradition. In August 1335, Blanche de Namur was married off by her father, the Count of Namur, to Magnus IV Eriksson. When she embarked on her trip to Scandinavia to become a queen, it would be the last time she saw the banks of the Meuse. Brasserie du Bocq dedicates their beer to Blanche de Namur’s “beauty, sweetness and delicacy.”

Sweet and delicate this ochre-complexioned beer is. Dreamy aromas of lemony coriander, mild grapefruit zest, and spicy-floral hops set the stage for a rich, mouth-filling showcase of creamy wheat and citrus-spice that finishes up with a flinty dryness.Blanche de Namur (www-bocq-be) Many a North American craft beer drinker tends to conflate richness of flavour and a high percentage of alcohol. At 4.5% ABV, this is just the beer to puncture such myths.

One Tankard.

Hefeweizen: Bräuweisse, Ayinger Privatbrauerei (Germany)

To me, nothing says spring or summer more than a Hefeweizen, but the signature clove and banana aromatics along with the periodic hint of vanilla and honeyed light brown sugar are at home in just about any season. Ayinger’s Bräuweisse is a hazy honey-golden Hefeweizen crowned by a towering, meringue-like foam cap, and is one of the most compelling examples of this southern German style of beer that is nothing if not unique.

Pushing one-hundred-and-thirty years young, Ayinger isn’t quite as storied as Weihenstephaner, but the brewery is no less respected in Germany and beyond for its array of lagers and wheat beers.Ayinger Brauweisse (ayinger-bier-de) 2 The Bräuweisse exudes a panoply of aromas ranging from creamed ripe banana and apple to lemon curd and light milky caramel. The spicing is subtle, more like a blend of baking spices that encompasses clove, cinnamon, and allspice. Creamy and mouthfilling yet still effervescent, the palate presents a harmonious mix of graham cracker, vanilla-banana, and a touch of tingly pepper and hop spiciness. For best results, drink in a beer garden, preferably in sight of the Alps.

Three Tankards.

American Wheat: American Wheat Beer, Choc (U.S.A.)

Brown beers may well get no luvin’ on the sites that gauge the barometric pressure of the North American craft beer scene. For American wheat beers, though, the fate is even worse: silence. One of the longer-standing indigenous American beer styles, American wheat beer doesn’t even merit a mention in Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont’s recent World Atlas of Beer. For my part, I have to admit that if I were to list my favourite beer styles, American wheat beer would not make it too high up the ladder. That’s no reason to pass on this typically effervescent and easy-drinking beer style in the springtime, though. The style is fairly ubiquitous across North America, and you can find the occasional intriguing example like 3 Floyds’ Gumballhead, but for this Saturday’s sixer, I’m going to go with a solid example from Oklahoma’s quiet powerhouse, Choc Beer Company.

Choc traces its roots back to a time when Pete Prichard (né Pietro Piegari) served up beer to the English, Irish, Welsh, and Italian immigrants who flocked to the area in search of jobs in the nearby coal mines. Prichard operated through Prohibition out of Pete’s Place, his family-style Italian eatery that fast became an institution in southeastern Oklahoma. Today, Choc brews a slate of solid and affordable beers alongside a small roster of respectable specialty releases.

Formerly known as 1919 Choc Beer, the hazy straw-gold American Wheat Beer weaves together malt and hops into a delicate canvas of lemon grass and coconut aromatics reminiscent of Thai cuisine.Choc - American Wheat (label) Malt anchors the beer unobtrusively, with notes of fresh bread, nougat, and toasted toffee. But that’s not all: the hops contribute a pineapple-tangerine quality that melds well with the nougat, along with a subtle spiciness and a breath of spring flowers in bloom. Clean and crisp, the beer finishes with the slightest bitterness that leads into a lingering aftertaste of dried apricot and cinnamon-dusted white raisins. The aromatics and flavours of Choc’s American Wheat Beer are many but subtle, and come together like the individual brush strokes of an Impressionist painting. Indeed, this is both the strength and weakness of this beer that eschews bold gestures in favour of nuance. No show-stopper, Choc’s American Wheat Beer is, nonetheless, a pleasant drink that rewards patience. Drink cool but not cold.

Gose: Original Ritterguts Gose, Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf (Germany)

Even if it took a few decades for the North America craft beer cognoscenti to bestow its seal of approval on this tart and refreshing beer most closely associated with the city of Leipzig, Gose is now one of the hottest summertime beer commodities. Summer aside, Gose is, like Hefeweizen, a versatile beer eminently suited to spring’s capricious weather.

IMG_4828

The past few years have witnessed many an intriguing Gose crop up in beer stores across North America, but none of these excellent beers quite matches the peerless Original Ritterguts Gose. Despite how the name may look and sound to English speakers unacquainted with German, Ritterguts Gose traces a rather noble history back to the Rittergut (manor) of Döllnitz, where Gose production started in 1824. As part of the general Gose revival underway in 1990s Leipzig, Tilo Jänichen developed a Gose that was based on this original Döllnitzer manor recipe, but could barely keep up with demand.Rittergute Gose Labels Production shifted to ever-larger breweries, and in 2007 Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf took on the brewing of Original Ritterguts Gose.

Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf’s iteration of this classic recipe is a deep, burnished golden beer with a luminescent haze. Out of the hazy mist float complex aromas of fresh raw almond, wheat cereal richness, a quinine-like sourness, and a coriander-clove spiciness buffeted by a gentle sea breeze carrying green plum scents not unlike Japanese ume-boshi. Mouth-filling, silky, and with just enough lassi-like saltiness and moderate acidity to whet the appetite, our Döllnitzer classic builds to a mineral-crisp and dry finish of almonds, stone fruit, and spiced apple that made me think, briefly, of chutney. Compared to other examples of the style, the honeyed nougat-like malt depth lends this beer a certain gravitas, and the very low level of hops (with a herbal note suggestive of dill) meshes well with the savoury coriander and brine notes.

A standard bearer. Three Tankards.

Berliner Weisse: Berliner Style Lager (Sour Wheat Lager), Jack’s Abby (U.S.A.)

If the weighty Weizenbock is perfectly suited to those days when you can still hear winter’s echo, the Berliner Weisse is its antipode: crisp, sour, and refreshing. Where Weizenbock makes a fine accompaniment to an evening après-ski, Berliner Weisse is more at home when the late-spring mercury is pointing toward summertime.Jacks Abby Berliner (jacksabbybrewing-com) Like the historic Gose, this northern German beer style is another that has enjoyed a renaissance of late among North American craft beer enthusiasts smitten with sour beers.

In a nod to the traditional practice of using a neutral ale yeast, Jack’s Abby of Framingham, MA, ferments its Berliner Weisse with a lager yeast after souring the mash. The results are an impressive rendition of what Napoleon once called “the Champagne of the north,” and what the ever-pragmatic Berliners dubbed simply “the workers’ sparkling wine.” Jack’s Abby combines aspects of both champagne and white wine with its bread dough-like yeasty character and its zesty green apple-lemon acidity. Aromatic tart-sour notes tend toward Asian pear and crisp peach that lend this light-bodied thirst quencher a steely mineral crispness. Meanwhile, a sherry-like nuttiness and a touch of clean, honeyed wheat holds the balance long enough for cinnamon-spiced apple to make an appearance in the dry finish. The one flaw that keeps this beer merely excellent? An all-too-ephemeral effervescence.

Take your Berliner Weisse straight up, or with a shot of syrup. Traditional choices are green or red: woodruff or raspberry.

One Tankard.Bild 11

What are some of your favourite wheat beers? What are your springtime go-to beers? Let us know in the comments.

Sources and Further Reading

For all things wheat in Germany, see the German Beer Institute’s entry on Weissbier, and on Berliner Weisse.

Michael Jackson’s The New World Guide to Beer (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1988) contextualizes the Weizenbier style within the broader sweep of German brewing, while his Great Beer Guide (New York: DK Publishing, 2000) focuses on particular brands.

On Blanche de Namur: http://www.bocq.be/english/ownbrands/blanche_namur.php

On the pros and cons of various souring methods, see Michael Tonsmeire’s informative American Sours: Innovative Techniques for Mixed Fermentations (Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 2014).

A brief write-up on the Shelton Bros. website, along with an entry on the Ortsteil der Gemeinde Schopau im Saalekreis, help disentangle the production history of Original Ritterguts Gose and its relationship to Döllnitz.

Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont’s The World Atlas of Beer: The Essential Guide to the Beers of the World (New York: Sterling Epicure, 2012) offers up a visually-pleasing panorama of regions, styles, and labels.

Related Tempest Articles

Gose: A Beer Worth Its Salt

A Coal Town and a Cold One: My Hefeweizen Craft Beer Conversion

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

A Taste of Oklahoma in Six Glasses

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

Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.1)

Images

Vincent van Gogh, “Wheatfield at Auvers under Clouded Sky” (1890), Oil on Canvas, Carnegie Museum of Art Pittsburgh. Wiki Commons/Public Domain.

Freising and Vitus. http://weihenstephaner.de

Brasserie du Bocq and Blanche de Namur: www.bocq.be

Ayinger Bräuweisse: http://www.ayinger.de/?pid=262

Choc American Wheat: https://www.petes.org/

Leipzig: F.D. Hofer

Salts: F.D. Hofer

Original Ritterguts Gose: www.sheltonbrothers.com

Jack’s Abby Berliner Style Lager: http://jacksabbybrewing.com/beers/

Berliner Weisse in traditional glass with woodruff syrup: German Beer Institute.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Gose: A Beer Worth Its Salt

If you live in the northern hemisphere or in climes where summer and winter are abstract concepts, it’s still warm enough to pick up one of this season’s hottest beer commodities. In the amount of time it usually takes to down a Maß of Märzen in Munich, our style of the summer has streaked across the sky like a shooting star to claim a place on the calendar of North American seasonal beer releases.IMG_1382 Many a craft beer geek who might but a year or so ago have mistaken Gose for a Belgian beer blended from young and old lambics now waxes poetic about its bracingly refreshing tartness.

But it hasn’t always been that way for our salty stalwart, even if the ever-intrepid homebrewer has been onto the style long enough for the BJCP to take notice. Gose now sits alongside other rejuvenated or rediscovered historical styles like Berliner Weisse and Grätzer. (Fearless prediction: The refreshing smoked wheat beer known alternately as Grätzer or Piwo Grodziskie will be next summer’s thirst quencher of choice. You heard it here.)

* * *

Nearly two decades have passed since famed beer hunter, Michael Jackson, attempted to introduce the English-speaking world to this sour wheat beer that had only just reemerged from obscurity in the city with which it is most closely associated.IMG_4813 That city is Leipzig, where one Johann Sebastian Bach served as Cantor of the Church of St. Thomas until his death. Bach’s legacy has never waned in Leipzig. Not so for the fortunes of our summer seasonal, which declined with the rise of lager in the late nineteenth century, and suffered a further blow when many of Germany’s cities were reduced to rubble in the middle of the twentieth. The postwar division of Germany didn’t help matters much either.

Origins:

Even if Gose is closely associated with Leipzig today, it is named for a town and region in the Harz Mountains that pioneered the style nearly a millennium ago. In fact, the beer did not arrive in Leipzig from Goslar until the early eighteenth century.

Gose takes its name from the river that flows through Goslar. In the Middle Ages, Goslar was known as much for its brewing prowess as it was for the rich deposits of silver ore and other mineral resources buried deep in the nearby mountains.Old_Town_of_Goslar (Y Shishido - Wiki Commons) Brewers drew their water from this river that flowed through the center of town, giving rise to the latter-day speculation that the mineral-rich acquifiers in the vicinity of Goslar contributed a signature saline quality to the finished beer.

Once a prosperous Hanseatic town, Goslar’s economic influence began to wane with the loss of the Rammelsberg mines to the Duchy of Brandenburg, precipitating the migration of Gose to Leipzig.

By the time the first recorded license to brew this refreshing thirst-quencher was issued in 1738, Leipzig was a vibrant legal and publishing center. With its renowned university, the city proved to be fertile ground for the spread of the beer’s popularity. So beloved was Gose that some eighty-odd Gose cafés and taverns dotted Leipzig at the turn of the twentieth century. One such Gosenschänke was the fabled Ohne Bedenken, which opened its doors in 1899. Ohne Bedenken (hausgeschichte_biedermeier) www-gosenschenke-deThe destruction wrought upon Leipzig during the air war of WWII destroyed much of the city’s brewing capacity. During the postwar years of German division, the flow of Leipzig’s once widely-consumed beer slowed to a trickle. It wasn’t until some three years before the Berlin Wall came down that the style began to enjoy a very modest renaissance.

Revival:

At the center of this revival was the Ohne Bedenken. Since its postwar closure in 1958, the site had served as a library, an X-ray clinic, and even as the meeting point for the National Front of the German Democratic Republic:Ohne Bedenken Bldg (www-gosenschenke-de)––all this before Lothar Goldhahn was granted official permission to restore the Ohne Bedenken to its former function as a public house. When Michael Jackson acquainted himself with Gose a few years after the fall of the Wall, he did so at the Ohne Bedenken.

And what of the name of this institution? Apparently a patron asked one of the original servers at the tavern whether this swill was even drinkable, to which the server replied: “Ohne Bedenken.” Without doubt and without even the slightest reservation.

When I arrived in Leipzig in 2009, the Bayrischer Bahnhof had long-since joined the Ohne Bedenken as one of the premier spots to drink Leipzig’s rejuvenated beer style. After my first taste at the Bayrischer Bahnhof, I must say that I concur wholeheartedly about the eminent drinkability of this crisp and refreshing style, ohne Bedenken.IMG_4820Odds and Ends:

Bottles: Back in the day, our Leipziger beer arrived at student cafés and taverns in a cask before being transferred into bottles that resembled the flatly bulbous flasks of Franconian wine.Gose-Flasche (Wiki Commons - Foto H-P Haack) The slender eight-inch neck would then clog with enough foam and residue from the still vigourously-fermenting yeast to stopper the bottle and carbonate the beer.

Toasts: In place of the traditional German toast (Prost! or Zum Wohl!), the Leipzigers have another: Goseanna!

Worth Many a Goseanna:

Leipzig played a central role in the toppling of the communist dictatorship that ruled the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) between 1949 and 1990. During the communist era in East Germany, the church was the only institution that remained beyond the control of the communist authorities. Its status made the church the focal point of the intertwining peace movement and ecological movement. The Church of St. Nicholas (Nikolaikirche) in Leipzig began holding prayers for peace in 1982, demanding both a peaceful resolution to the Cold War and––more ominously for the regime––respect for human rights.

On Monday, September 4, 1989, some 1200 anti-regime protesters gathered on the square in front of St. Nicholas after a prayer meeting. At first, the Stasi tried violence to suppress what quickly became weekly “Monday demonstrations,” but to no avail. The defiant crowds soon forced the resignation of the long-ruling hardliner, Erich Honecker, and set in motion a chain of events that would culminate in the toppling of the Berlin Wall.

___________________________

Related Tempest articles:

Gose Gone Wild: Anderson Valley, Bayrischer Bahnhof, Choc, and Westbrook

Tempest Gose to Leipzig

Milling Against the Grain: Grimm Bros. Goes All-Germanic

Sources and Recommended Reading:

Michael Jackson, “Going for Gose” (2000).

Michael Jackson, “Salty Trail of Germany’s Link with Wild Beer” (2000: originally published in What’s Brewing, October 1, 1996).

The German Beer Institute, “Gose” (2004).

BJCP, “2014 BJCP Style Guidelines Draft” (2014).

UNESCO, “Mines of Rammelsberg, Historic Town of Goslar, and Upper Harz Water Management System.”

On Leipzig and 1989, see the informative website, German History in Documents and Images.

The Ohne Bedenken and Bayrischer Bahnhof websites are also informative resources for the history and revival of Gose.

Images

Still Life with Geuze: F.D. Hofer

Bach in Leipzig: F.D. Hofer

Old Town of Goslar: Y. Shishido (Wiki Commons)

Cajeri’s Gosenstube “Ohne Bedenken”: Ohne Bedenken website (www.gosenschenke.de)

Ohne Bedenken, Leipzig: Ohne Bedenken website (www.gosenschenke.de)

F.D. Hofer (par lui-même)

Antique Gose Bottle, Moulded Glass: © Foto H.-P. Haack (Wiki Commons)

______________________

© 2014 Franz D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Featured Beer: Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe “Bonator”

Today’s featured beer is brought to you by the letter G for Germany. It’s also brought to you by a date: November 9, a rather infamous date in Germany’s often turbulent twentieth-century history.

Many remember this date as the evening when an unexpected event ushered in the end of the Cold War. During one of his regular press conferences in the heady autumn days of 1989, the East German Politburo spokesperson, Gunter Schabowski, discussed regulations that signaled an easing of travel restrictions for East Germans. The ink had barely dried on the text of the regulations, and Schabowski had not been fully briefed about the timeline of their implementation. A reporter asked when the regulations would come into effect. Caught off guard, Schabowski hesitated for a moment. His improvised answer: “Sofort. Unverzüglich.” (Effective immediately, without delay). West German media outlets – whose signal was transmitted into most of East Germany as well – broadcasted this stunning news on their evening programs. Crowds began amassing at the Berlin border crossings within minutes, and as the evening wore on, the vastly outnumbered border guards opened the flood gates to the tide of humanity that would swell back and forth across what was only recently a deadly boundary.

Though many in Berlin and Germany will celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall, other November 9ths have etched themselves, sometimes more dimly, into German collective memory. Ninety-five years ago today, deputy chairperson of the Social Democratic Party, Philipp Scheidemann, stepped out onto a balcony of the Reichstag and proclaimed the establishment of a republic. With this proclamation, Scheidemann put paid to the German monarchy. Within days, the First World War was over. Five years later, a failed artist and lance corporal from Austria who bore a striking resemblance to Charlie Chaplin, led his SA men in what has come to be known as the Munich Beer Hall Putsch. But this man was no comedian. By 1933 his Nazi party was firmly entrenched in power; on the evening of November 9, 1938, he succeeded in unleashing an anti-Semitic frenzy in Germany. Kristallnacht, or The Night of Broken Glass, witnessed an intensification of anti-Semitism that culminated in the Holocaust.

Some of these November 9ths lend themselves eminently to celebration; others, to reflection. Tonight I raise my glass to the fall of the Berlin Wall while remembering other events of German history that were not so festive.

On the evening when the wall came down, I’d hazard to guess that not many were drinking Doppelbock. Sekt (German bubbly) was more likely the beverage of choice. Since I have none of what Napoleon called “the Champagne of the North” (Berliner Weisse) on hand, it’s only fitting to drink a bottle of Bonator, a beer that recalls Germany’s patron saint, Boniface.

Bonator

Brewed by one of the oldest breweries in the Bavarian region of Franconia, Bonator pays tribute to the first archbishop of Mainz and founder of the Franconian diocese of Würzburg. As Weissenohe traces its roots to the local Benedictine monastery, it’s no surprise that they brew a Doppelbock, the rich and hearty beer that got many a monk through Lenten fasts.

Copper-brown with garnet-mahogany highlights, Bonator issues forth from a swing-top bottle bearing aromas of fresh country bread, toasted malt, cocoa, and milk caramel, with just a hint of licorice and aniseed. Woody and earthy hop aromas are subtle but present in the depths, reminiscent of tea with lemon. The beer is a meal in itself, with a complex and richly malt-forward palate that mingles black cherry and plum with chocolate cake. Unsurprisingly, at a hefty 8.2% ABV, the beer is sweet; but the subtle earthy-citrus hops meld with the bready, toasty, fruity milk chocolate malt, assuring that the beer stays this side of cloying, finishing on a pleasant apricot-peach preserve note.

As with any Doppelbock, don’t drink it even remotely chilled. (Trust me. Use the force on this). Crack it at cellar temperature, and then let it warm as you drink it. And don’t drink too many, lest you need to go in search of a Salvator the next day.

____________

© 2013 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.