10 April 2013

Broadening the horizons

I finished yesterday's post on a bit of a whine about BraufactuM and the whole overpriced corporate "gourmet" beer angle they seem to be pushing. I can't complain too much, though, as there were some very interesting imports on their stand next to their own stuff. For one thing they've acquired import rights to California's Firestone Walker. I took the opportunity to try Pale 31, the standard pale ale. I loved the flawless clear gold colour and the sharp citric aroma which immediately puts the palate on full alert. It's no hop bomb, however, being gently flavoured with hints of peaches and honeydew melon. One of those effortlessly delicious and drinkable beers. Double Jack is the brewery's double IPA and it's a mellow, warming one, again not overdoing things on the bitterness front, but not really on any other front either. A much better strong beer experience came from 14th Anniversary, an extremely boozy 12.5% ABV ale but one where all that heat doesn't matter, especially in a 100ml serve. Up front it wears a big smooth chocolate liqueur flavour: sinful and sumptuous.

A long-time stand-out on my list of must-drink beers is Baladin's Elixir and I was delighted to see it too was in BraufactuM's fridges. I requested a taster and, as no bottle was open already, my server popped a new one and the beer within exploded, foamily and messily, over the concrete floor of the Munich transport museum. Better there than at home or in a hotel room, I guess. Eventually, a sample was poured into a glass for me, at a 50% discount due to the inconvenience. And to be honest it wasn't the beer I'd been waiting for: hot smelling and rather characterless, like a first-attempt homebrewed dubbel. A surprising drop of the ball by the Piedmontese brewery there.

And speaking of hyped-up Italians, there was some Birrificio Italiano Tipopils knocking around and I secured a sip courtesy of Mark. It's quite nice, with a pleasant nettley bite, but to be honest I can't see what all the fuss is about. Maybe I need more than a mouthful to judge it properly.

While we're visiting the neighbours, a quick courtesy call on Austria whose brewers had banded together into a single large bar. Gusswerk were offering that German teenage classic the hemp beer, and theirs is called Synergy. While there's definitely some hempy pepperiness buried in it, it's mostly just a rather disappointing plain pils. At the other end of the bar Gusswerk were offering Horny Betty, a version of their Black Betty with added horny goat weed. I don't recall a style being named but it's dark brown and 9.2% ABV, tasting somewhere along the Belgian-style quadrupel to imperial stout spectrum: lots of dark fruit esters and lots of smooth chocolate too. Far from being a mere puerile novelty, the horny goat weed actually adds a pleasant herbal, medicinal character to the overall flavour.

On tasting Engelszell Gregorius back in February I mentioned I was looking forward to their next beer. Turns out I didn't have to wait too long because here it was: Benno, a tripel. Unfortunately it's not a great example of the style. Appropriately gold, it's missing the lovely fruit and honey and spice one would expect and is instead rather unpleasantly sharp. A shame.

Czech representation at BrauKunst Live! came in two flavours: the big bombastic glitz of Pilsner Urquell and on the other side of the hall, Honza Kočka, single-handedly flying the flag for his Nomád brand of ales. A question about how receptive the German market is to Czech IPA was shrugged off: Honza was mostly there to make contacts, drink beer and have fun. Sounds fair. Easy Rider was the Nomád beer everyone was talking about: a modest 4.8% ABV pale ale hopped with Chinook, Willamette and Cascade and bursting with fresh zingy citrus flavours on top of a fuller, weedier, hop funk. Above all it's sessionable, easy-going and sociable, hitting similar places as the Firestone Walker Pale 31. Its bigger brother is Karel, a 7.6% ABV IPA done entirely with Czech hop varieties. The end result is one of those warming, malt-driven IPAs very much echoing the English style for me. Very enjoyable but not for the hopheads. For them it has to be the novelty 13 Hops, brewed to 13° plato, so somewhere just north of 5% ABV, using wheat, caramalt and guess how many different kinds of hops. To be honest I could only taste nine or ten to begin with, but the citrus kick rises slowly on tasting, building to a sharp acidic finish from the full baker's dozen. It's a surprisingly clean beer, given everything that's gone into it.

We finish our visit to BrauKunst Live! tomorrow with some of the more traditional German beer styles.


  1. I missed the Honza beers, would have liked to try them by managing to stay mostly in German beer mode.

    I've a bottle of Horny Betty in the cellar, which was given to me last year. I should really open it.

  2. Jesus, that first sentence made no sense (that's what happens when you edit and don't re-read). I meant to say: I missed the Honza beers, would have liked to try them but managed to stay mostly in German beer mode.

    1. I'd say the aged Horny Betty would be interesting. It strikes me as the sort of beer you could happily throw barrels, brett, Uncle-Tom-Cobley-and-all at.