16 November 2015


I'm looking at some German beers today, ones that are a little, but not too much, outside of the normal run of things for brewers there.

Störtebeker Atlantik-Ale offers no explanation as regards a style, only that it's 5.1% ABV and brewed with a mix of German and American hops. It pours out a pale hazy yellow with a big fluffy head, looking for all the world like a witbier. The smell isn't far off either, with lots of fresh lemons and a hint of herbs too. The flavour is an odd mix of spicy and juicy. A sharp bitterness, which I think is hop-derived, opens it up. But there's a certain yeast contribution too: a bathsalt spice that adds its own kind of sharpness. Soft fruit then floods in behind this, mango and passionfruit, with sharper lime elements. A crisp and dry cereal quality finishes it off, leaving just an echo of the initial hops and yeast behind. It's quite an intense experience and takes a bit of getting used to, but I liked it. My bottle was older than I should have allowed it to get so it's possible that a fresh one would have even brighter hop notes.

I followed it with Brewers & Union Unfiltered Dark Lager, Brewers & Union being a self-consciously "craft" Munich-based gypsy brewing operation. But to be honest, only the English-language label and the "I Drink Craft" logo on the bottlecap marks this as any way out of the ordinary. It's 5% ABV and tastes to me like an absolutely straight-up well made Munich dunkel, mixing sweet milk chocolate with bitterer liquorice, finishing with a herbal noble hop flourish. It's smooth and very drinkable. One off-kilter feature is that it's bottle-conditioned, leaving quite a lot of yeasty goop in the bottom of the bottle. And I think this unusual (for bottled German lager) part of the the production process really stands to it. Its flavours certainly seem bigger and brighter as a result.

To The Beer Market for the last one. Legendary Bavarian weissbier brewer Schneider has been trying to earn some craft cred in recent years with its Tap X series of offbeat beers, and they haven't been a universally liked bunch. The presentation has tended to be an expensive large-format bottle so I was surprised to see the latest Tap X, Mathilda Soleil, on draught at The Beer Market. It's a 7% ABV weizenbock and looks more like a modern pale ale than a traditional Bavarian anything. The nose gives sweet orange candy backed by classic weissbier banana esters. So far so fruity. On tasting it makes it very clear that this is a strong beer: the instant heat, spice and density lays down a marker. But it's also madly easy drinking: there's a flowers and tannins effect reminiscent of the best English quaffing bitters and then the juicy mandarins and hondeydew of US or New Zealand pale ale. Only the high carbonation brings you back to Kelheim and a reminder of what kind of beer this is. But styles be damned, it's perfection in any vernacular.

I'm sure I've said this before, but new-wave German brewing does seem to do a particularly good job of incorporating what the industry already does well with new influences. Long may that continue.