BeerCast #8 – Das DeutscheCast

Posted by on Dec 1, 2007 in BeerCasts, German Beer | No Comments

BeerCast episode 8 sees our panellists return to Europe, and to one of the countries many people think of when they think of decent beer. Germany has the second highest number of breweries in the world (behind the USA), and thanks to strict purity laws – the fabled Reinheitsgebot – produces some seriously decent beer. For this edition, we try four different styles, with firstly the ubiquitous German pilsener, Beck’s (5.0%). Up next is a Weizen from Munich’s Franziskaner brewery (5.0%), then a Dunkel from the giants of Erdinger (5.6%). Finally we wrap up with one to file under ‘acquired taste’ – the Marzen variety of Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (5.1%). On the panel this week – which turns out to be one of the most interesting scorewise – are Grooben, Richard, the returning MrB, and Shovels, who starts everything off in true German style…by asking for directions?

1. Beck’s Pilsener (5%abv)
Brauerei Beck GmbH & Co, Bremen.
220ml glass bottle

The Bremen brewery was founded in 1873 by three men – Messers Beck, May and Rutenberg. After the latter two left, Beck perservered under the purity laws and continued producing beer. He was saved by two factors – the sudden popularity of the Czech-style Pilsener beer (which he happened to be producing), and the ease of distributing products from Bremen via the River Weser and the North Sea. Growing from strength to strength, in 2002 the brewery was taken over by Belgian behemoths InBev for a cool US$2bn. Beck’s pilsener is still produced under the Reinheitsgebot laws (i.e. beer must only contain water, barley, hops and yeast), and last year the hard-working Bremenites churned out 34m cases of the stuff.

What They Say“This classic German pilsener carries a distinctive full-bodied taste, with a fresh ‘hoppy’ bouquet, golden colour and a rich full head. But the taste doesn’t end there – with a slightly fruity but firm crispness, this exciting blend of intriguing flavours ends with a clean, dry finish.” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – I prefer this to many other lagers, it’s quite refreshing 8
Grooben – It’s just a lager, and it smells weird 6
Shovels – Even in a blind tasting I’d still know it was Beck’s 6
Richard – Has a ‘green’ smell, it’s less worse than it was 6

2. Franziskaner Weissbier Kristallklar (5.0%abv)
Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu GmbH, Munich.
500ml glass bottle

In 1363 Seidel Vaterstetter set up a brewery in the Bavarian capital of Munich. The city takes it’s name from the number of monks who inhabited it at the time, so Herr Vaterstetter decided to name his fledgling company ‘Franziskaner’ after the monastery over the road. Today their Weissbier is the third best selling in the world, and the laughing friar on the label chuckles out from beer shop shelves all over the globe. Munich is also going places, being recently named the 8th best city in the world in which to live, although it’s also Germany’s most expensive in which to do so. Rather fittingly, Munich’s UK twin town is Edinburgh, home of the BeerCast. Will that win it any extra points?

What They Say“This fresh, golden coloured and crystal-clear wheat beer is characterized by a certain citrousity and softness. The light, bubbly, and slightly acidic Franziskaner Kristall is an excellent thirst quencher and refreshing beverage delight. Kristallklar is a delicately bitter weiss beer for everyone who wants a fresh wheat beer without cloudiness.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – A nice wheatbeer, not flowery like some of the others 7
MrB – It smells like dishwasher tablets – I prefer Erdinger 6
Shovels – It’s not great, but not bad. I’d struggle to finish a pint 5
Grooben – This has grown off me the more of it I drink 4

3. Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel (5.6%abv)
Privatbrauerei Erdinger Weißbräu, Erding.
500ml glass bottle

Franziskaner does well to be the world’s third-best selling wheatbeer, but the daddies are undoubtedly Erdinger. A relative newcomer on the scene, they started in 1886 in the Bavarian town of Erding. Only thirty miles from Munich, this sleepy commuter centre houses a brewing giant – as long ago as 1935 they were producing 250,000 litres a year (the figure is now 800,000). But the citizens of Erding like a stein or two, as a town census in 1789 revealed 1700 people, and 11 pubs (one boozer for every 154.5 of them). The panel sampled Erdinger’s Dunkel, which is the German word for ‘dark’. Such beers are characterised by the colour and malty flavour.

What They Say“Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel is a rich and smooth wheat beer. It owes its full-bodied flavour to the fine hops and dark malt used in its production. The beer is brewed according to an age-old recipe, and its spicy flavour also results from the increased proportion of wort. Maturing in the bottle, this is a real speciality for connoisseurs.” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – I prefer the dark German beers, this is lovely stuff 9
Richard – Wheatbeer taste up front with more going on behind 8
Grooben – Dark, subtle, an edge of malt – one of the nicest 8
Shovels – Nice smoky porter taste to it but not overpowering 7

4. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier [Marzen] (5.1%abv)
Brauerei Schlenkerla, Bamberg.
500ml glass bottle

If you wander the historic cobbled streets of the Franconian town of Bamberg, you might be lucky and come across the Schlenkerla brewery tavern (it’s in Dominikanerstrasse). This classic Bavarian eatery is a half-timbered, geranium-clad hostelry of the oldest style. It’s here that the ‘original’ smokebeer is produced, by mixing beechsmoked malts with water and hops. The name Schlenkerla derives from the German verb to dangle, as 19th Century proprieter Andreas Graser apparently walked in a strange way due to a disability – the symol of the brewery is an old timer wobbling along with a cane in one hand and a giant beer in the other.

What They Say“Even if the brew tastes somewhat strange at the first swallow, do not stop, because soon you will realize that your thirst will not decrease and your pleasure will visibly increase. Many have tried to describe Schlenkerla, but no comprehensive description is possible, one has to experience it to understand!” [Official Website]

What We Say
Grooben – Past the smoky bacon crisp taste, has a certain charm 7
Richard – Woodsmokey; persevere and it’s by no means awful 6
Shovels – It grows on you – a 2 at first, but rising to a 5
MrB – It’s like drinking hotdogs in a blender, it turns my stomach 0

BeerCast panel verdict

Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel – 32/40
Beck’s Pilsener – 26/40
Franziskaner Krystallklar – 22/40
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier – 18/40

Panellists – (from top left) Shovels, Grooben, MrB, Richard



We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with our extravagant BeerCast Christmas Special. Stay tuned for details…and please leave us comments on the blog or iTunes, or emails. Cheers!

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