Showing posts with label Lichtenhainer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lichtenhainer. Show all posts

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Grodziskie - I wish they just wouldn't bother

Over at RateBeer they've added a new style category. Or rather a combined one to include Grodziskie, Gose and Lichtenhainer.

Hang on, I hear you say, how can they lump together Grodziskie with Gose and Lichtenhainer? The latter two are extremely sour while Grodziskie is smoky and bitter.

Well, according to RateBeer Grodziskie is sour:


Sour wheat beers were common in many parts of medieval and early Industrial Europe. Two styles – lambic and Berliner weisse – survived, but many others did not. Gose, Grodziskie and Lichtenhainer are historic styles of sour wheat beer, each a unique style of its own. Gose is seasoned with salt, Grodziskie and Lichtenhainer contain smoked malt. Historical sources are mixed about Lichtenhainer containing wheat, so modern interpretations may vary. Grätzer is an alternative name for Grodziskie. All three will be relatively low alcohol, tart, with a strong wheat character, but will be distinct from classic examples of Berliner Weisse or lambic. As all we have are historical recreations, substantial differences may exist between interpretations."

Here we go again. Didn't I have to argue against a dodgy Grodziskie/Grätzer definition just a few weeks ago? Now here's someone else defining the style incorrectly. What's that emotion I'm feeling? Frustration? Despair? Irritation? A bit of all three.

I'm not sure where they got the stuff about Grodziskie being sour from. The man I trust most when it comes to German top-fermenting styles, Schönfeld, says something very different:

"Under the influence of the supposedly excellent well water, to whose qualities until recently the excellent quality of the beer was erroneously attributed, it was possible to brew a beer of far-reaching fame from pure wheat, which has maintained its reputation through the centuries, as a highly sophisticated beverage which because of its smoke and hop bitter taste was not only earlier highly appreciated, but even now is counted among the best top-fermented beers."
"Die Obergärige Biere und ihre Herstellung" by Schönfeld, 1938, page 162.

Smoky and bitter. No mention of sourness and Schönfeld was an expert in sour beers, having studied and written extensively about Berliner Weisse.

Here's another usually reliable source, confirming an intense hop and smoke flavour as being the defining characteristics of Grodziskie:

"3. Grätzer Bier, a rough, bitter beer, brewed from 100% wheat malt with an intense smoke and hop flavour. The green malt undergoes smoking during virtually the whole drying process, is highly dried and has a strong aroma in addition to the smoked flavour. An infusion mash is employed. Hopping rate: for 1 Zentner (100 kg) of malt, 3 kg hops. Gravity just 7º [Balling]. Fermentation is carried out in tuns at a temperature of 15 to 20º C. Since the beer in the tun, as a result of the expulsion of great quantities protein and resin, doesn't break, it is mixed with isinglass and pumped into barrels. After two or three days it is completely clear and ready to be filled into delivery casks or bottles with the addition of 2 to 5% Krausen."
“Bierbrauerei" by M. Krandauer, 1914, page 301.

Here's a classification of German top-fermenting beers where Grodziskie is placed in a different group to Lichtenhainer and Gose:

"1. Low alcohol content, so easy to digest, an Ausstossbier or filled with krausen into bottles, as free as possible from bacteria, carbon dioxide-rich (Lübbener, Werder'sches, Cölner, Bremen, Hamburg, Grätzer, Munich Weissbier, etc.);

2. the same properties, with a higher lactic acid content (Berliner Weissbier, Broyhan, Calenburger Weissbier, Lichtenhainer, Gose beer);

3. more or less rich in alcohol, poorly carbonated, beers with large amounts of lactic acid (Dortmunder Altbier, called Malzweine);

4. low-alcohol, extra-rich, sweet beers (Braunschweiger Mumme, Danziger Jopenbier, Frauenburger Mumme, etc.)."
"Jahresbericht über die Fortschritte in der Lehre von den Gährungs-Organismen" by Professor Dr. Alfred Koch, 1896, pages 160-161. 
Grodziske is put in the same group as Munich Weissbier and is supposedly as free of bacteria as possible. Doesn't sound like a sour beer to me.

Another smoky and heavily hopped confirmation:

"Sour-tasting beers are Berliner Weißbier and Lichtenhainer, brewed from smoked barley malt, even more so Gose, which is also seasoned with cooking salt. Grätzer Bier, brewed from smoked wheat malt, heavily hopped but of a low gravity, also tastes smoky."
"Encyklopädisches Handbuch der technischen Chemie, Volume 4, Part 1", 1915, page 210.
I'll admit this last one is open to different interpretations. I think it says that Grätzer is another smoky beer.

I can't find any description of Grodziskie in an old text that unambiguously describes it as sour. What everyone agrees on is that it was smoky and hoppy.

In addition, there's a practical consideration. How is a heavily-hopped beer soured? Hops will kill lactic acid bacteria. That's why beers soured with it, like Berliner Weisse, usually contain minimal amounts. There were heavily-hopped German beers that were sour. Dortmunder Altbier, or Adambier is a good example. As is Münster Alt. But they were brewed a different way.

Schönfeld classified sour German styles in two groups:

1. Beers that were lightly-hopped and soured during primary fermentation. Berliner Weisse, Gose and Lichtenhainer were in this group.

2. Heavily hopped beers that only soured during a long secondary fermentation Adambier and Münster Alt were about the only beers in this category.

I don't see how a heavily-hopped beer which was sold relatively young like Grodziskie could have been soured. There were too many hops for it to sour during primary fermentation and there was no long secondary fermentation.

I find the evidence overwhelming that Grodziskie was not sour.

I'm not just doing this because I'm scared the Grodziskie and Grätzer I was involved with will be considered "not true to style". I actually find it amusing when cretins erroneously write that in beer reviews.

The real reason is I don't want history to be perverted and Grodziskie to be lost forever. Because if everyone starts thinking it has to be sour and making versions that way, the authentic style will disappear. And that's something I'd hate to see.

I did bring this up on RateBeer itself first. The admins engaged in a dialogue, but haven't changed the dodgy definition.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

ZBF 2010 (part two)

"Can I have a sausage, dad?" "I suppose so." We'd sat temptingly close to the sausage vendor. The sausages were the main reason Andrew had come. That and the chance to be plugged into his brain-sucker (iPod touch) all day. "A bratwurst with ketchup, please." I've warned Andrew of the evil of ketchup (and most other sauces) but it's had no effect. No point pushing it. I had onions with mine.

The onions had been poaching in the grease at the bottom of the hot plate. As I took my first bite, an orange stream of it trickled down my hand. "That'll be great for my stomach." I thought. The bratwurst shot out some more grease onto my hand. I love health food.

My stomach fully coated with grease, it was time to explore. First stop was the SAS stand. No, there were no human killing machines there. Just an odd collection of quite old-fashioned beers, including Leroy Stout, one of the four Stouts at the festival. But I've had that one before. Bit sweet for my taste. So instead I went for a Christmas Scotch. It was crap. But, as there were only 15cls, it was soon dispatched to the grease pit.

Sugar-free Tripel. That caught my eye at the de Graal booth. I thought sugar was essential to get the light body (for the strength) of a Tripel? I bought one to see. And you know what? You don't really need sugar in a Tripel. It was a perfectly liquid example and it no way heavy or cloying. I'd never have known they'd passed on the sugar.

On the way back to my seat, I bumped into Jezza P of the Burgundian Babblebelt.  After we'd been chatting a couple of minutes, a gorgeous local girl inexplicably joined our conversation. Maybe she has a thing for dimensionally-challenged, old English blokes. Or maybe it was Jezza. Naaah, who could resist my beautiful face? I would have stopped to chat longer, but my glass was empty. Not even a blonde stunner can keep me from beer for long.

Sebastian dropped by with a couple of beers he's had brewed at Braustelle in Cologne. He's only a few years older than Andrew, but disturbingly well-drunk (I don't mean pissed, but the beery equivalent of well-read). They beers were different-strength versions of a sort of Lichtenhainer. That is, smoked, sour, wheat beers. Rather pleasant and definitely unusual. They are commercially available under the names Freigeist Abraxas and Freigeist Abraxxxas. Not sure where from, but you might be lucky.

All too soon our time was up. And I still had three token left. I hate wasting things. Even things I haven't paid for (the tokens were the free ones you get for being a member of and EBCU organisation). Fortunately, Andrew had finished off his bottle of water. Three Glazen Toren Tripels fitted perfectly in the empty. No need to look for cans of Gordon's Finest Gold in Antwerp.

I recognised a familiar face on the platform as we waited for our train to Antwerp: Fred Waltman. Our paths hadn't crossed inside the hall. We caught up as we stood in the crowded train. The slightly-behind-schedule, crowded train. Antwerp station, on three levels, is a bit of a 3-D puzzle. Too much of one for us and we missed our connecting train. Not a total disaster. Especially for Mike. He'd wanted to the bakery of Astrid Plein on the way out, but we hadn't had time. Now we had a full hour. I got myself a half baguette sandwich.

We still had 45 minutes to wait. I tried to drag Mike and Andrew into a noisy, grotty-looking pub just off Astrid Plein. "I'm not going in there, dad." "I'll take that as a maybe." The grand bar in the station was more to their taste. It's an impressive sight, with a 10 metre-high ceilng and, loads of marble and gilding. And they sell Westmalle Tripel. That and a couple of jenevers were exactly what I needed. So that's what I had.

Of course, we had to piss around changing in Rotterdam again. But the jenevers and the water bottle full of Tripel knocked the edges off any annoyance. And I was home in plenty of time for Match of the Day. I celebrated with a St. Bernerdus Abt.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

German beer styles in 1915

Technical publications are great sources. Especially chemistry publications. I've found so much useful stuff in them.

Below is a quick overview of German beer types in 1915. Read it carefully. I'll be asking questions later.
"Bottom-fermenting beer types. First in line amongst dark beers is the Munich type of dark beer. It tastes malty, full-bodied, lightly-hopped and not greatly attenuated. Munich Export Beers are more highly attenuated and consequently differ in taste from the local beers. Nürnberger beer - also Salvator and Bockbier - are darker than Munich beer. Märzenbier is usually paler than the standard dark Schankbier and Lagerbier.

Beers with a middle colour are represented by Wiener Beer, which however no longer always retains its former character of a golden to red-brown pithy-tasting beer, and which is less malty and full-bodied than Munich beer.

Amongst pale beers there can be differentiated beers of the Pilsen or Bohemian type which are yellow, with little malt flavour but a strong, pleasant hop aroma and the paler Dortmunder and Berlin or north German beers. Dortmunder is more highly attenuated than Pilsner, has more alcohol and a higher starting gravity. Hop flavour is not particularly strong, the flavour noble and full-bodied, the head less lasting than with Pilsener. Berlin beers are halfway between Pilsner and Dortmunder: they are mostly yellow to dark yellow powerful-tasting beers without such a prominent hop flavour as Pilsener.

Top-fermenting beer types. In Germany lightly-hopped Malzbier, Süßbier and Braunbier are brewed that vary greatly in original gravity. Only beers sold under the name of Malzbier have to contain a minimum amount of malt according to the Brausteuergesetz of 15. Juli 1909 for the North German Brausteuergebiet. These beers are sometimes light and sweetened with sugar, sometimes heavy (Malzkraftbier, Malzextraktbier, etc.).

Sour-tasting beers are Berliner Weißbier and Lichtenhainer, brewed from smoked barley malt, even more so Gose, which is also seasoned with cooking salt. Grätzer Bier, brewed from smoked wheat malt, heavily hopped but of a low gravity, also tastes smoky.

Apart from sweet, sour and smoky top-fermenting beers, there is another bitter-tasting type, mostly found in thge West of Germany. These beers are pale in colour, heavily-hopped and are lagered in cold cellars."
"Encyklopädisches Handbuch der technischen Chemie, Volume 4, Part 1", 1915, pages 209-210. My translation.

So, did you notice? Do I have to do all the work? That Märzen was listed amongst the dark lagers. And pale lagers. Split into Pilsener, Dortmunder and Berliner. The Berlin type is a new one on me. And no mention of Munich Helles.

And top-fermenting beers. I love the division there: sweet, sour, smoky and bitter. Not quite how the BJCP sees them.

Below is the original text, should you wish to check my translation.

Untergärige Biertypen. Als dunkles Bier kommt in erster Reihe das dunkle Bier vom Münchener Typus in Betracht. Es schmeckt malzig, vollmundig, schwach hopfig, meist ist es niedrig vergoren. Münchener Exportbiere sind höher vergoren und deshalb auch im Geschmack von den Lokalbieren etwas verschieden. Dunkler als das Münchener Bier ist der Typus des Nürnberger Bieres, ebenso das Salvator- und das Bockbier. Die Märzenbiere sind etwas heller als die gewöhnlichen dunklen Schank- und Lagerbiere.

Die mittelfarbigen Biere werden durch das Wiener Bier repräsentiert, das allerdings nicht immer den früher vorherrschenden Charakter eines goldgelben bis rothellbraunen, kernig schmeckenden Bieres bewahrt hat, und weniger malzig und vollmundig als das Münchener Bier schmeckt.

Bei den hellen Bieren sind zu unterscheiden Biere vom Pilsen er oder böhmischen Typus, gelbe wenig malzig schmeckende Biere mit starkem, aber angenehmem Hopfenaroma, und die helleren Dortmunder und Berliner oder norddeutschen Biere. Das Dortmunder Bier ist höher vergoren als das Pilsener, es ist alkoholreicher und aus stärkerer Stammwürze hergestellt als letzteres. Der Hopfengeschmack tritt nicht besonders stark hervor, der Geschmack ist edel und vollmundig, die Schaumhaltigkeit geringer als beim Pilsener Bier. Die Berliner Biere stehen zwischen Pilsener und Dortmunder Typ etwa in der Mitte; es sind meist gelbe bis tiefgelbe kräftig schmeckende Biere mit einem nicht so stark wie beim Pilsener Bier in den Vordergrund tretenden Hopfengeschmack.

Obergärige Biertypen (s. auch S. 303). In Deutschland stellt man schwach gehopfte Malz-, Süß- oder Braunbiere her, deren Stammwürzegehalt in sehr weiten Grenzen schwankt. Nur für Biere, die unter dem Namen Malzbier verkauft werden, ist die Verwendung einer Mindestmenge von Malz durch das Brausteuergesetz vom 15. Juli 1909 für das norddeutsche Brausteuergebiet gesetzlich vorgeschrieben worden. Die Biere sind teils leicht, mit Zucker gesüßt, teils schwer eingebraut (Malzkraftbier, Malzextraktbier usw.).

Säuerlich schmeckende Biere sind das Berliner Weißbier und das aus geräuchertem Gerstenmalz hergestellte rauchig schmeckende Lichtenhainer Bier, ferner die Gose, die noch durch einen Zusatz von Kochsalz gewürzt wird. Rauchig schmeckt auch das Grätzer Bier, ein aus geräuchertem Weizenmalz hergestelltes, stark gehopftes, schwach eingebrautes Bier.

Außer den süßen, den säuerlichen und den rauchigen obergärigen Bieren kennt man noch einen bitter schmeckenden, hauptsächlich im Westen Deutschlands vorkommenden Typus. Diese Biere sind von heller Farbe, sie werden stark gehopft und machen eine Lagerzeit im kalten Lagerkeller durch.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

German top-fermenting beer styles

I've just come across a neat classification of German top-fermenting styles in the late 1890's. Thought it might interest you.

I can't be arsed to do an exact translation, this paraphrases the original:

1. Low-alcohol, light beers filled as Ausstossbier or bottled with Kräusen which are mostly free from bacteria and rich in CO2. Examples: Lübbener, Werder'sches, Cölner, Bremer, Hamburger, Grätzer, Münchener Weissbier etc.

2. Beers with similar attributes to those just named, but with a higher lactic acid content. Examples: Berliner Weissbier, Broyhan, Calenburger Weissbier, Lichtenhainer, Gose-Bier.

3. Beers high in alcohol, low in CO2 and with large amounts of lactic acid. Examples: Dortmunder Altbier, so-called Malzweine.

4. Low-alcohol, high-gravity beers, sweet beers. Examples: Braunschweiger Mumme, Danziger Jopenbier, Frauenburger Mumme etc.

There's a bit more description of Malzwein brewing. Fascinating and unusual, even for a weird old German style. After mashing, the wort was left to sour at 50º C before boiling with hops. It was fermented with pure wine yeast, collected from various wine-growing regions. The wort was 14º Plato, but could be topped up repeatedly with sugar solution to produce a beer with 13% alcohol, a lactic acid taste and a calculated OG of between 30º and 40º Plato. After long lagering it acquired a wine-like taste that was sometimes similar to a dessert wine such as Tokay.

Sounds like an extreme beer. I wonder why no-one has given one a try yet? High ABV, sour, weird yeast. Should be right down the street of those letter-pushing breweries the other side of the pond.

For those who can read German, this is the original text:

"Reinke (350) ist der Meinung, dass neben den geringprocentigen, sogenannten untergährigen Einfachbieren die 6-10 proc. obergährigen die Konkurrenz aushalten werden. Der Charakter eines Bieres muss präcisirt werden. An maassgebende Stelle wird man von obergährigen Bieren jene Typen zu setzen haben, die folgendes zeigen:

1. Geringen Alkoholgehalt, daher leicht bekömmlich, als Ausstossbier oder mit Kräusen auf Flaschen gefüllt, möglichst frei von Bakterien, kohlensäurereich (Lübbener, Werder'sches, Cölner, Bremer, Hamburger, Grätzer, Münchener Weissbier etc.);

2. dieselben Eigenschaften, denen sich noch ein hoher Milchsäuregehalt zugesellt (Berliner Weissbier, Broyhan, Calenburger Weissbier, Lichtenhainer, Gose-Bier);

3. mehr oder minder alkoholreiche, kohlensäurearme, stark milchsaure Biere (Dortmunder Altbier, sogenannte Malzweine);

4. alkoholarme, extraktreiche, süsse Biere (Braunschweiger Mumme, Danziger Jopenbier, Frauenburger Mumme etc.).

Dazu gesellen sich noch weitere Unterschiede bezüglich der Art der Materialien und der Farbe.

Bei den milchsauren Bieren sind die Wünsche nach Einführung reiner Hefen und reiner Bakterien-Kulturen lebhafter, zumal sich bei vielen Betrieben bleibende Biertrübungen, lange, fadenziehende Biere zeigen.

Verf. führt weiter aus, wie vielfach von Seite der Brauer schon bei der Herstellung der obergährigen Biere Fehler gemacht werden und wie dieselben dann häufig von den Wirthen weiter verdorben werden.

Der Herstellung von Malzweinen wird auch noch grössere Aufmerksamkeit zu schenken sein. Aehnlich den alten Verfahren der Presshefenmaischenbereitung lässt man die verzuckerten Maischen oder deren Filtrate bei 40 ° R. milchsauer werden, kocht dann die Würzen mit Hopfen und stellt sie mit rein kultivirten Weinhefen, aus den verschiedensten Weinbaugebieten entlehnt, zur Fassgährung an. Den etwa 14proc. Würzen kann man dann nach und nach Zuckerlösungen zusetzen, bis ein etwa 13% Alkohol enthaltendes, fein nach Milchsäure und Bouquet abgerundet schmeckendes Bier von etwa 30-40% berechneter Stammwürze resultirt.

Je nach der Malzfarbe, dem Maischverfahren und der Hefenart bildet sich nach längerer Lagerung ein weinähnliches Bier, das reicher an Extraktivstoffen gegenüber dem Weine ist und im Geschmack lebhaft an die Dessertweine, wie Tokayer n. s. w. erinnert."
"Jahresbericht über die Fortschritte in der Lehre von den Gährungs-Organismen" by Professor Dr. Alfred Koch, 1896, pages 160-161.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Drinking the past

Mike's getting restless. He's very excited by the beers I brought back from the US. The recreations brewed by Kristen. "When can I come around?", he keeps asking.

I can't say I blame him. There's some very tempting ones. Lichtenhainer, Grätzer, almost the full range of Fuller's beers from 1910. It's been a struggle to keep my hands off them. I've been dying to try a Grätzer. Can you believe I have two different Lichtenhainers in my posession. That's something I never imagined happening. There's a WW I Barclay Perkins X, too. [I'm on a theme-maintenance roll: two Barclay Perkins mentions already this week.]

Interest in old beers is greater than I imagined. My Whitbread recreations have gone down very well. Let's hope the next two - hopefully being brewed very soon - are as well received. Other projects to delve into brewing's past have come to my attention. Exciting times indeed.

I'd like to go one step further. Not just recreate the odd individual beer, but the complete pub experience. An Edwardian pub with a full set of draught and bottled beers from the period. There would have to be an Edwardian interior, too. It could make for a unique brewpub concept. You could even have a chain, with each link a different period.

What do you think? Would there be enough consumer interest? Or would it only appeal to a few weirdoes like me?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Back in New Jersey

The last 36 hours have been some of the most knackering in a long time. And almost beer-free. Work, dontcha just love it?

But my spirits rose as soon as I entered my room. When I saw The Box on the desk. (This sounds like a reading primer: the box sat on the desk. The box is full of beer. Ron is happy.)

It's full of beer. Not just any beer. Fuller's 1910 X, AK and Porter. A couple of versions of Barclay Perkins X from WWI. Lichtenhainer. Graezer. 1850 Salvator. Barclay Perkins IBSt. And much more. I'm so excited.

There's a glass of Fuller's AK in front of me. I'm raising it in a toast to Kristen. Thanks mate. I don't owe you one. Not even a couple. I owe you several.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Weissbier and other German top-fermenters

Back to "Die Herstellung Obergähriger Biere" (by Dr. Franz Schönfeld, 1902). How can I stay away from a book so full of laughs?

Pages 65 and 66 describe various special types of Süssbier ("Sweet Beer"). There's very little left of these styles today. Apart from that one Lichtenhainer. Let's see how much of the translation I can be bothered to type in tonight. I may do a part two tomorrow. Right, here goes . . . .

"Special Beers
In North Germany, especially in port cities, a 9-11º, dark, sweet beer is brewed which, after tun fermentation at 12 - 14º R [15 - 17.5ºC] is lagered in medium-large lagering barrels at 5 - 7º R [6.25 - 8.75ºC] for 14 days, also wood chips are often added to speed clarification, and after being drawn off is enriched with Kräusen.

In Hanover, the very weakly-hopped, sweet Broyhan Bier, using 20% wheat malt, has been brewed for centuries. In contrast to Berliner Weissbier, breweries in the provinces make Weissbier without the use of lactic acid bacteria, is fermented with yeast alone, through lagering at 4 - 6º R [5 - 7.5ºC] and the addition of wood chips it undergoes a long secondary conditioning and clarification, is drawn off clear through a filter and is filled into bottled with a little Kräusen. The beer, which after a while becomes clear, should have a fiery brilliance and foam in the glass. The use of some wheat malt or lightly-smoked barley malt makes this beer taste particularly piquant and refreshing. In Bavaria, especially Munich, a Weissbier is brewed from wheat malt and barley malt, which is similar to provincial Weissbier. The use of lightly-smoked barley malt is also found in other beers, for example in Lichtenhainer Bier, a very weakly-hopped beer of about 8º made from light barley malt."

There's some interesting stuff (what an extensive vocabulary I have) in there. It seems to be saying that Bavarian Weissbier was generally similar to Weissbier from other regions.

It always makes my day when I find a new mention of Broyhan or Lichtenhainer. Unfortunately, it only talks about Broyhan in the vaguest terms. Bit of wheat, not much hops. I already knew that much. Irritatingly, though the description of Lichtenhainer is more specific, it contradicts other sources. Earlier texts say that it was hoppy and very smoked. They do agree on an FG of about 8º Balling (about 1032).

I'm pretty sure that "Spähnung" means adding wood chips. It wouldn't be the first time I'd been mistaken, so I thought I'd mention it. Let me know if I'm wrong. In fact, feel free to check the whole translation. That's one of the reasons I've included an image of the original. And to let you see how much fun it is reading effing gothic typefaces.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Weissbier and Braunbier

We all know what Weissbier is, don't we? Wheat beer.

Er, no. Weissbier wasn't necessarily brewed from wheat, though many Weissbiers did contain some. The name derives from pre-industrial malting techniques. There were two methods of preparing malt:

  1. air-dried "Luft-Malz" which was pale in colour
  2. kiln-dried "Darr-Malz", which was dark in colour

Beer brewed from Luft-Malz malt was called Weissbier("White Bier") because of its pale colour. That brewed from Darr-Malz was called Braunbier ("Brown Bier") for pretty obvious reasons. Lichtenhainer is a good example of a Weissbier that didn't necessarily contain any wheat.

You may have heard another explanation: that the "Weiss" in "Weissbier" somehow comes from "Weizen", the German word for wheat. I don't believe it for a minute.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

ZBF Report

Report is perhaps a slight exaggeration. A transcription of random scribbles I jotted down yesterday at the ZBF is more accurate description.

The variety at the festival can be baffling. That's why I pick a theme or two. The same ones this year as last: Stout, Lambic, whatever's close when I get tired of walking. Not that adventurous. I've learned to let others buy experimental beers and just take a sip myself.

It is a bit of a geek convention. That doesn't particularly bother me. Rather geeks than a gang of yobs. They're a harmless enough bunch. We're a harmless enough bunch I suppose I should say. Be honest with yourself Ronald. You're about as geeky as they get. My endless stories about extinct German styles and 19th century Porter grists have a hypnotic effect. At least my audience's faces glaze over three sentences in. I think that's a hypnotic effect.

I'm rambling again. ZBF, wasn't it? I'm not sure there's much I cant relate that's of general interest. I sat with a clump of friends who drank beer, exchanged bottles, chatted. All the usual social things. Some (including me) scribbled in notebooks. Good fun for me, but not so exciting for you to listen to.

Except the Lichtenhainer. Sebastian's mate had a bottle of Wöllnitzer Wessbier. The world's only Lichtenhainer. I was so excited I took a photo of it. Sadly, it wasn't destined for me. Fighting back the tears, I did mange to spout on the topic of German sour beers for an hour or three. I really should stop reading German brewing manuals while I still have a few friends.

Almost forgot the bloke with distilled Westmalle Dubbel in his rucksack. I speak here as a bier schnapps expert. Well, someone who's knocked back the occasional one. (Don't believe Stonch's lies. I only ever drank one a day, for purely medicinal purposes.) Very nice it was. The Westmalle Dubbel schnapps. A shame it isn't commercially available.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

a difficult bookcase

Today's bookcase is a difficult one. Difficult to photograph, that is. Dolores's monitor is in the way.

German guides I've never used. That's the leftmost seven. Then there are two editions of Stefan Mack's inspiring "Fränkische Brauereikarte". "The Beer Drinker's Guide to Munich" is a guidebook I most definitely used. I doubt I could have found Forschungsbrauerei without it.

Here, tucked behind the monitor, are random German-language volumes. "Der Vollkomene Bierbrauer" is non-stop laughs. If you can read the blurry gothic typeface, the purpose of which seems to be to make all the capital letters look identical. Someone should invent reading glasses that convert gothic text into readable words.

Confession time. I own a book that I know has a few bits about Lichtenhainer. I didn't include it in my recent post about Lichtenhainer. For a simple reason. The gothic face it's printed in is a pain in the arse to read. Even with my glasses on. (Clearly not gothic-correction glasses.)

Wandering off. Here, crammed behind the monitor, are random German-language volumes. Some Austrian. It's a shame Conrad Seidl stopped doing his book on Austrian breweries. Packed with useful bits of information.

Leaning over is a book about Andechs. One section really annoyed me. Right after saying how the Reinheitsgebot ensured their beer was great, the author explains how they had stopped using wooden barrels and now used pressurised kegs. Kegging the life out of the beer was fine as long as it was brewed to the Reinheitsgebot.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008


A while back I promised to write about Lichtenhainer. It's about time I fulfilled my promise.

Much of my information comes from an excellent article entitled "Vom Kleinsten deutschen Ort, der Braugeschichte machte" in, of all things, Getränkefachgrosshandel magazine of February 1998. The trade magazine for drinks wholesalers. Not only is it detailed, it's also properly-referenced.

Several old brewing manuals are quoted with details about the beer itself. Right down my street. I realise not all of you can read German. So I've translated the most important bits. They may sound a bit stilted. That doesn't matter, does it? As long as you get the gist of what they mean.

First off, here's a passage from "Die Bierbrauerei", 1915, by Rommel and Fehmann:
"Lichtenhainer is also a pale beer brewed from lightly smoked malt, though only barley malt is used. The approximately 8º Plato wort is very lightly hopped and only boiled very briefly and exposed to either a spontaneously appearing or deliberately started lactic acid bacteria infection that gives the beer it's weakly sour taste. The mostly young beer, which isn't expected to be clear, is usually served from a barrel. "
That's actually quite a confusing description. It sounds as if Lichtenhainer is being soured during the primary fermentation. But that isn't the case. It belongs to the very small group of German sour beers that are not sour at the end of primary fermentation.

This quote from Dr Max Delbrück's Brauerei-Lexicon of 1910 makes it much clearer when Lichtenhainer is exposed to the bugs:
"Lichtenhainer is made from smoked barley malt alone, it acquires its sourish taste not during primary fermentation, as does Berliner Weisse, but only through a later developing infection with lactic acid bacteria. . . ."

In "Moderne Braumethoden" by J Ohlberg (1927) it says of Lichtenhainer:
"To make this type of beer one third wheat and two-thirds barley malt are used. The wheat malt is ground fine, the barley coarse, to help filtering. The mashing procedure is brief, a kettle mash or a thick mash. The hopping rate is one pound [half kilo] per zentner [100 kg] of malt, boil time 90 minutes. It's pitched with top-fermenting yeast, one lier per zentner. Fermentation temperature 22º C , barrel fermentation. Primary then bottich (vat? tub?) fermentation is rarer; pitching temperature usually 15º C. The gravity of the wort is between 8 and 10º [Plato]. They are highly-attenuated, highly carbonated and wholesome and are regarded as special beers."
"Handbuch der Fabrikation Obergäriger Biere" by Alwin Kulitscher, 1904 (a book I would dearly love to own):
"In Lichtenhainer wheat (up to 50%) and barley malt are used, one of which should be smoked."
There is quite a bit of variation in the recipes given. You have to be very careful when you see the term Weissbier mentioned. It doesn't necessarily mean that a beer contains wheat. Up until sometime in the 19th century German beer was divided into two main groups: Weissbier (white beer) and Braunbier (brown beer). The former was brewed from air-dried malt, the latter from kiln-dried malt. What I'm trying to say is that just because Lichtenhainer is referred to as a Weissbier, doesn't mean that it couldn't be an all-barley beer.

A Professor in Jena University performed a chemical analysis of the beers on sale in the area. It was published in "Journal für Technische und Ökonomische Chemie, 1833, pages 196 - 206. Lichtenhain is now a suburb of Jena, but used to be a village a couple of miles outside town. It seems to have been very popular with student drinking societies. The professor says:
"All the beers examined were brown beers made from kilned malt. All were pale and clear, except for the Lichtenhainer, which was a little cloudy and only cleared after standing for a long time. This cloudiness is a charateristic of the beer and is in no way a fault."

This is what his a analysis showed:

sg of beer: 1.0098
absolute alcohol: 3.168 (not sure if they mean ABW or ABV)

and some weird stuff about salts that I don't understand.

I've just founsd another bit about Lichtenhainer. It's from "Lehrbuch der rationalen Praxis der landwirtschaftelichen Gewerbe" by Dr. Fr. Jul. Otto, 1859.
"Belgian beers are, in my opinion, the non plus ultra of bad beers, they are hard and sour, so without any sort of force that one must be used to them, as with Lichtenhainer beer in Jena, to find them enjoyable or tasty."
Most modern German drinkers would probably concur.

"Real" Lichtenahainer came from the villages of Wöllnitz, Ziegenhain, Ammerbach, Winzerla and, of course, Lichtenhain. At its peak towards the end of the 19th century, Lichtenhainer was made all over Thuringen - in Weimar, Mühlhausen, Eisenach (where I got married), Bitterfeld, Ehringsdorf and Hadmersleben.

The last Lichtenhainer was brewed in Wöllnitz at Brauerei Ed Barfuss Söhne in 1983. At least the last for a while. Because in 1997 a brewpub in Wöllnitz started turning out Wöllnitzer Weißbier. A beer in the Lichtenhainer style. And number one on my list. Of beers I must try. Unless they really do revive Grodziskie. In which case I would be hard-pressed to pick a number one.

This is the brewpub making Wöllnitzer Weißbier:

Gasthaus - Brauerei "Talschänke"
Im Pennickental 44
07749 Jena - Wöllnitz
Tel: (03641) 334321
Open daily from 12:00

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Reinheitsgebot II

I was going to talk about Lichtenhainer. You know of the article I found about Lichtenhainer, don't you? Well, you should pay more attention. I mentioned it at the end of yesterday's post.

I won't bore you with the details (not these ones, I have some others already prepared). Today I discovered an incredible resource. I quadrupled my material on Lichtenhainer in 5 minutes. More than enough to make me a total Lichtenhainer bore. I'll be droning on about it for years. But not today.

Everyone's heard of the 1830 Beer Act. When the whole country was pissed for days after the price of beer was halved. That Beer Act. But there was another Beer Act in 1823. Not as radical as that of 1830, but with one fascinating section.

"That such persons brewing porter, or using in the brewing of such ale or beer any other ingredients than water, malt, hops, and yeast, or mixing therewith, or with the wort or worts thereof, any water, or other ingredient than hops and the necessary quantity of yeast and fining, all such porter, &c. shall be forfeited, and may be seized by any Excise officer ; That every offence against these rules shall be visited with a penalty of 200/- ; and a penalty of 50/- for every offence is imposed upon persons selling, or permitting to be sold, beer brewed under this Act, in any quantity at one time of nine gallons, or quarter barrel, or upwards, at a higher price than 27s. per barrel, or any quantity at one time, less than nine gallon-, at a higher price than 10d. per gallon."

A British Reinheitsgebot.

The Reinheitsgebot is often (somewhat contentiously) portrayed as a piece of consumer protection legislation. Now the second part of the quote - that's what I call consumer protection. A fify shilling fine (about the price of two barrels of beer) for trying to overcharge you. You may think "Look at those quantities - the smallest is a gallon. Who buys that much at once?" Ah, things were so different in the 1800's. There was a big trade in selling beer by the barrel to private households.

Notice how Porter is mentioned first? In the bits I haven't quoted, it just says beer and ale. Only when talk turns to the use of illegal ingredients does Porter get a mention.

Oh yes, and the bit about not adding water to the wort is relevant. I'm sure that's one of the reasons London brewers brewed the way they did. Three or four worts blended together to get spot on the right gravity for perhaps as many as three different strength beers. And why brewing manuals of the period have detailed instructions on how to do the calculations needed for blending worts.

Monday, 14 January 2008

DDR beer styles

While nosing around in books and the web looking for stuff about DDR Porter, I stumbled across a couple of other things I thought worth sharing.

I only found quite a limited range of beer available - Helles, Pils, Pilsator, Berliner Weisse, Bock, Schwarzbier, Porter (once). That was about it. Browsing the old manuals, I noticed that they mentioned a few other styles - Märzen, Dunkles, Spezial - that I never came across.

Old labels betray that this wasn't the full picture. The Jena region had Lichtenhainer and Wöllnitzer Weissbier (though that still exists). In Magdeburg, they used to make an Altbier. In Berlin a Märzen-Weisse, whatever that is. Sounds suspiciously like a modern, made-up style. If anyone knows any more about it, please tell me. A search on the web came up with a single lonely hit.

Another thing I came across. Something about Gose. It was in a bound edition of Brawelt from 1960. In issue number 70 from September 8th 1960 (on page 1485) there's a table of prices for the different types of beer in the DDR. It's a very specific price list: for carryouts from a pub. Obligingly, the gravity of the beer types is included. Gose appears in the list twice. First, alongside Berliner Weisse in the Schankbier category - 8.7 to 9.3º Plato. The second is as a Vollbier - 11.7 to 12.3º Plato. 38 and 75 pfennigs respectively per half litre bottle. In case you were wondering. The most expensive beer by far was Porter, at 1.53 DM. (DM isn't a mistake. The currency in the East was called that in 1960.) Then again it was the strongest.

I've just spotted another one. DDR beer type, that is. At the very bottom is something called Giraffe-Bier. All I know is that it was 18º Plato and cost 1.02 DM for a 33 cl bottle. A web search yielded slightly fewer results than for Märzen-Weisse. Any further information, gratefully received.

I'm now really excited. I've just found what looks like a properly sourced article about Lichtehainer. What a productive day.