Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Week Of Beer

I usually save my beer tastings for the weekend. I try not to have too many beers during the week. Maybe it is because of my own preference for maintaining a degree of personal fitness or it might be a sense of duty I feel to protect my patients from over indulgence. I am not sure which. On occasion, after a hard day, I will open up a bottle and relax before dinner, but I usually like to keep the "more than one" sessions for the end of the week. That being said, I broketh my rule and had a tasting each night of last week.

I started my week with a beer from Weyerbacher. Weyerbacher Brewery in Pennsylvania, USA, makes some of my favorite beers and has some of the best names for beer that anyone could come up with. This brew was an Imperial Stout aged in oak barrels, with the name, Heresy. Awesome beer. It didn't have a huge taste of whiskey like the Allagash beer I reviewed a few weeks ago, but it did have a nice oaky finish to it. The beer did not lose any of its Imperial Stout qualities either. This should please stout lovers everywhere.

Next up was Bass Ale. Yes, of course I had Bass Ale many times before. But never out of a pub draught, 16oz can. I was anxious to see if the Bass Ale would retain the same taste and texture as when I drank it on tap in England. It didn't. But it was much better than the 12 oz bottle and even better than the American tap version. Worth buying a few, especially if you like regular Bass Ale. An extra tidbit of almost useless info is that the Bass Ale triangle logo was the first ever legal trademark in England.

My third beer style of the week was Kolsch, a German ale, that get this, can only legally be brewed in Germany in the town of Cologne. This is where the style was invented. I purchased two bottles of Gaffel Kolsch, which according to the beer bible (M. Jackson's Beer Companion), is the perfect example of a classic producer of that style. This was my first Kolsch, not to be mistaken for Grolsch, the Pilsner/Lager from the Netherlands. Gaffel was dry, light and very good. Look for this beer. It is probably hard to find, but it is worth the hunt. Top notch!

While I was looking through the beer shelves I came across a small bottle of Belgium beer. The typical Belgian beer bottle is usually of great size, so when I saw a bottle that was only 11oz, and labeled "Best Belgium Ale", I decided to try it out. DeKonnick Belgium Ale was probably one of the best Belgium Ales I have had in that it was different then most that I have tried. It was lighter in alcohol, 5% by volume and also lighter in taste. It did not have a strong after taste and was very agreeable. And the fact that it was in small drinkable bottles meant, you did not have to have 3 glasses at one time. Though this did not stop me from having two! I give you warning, this is a very drinkable beer, I only stopped at two, because that is all I had.

Since I am writing about Belgium beer, on another evening I tried Belgium style ale from the Ommegang Brewery in New York, USA. Ommegang states on their bottles that their brewery is 3,624 miles from Belgium, but has the heart and soul of Belgium in their beers. I tried Ommegang's Rare VOS, a big beer, in a big bottle, with a big kick. My first taste didn't do too much for me. This happens a lot and after a few sips, I can usually appreciate the style. On this beer, I got to the bottom of the bottle and still wasn't overly thrilled. Now, this must be just me, because many of my friends love Rare VOS. I liked it fine, but I just expected more. Ommegang makes some incredible tasting beers, I actually have a few other styles on the shelf that I have had before and enjoyed immensely. I guess I am not a big Rare VOS fan. Before I become sure of that, I will try another bottle and see what happens.

For my last beer, I'll leave you with a mystery that maybe you could help me solve. I found a German Beer that I have never heard of or have read anything about. The bottle was written completely in German. I do not have a clue as to anything about this beer except for that fact that it tastes great. Here it is, Neuschwansteiner Weihnachts-Bier. A couple of clues for you. The beer, I figure, must be seasonal. There was an illustration of a snowy landscape and horse drawn sleigh to give it that Christmas feel. It also had a Grolsch style bottle cap. If you know what this beer is let me know. It was very good.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Aventinus on a winter evening!

With a name like Zimmerman, my attraction to German beer is obvious. The whole German atmosphere of drinking beer out of large steins, sitting in a beer garden, listening to the oompa band is a fantasy just too good to be true. For some that may seem like a weird fantasy, but for those of you reading this, I hope you agree that cold, full mugs of German beer can’t mean anything but a good time.

The German’s have three styles of beer that I really enjoy. Octoberfest beer, whether it be from Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr or Spaten, brings a huge smile to my face with the very first sip each end of September. Bock beer, a strong, often dark lager, that I enjoy every winter and Hefe-Weizen, a German wheat beer style, that makes the summer months that much more enjoyable.

What if you were able to combine the best parts of two of the above styles? Take the dark bock beer and make it with wheat. Strengthen the alcohol content by twice, bottle ferment the beer with a pure, top fermenting yeast that settles on the bottom of the bottle, and what you would have is an Original Wheat Doppelbock Ale.

Aventinus, Germany’s Original Wheat Doppelbock Ale is 8.0% alcohol with a deep, dark brown color. This beer gives you the best of both worlds. A strong, dark beer with tastes of wheat and cloves. Aventinus is a warming beer that will take the chill out of you on a winter evening. I had two bottles of Aventinus with a hearty Shepard’s Pie I had made. They tasted great together. I know what you are saying, “How could you cross German beer with English / Irish food?” Bock beer tends to go great with meat, like pork, so, I stretched a bit and had it with loads of ground steak in the pie. It worked for me.

Aventinus is brewed by Germany’s famous Schneider & Son Brewery, makers of one of the best German Wheat Beers on the market, Schneider-Weiss. Aventinus was first brewed in 1907 in Munich. On the label of the bottle is an illustration of Johannes Aventinus, the person who first gave a description of Baveria. For more information on Aventinus, visit the brewery’s website at .