My German is limited to danke and dunkel. OK, I exaggerate. I can also say kölsh and proust. I have spent a lot of time drinking beer in Bavaria, going to different breweries in Munich and the countryside. My favourite by far of those was Andechs. One of my good friends used to live near the Augustinerbräu, or as we called it, “The Beer Factory” because you could smell the beer brewing from his flat. And last year I went to Cologne with my friend who is a brewer and we tried as many types of kölsh we could find.
Before I really got into beer I would order weissbier– it was delicious but one day I tried a dunkel and never looked back. My journey to beerdom has been a dark one. So, when I went to Zeitgeist, the German Beer Fest at the Jolly Gardener, I was looking for dark lager style beers. My friends Hadyn and Kate came with and we tried as many different beers as we could before the last train out of Victoria at 10.
The first beer I tried was probably not a good starter– it was Fuschen Alt, which tasted a hell of a lot like a British bitter, with a very strong resin-pine hop finish that really lasted, very little carbonation and almost no head. Ok, it wasn’t a bad beer but it wasn’t what I wanted.
Next, when I went up to look for a Dunkel, it didn’t seem like there was one out at the moment? I pointed to the tap I thought had a darker beer in it but the friendly guy working the taps poured me the Bolten Landbier or “country” beer. It looked unfiltered and was refreshingly sunny on this sunless London day. It had a nose that reminded me of blossoms crushed to the ground and faintly rotting. This was the only significant note I could detect and it was probably because my palate was still recovering from the first beer.
Out of frustration my friend Kate and I ended up asking a guy drinking a dark beer what it was. He was very generous and actually offered me some. It seemed that whatever he was drinking was tapped out but he suggested the Scheubel-Sternbrau Dunkel Rauchbier– an older beer style where the malt is dried over a wood fire. This is what I came for! Thank you lovely man who said, “Ask for tap 16.” It had a tall, lacy head, a bright and quenching mouth feel and a caramel-buttery nose. The smoke really came out in the middle and it was subtle and complex for something so drinkable.
My favourite of the evening, Kathi-Brau Dunkels Lagerbier, got put out later, which was a shame because I would have liked another pint of it, and I had to leave early to catch the last train. It was lively with carbonation, with a honeydew melon malt middle. I couldn’t detect the nose very well but I adored this beer!
My friend Kate ferreted out the beers that would curl the beard hairs on any beer snob. I am not one. I am barely a beer-evangelist. (I suppose this blog may be proof otherwise.) Kate found a grapefruit beer that was a bit like a shandy– these were bottled behind the bar and not part of the beer festival, I should add! There was a distinct baby aspirin flavour to it. Next she cracked open a “Beck’s Green Lemon”– she told me that she went through Berlin drinking this stuff which tasted like Corona with a plop of synthetic lime cordial, I mean, if Corona was a dental rinse! To be fair, I did try to get her to try what I was drinking but she couldn’t get past the smell. Cider and perry are more her speed.
I thought briefly about going back to the festival today but the 1.5 hour tube ride to the other side of London has put me off it. The beer was going so fast I imagine a good deal of it is gone! Thanks to Stonch and Bier-Mania for putting this on.