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!

Kate w/ german shandy type beerKate and green lemon

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.

9 Responses

  1. That Scheubel Dunkel-Rauch was absolutely gorgeous – tasted like a malty maerzen, but with fabulous hops and as you say, a subtle but complex bitterness. My favourite of the night.

  2. Hi Boak– I’m really grateful to that stranger for suggesting it– so surprisingly complex and light. What else did you try? (I will check your blog– you probably note it there).

  3. Ah, the adventures in beer–and the glories of the advice of a stranger. Sounds like a treat.

  4. I was recommending it to everyone…Didn’t get to try the Kathi-brau, which I was annoyed about as I’d heard good things.

    As well as the Bolten Ur-Alt, which was lovely, we had Schumacher and Fuchsen. Now, one tasted just as good as it did in Duesseldorf, whilst the other tasted a bit funny, but I can’t for the life of me remember which way round it was… I see why people take notes.

  5. Kathi-brau is good stuff. The brewery tap is brilliant. In the middle of nowhere, but very popular with bikers.

    This what I made of it when there with Stonch last year:


    Did you try Hofmann Export? It’s another great Dunkles and the brewer is a wonderful woman. Very unusually for Catholic Bavaria, when she married her family took her surname. Saddo that I am, I have video of her explaining how she brews.

    Franconia is wonderful.

  6. Hi Ron– thanks for sending the link. I enjoyed reading your impressions of the brewery– and now I feel really lucky that I got to try the stuff!

    The Hofmann Export wasn’t on when I was at the festival. At least I don’t think so! Alas. I will have to look for it next time I am in Bavaria– a wonderful story to accompany it!

    I look forward to poking around your blog a bit more when I get the chance.

  7. I’m trying hard how to put this without coming over weird. But my brain is too small to work out complicated things like that, so I’ll run the risk.

    There are some things I would like to say, but not in public. (God this sounds really does sound weird. I’m just trying to be friendly. Oh no, that sounds even worse.) It really is very innocent.

    Erm. Just blogging-related stuff.

    Anyway, you can find my email on my website:


    Send me a message. (Christ, that sounds awful, too.)

    I’m really not a headcase. (Of course, that is what a psycho would say.)

    Have you seen Peep Show? Just think Mark.

    I’d like to talk to you about blogging without everyone else eavesdropping. That’s what I meant to say.

    Ask Stonch. I’m harmless.

  8. Ron, you are cracking me up! Mark from Peepshow?– That is even creepier! Haha.

  9. […] another perspective, see Allyson’s write-up on her Impy Malting […]

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