Year of the Beer Day 30: Alt-Bamberg Urstoff

alt bamberg urstoff

Day 30 of the beer tasting marathon takes us to Franconia in northern Bavaria, and in particular, Bamberg. Located on the River Regnitz south of its confluence with the River Main, north of Nuremberg, Bamberg is famous for its cathedral and old town, both of which are listed as the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The town hall is located on a stone arch bridge that is almost a thousand years old.

And just as old as the old town itself, is the tradition of beer-making itself, which has make the city famous.  The first records show barley juice being produced in 1039. That same year, the priest (Domherr) Udaricus died but left a will declaring that at the time of his death and for all time to come, the people of Bamberg would be granted access to beer for no cost. This embrace of beer the people Bamberg could afford because of the town’s location in the hilly fields where the Main and Regnitz rivers meet. There, farmers could plant and harvest as much barley and hops as needed to make a good beer for the town and the surrounding area to enjoy. As many as 73 breweries had sprung up in Bamberg by 1817 crafting several kinds of beer. This also includes the Rauchbier- smoked beer, whose history and  profile will come later in the series.  When visiting Bamberg, one should visit the Franconian Beer Museum (Dt.: Fränkische Brauerei Museum) to look at the history of beer in Bamberg and how it has become a popular drink to date.

And this takes us to one of many beers from the Bamberg series that will be profiled, the Alt Bamberg Urstoff. The Alt Bamberg Brewery is the youngest company in business and one of the youngest in Germany, having been established in 2011. Located in the center of Bamberg, the brewery crafts eight different sorts of beer, including this one , the Urstoff. As mentioned briefly in the Ökopils from Rother, whenever one sees the word Ur, then it is made of pure ingredients. Yet the difference between an Ur-bier and an Ökobier is debatable, which we will look into later.

Looking at the Urstoff, it does have some characteristics of a classic lager, with its clear copper color and persistent head, but the beer has a mild to herbal taste to it as when drinking it, it had the flavors of grain, and caramel malt plus a floral hops, thus having an strong flavor but a warming and mouthcoating sensation when drinking it. The beer has a good freshness to it and its carbination is lively. The only caveat to this beer is its aroma, which was very faint to almost non-existent when opening the bottle. If there was an aroma to it, then a slight touch of grain malt and earth hops, thus having a neutral smell. Normally, if the aroma does not exist or is faint, then one can assume the beer will not taste good at all. But in the case of the Urstoff, the mild, herbal taste does compensate for that, good enough to earn the grade the author gave it after tasting it.

Grade: 1,7/ A-  The Alt Bamberg Urstoff beer is one of many beers a person will find in the city, and one that is highly recommended drinking while visiting. Its mild and herbal taste makes it perfect for the local specialties but also alone when drinking it for enjoyment. Despite its lack of aroma, the beer does raise some questions that will be answered as the taste-testing marathon continues: 1. How many other beers from the Bamberg series are there and are they as good or better than this one, and 2. How do the beers from Bamberg stand out against the ones tried so far and those that will be tasted, such as the ones in Saxony, Munich, Hamburg and parts of Thuringia, Lower Saxony, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia. One cannot know unless one tries and compares.

So without further ado, I shall go on to the next beer, which is…….. 😉

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Year of the Beer Day 29: Keiler Land-Pils

keiler landpils

Awhile back, a German friend of mine, who is also an avid beer drinker, asked me why I was focusing on the popular market brands- esp. for the pilsener, like Jever, Radeberger and Warsteiner- when I should focus on the local beer brands. And with that, he tipped me with a beer outlet shop where I could find these brands that cannot be found at a normal supermarket. Stopping there, I found the tip to be useful, as there were many local brands that are difficult to find anywhere in a German store.

And this includes this pilsener in this marathon: The Keiler Landpils. Even though the brewery is part of the Würzburger Hofbrau consortium, the Lohr/Main-based brewery is very local, but has a unique history that includes the boar himself. Founded in 1836, the Stumpf family took over the business in 1878 and it remained family-owned until it became part of the consortium in 2001. The boar logo has to do with the slogan “Das feine Gespür für ein saugutes Bier.” Especially the word sau, because that stands for wild boar, which one can find in heavily forested areas in central and southern Germany. Sau has several meanings, most of them quite degrading, to put to diplomatically, yet it can also serve as a stress enhancer, when saying “saugut,” for example. This means purely good. And whoever chose the slogan and the wild boar, must have studied German linguistics and found a creative way to market it through.  “Saugut gemacht, muss ich darüber sagen!” ❤ 😀

As far as the landpils is concerned, there is not really much of a difference between that and a normal pilsener except for the hops content, which is only a percentage point higher. In either case, it was interesting to see how it tastes in comparison with the pilsener I’ve tried so far.

Appearance:  The Landpils has the characteristics similar to the pilsener, where it has a very clear gold color and a very persistent head. It has very lively carbonation count and it terms of taste, the body is not quite full but more than average- in the middle, in other words.

Aroma: The aroma of the beer was fairly present and well balanced between sweet and sharp. The aroma has a bread-like malt and earth hops, but the balance creates the impression that the aroma is quite nice, when opening the bottle for the first time.

Flavor and taste: Again, the ingredients of the landpils is similar to the normal pilsener, with grain and bread malt as well as earth and herbal hops. However, thanks to the higher concentration of hops, it created a well-thorough balance, which is neither bitter nor sweet, but quite hearty. Because of its strong intensity, the taste is really nice. Even more so because of its medium body, the beer had a warming feel to it, tasting mild and mouth-watering. It is as if the water content is higher than in normal beers, but with a higher content of hops and barley, making it a very enjoyable beer to drink. This might be the difference between the landpils and the pils, however, there may be other points to look at too, especially when trying other landpils. But….

Grade: 1,3/ A: …..the Keiler beer landspils is definitely a “saugutes” beer worth trying for sure. It is a well-balanced beer with a touch more of hops making it stand out among other pilseners. A fresh beer with good craftmansship that one only needs to travel to northern Bavaria to try. The brewery also has a restaurant in Lohr, where it is marketed exclusively. And I believe they also serve wild boar in many dishes. 😉  The beer is rarely sold on the market, finding it at exclusive beverage stores (Getränkemärkte), including this bottle I bought for trying. As mentioned earlier, sometimes the most local of beers have the best taste, and this one stands out as one of the most locals of beers. Yet, its taste makes the person want to have another bottle or another beer type brewed by Keiler.

To close, Keiler Beer is really a “saugutes Bier,” giving Germany its prestigious reputation for a good beer- local, standing out among the rest, and really good tasting.  I think I owe my friend a good “saugutes Bier” for the tip. I already have this on my to do list. 😉

You can find and like Keiler Beer on facebook, by clicking here. Enjoy! 🙂

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Year of the Beer Day 28: Warsteiner Premium Pils

warsteiner pils

Day 28 and our next candidate has a storied but checkered history which reflects on the quality of the beer I tried. The Warsteiner Brewery is a family business that has been in the hands of the Cramer family since its founding in 1753. Based in Warstein in the Soest district in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the brewery follows the path of the Köthener Brewery (which brews the Sachsen Krone Pils), where the business was started in the old town before moving to the outskirts of town in 1972. The brewery took advantage of the railroad, which made exporting the beer to faraway places easier. It arrived in 1884 and served as a connecting line between Cologne and Kassel. Despite its location in a rural setting with barley fields, the production of pilsener beers did not start until 1928, making the beer one of the youngest of its kind in Germany. In addition, the brewery produces herbal flavored pilsener, radler, three sorts of fruit concoctions and a winter beer for the German market. Worldwide, Warsteiner exports beer to 60 countries.

Despite all this, Warsteiner has suffered gravely due to scandals affecting the brewery. Two major ones include reports on its affiliation with a scientology cult in 1994, where Warsteiner denied through newsstories and interviews that year and again in 1997. In the second major scandal in 2013/14, bacteria was found in the groundwater and river, resulting in 165 people being hospitalized for pneumonia and three of them dying from it. The source of the bacteria was the water filtering facility at the brewery, and Warsteiner was forced to pay millions of Euros in damages and modernize the facility, its canals and water system within the brewery complex. With that plus legal action by the antitrust commission for price fixing, its image has not presented a good light to the beer drinkers, especially despite the brewery’s attempts of cleaning it up with their marketing campaigns.

But what about the beer? And in particular, the pilsener that I tried on this day? Have the scandals damaged the quality of the beer? Maybe. But one thing is for sure, the image and the final product go together like bread and butter. If the image is bad, chances are, the product is not good either.

And this is how I look at the beer at the moment. While the beer’s appearance is typical and lively- a clear amber-colored color with a persistent head, high excess of carbination and a fair body, the flavor and aroma of the beer were relatively weak. In particular, the aroma of bread malt and earth hops was really faint, thus making it difficult to determine how nice or off it really was. As far as the flavor is concerned, it was a bit too bitter for the taste, for while grain and bread malts as well as herbal hops were noticed, the balance shifted way too much to the bitter end, creating the impression that the taste is off. When drinking it for the first time, it seemed to be too chalky and astringent. However as one progresses, the taste gets better. It is what Germans call it “Gewöhnungsbedürftig.” Yet overall, the quality of the pilsener definitely needs work, especially in light of the problems with the watering system the brewery has faced since the bacteria was found in the groundwater in 2013.

Grade: 3,3/ C-  There are many reasons why Warsteiner has lost large numbers of beer-drinking fans since the scientology scandal came to light in 1994, yet the aforementioned scandals should serve as a chance to improve the quality of the beer products- in particular, this pilsener. While the brewery has been improving its image through its own marketing, it should do the same with the beer, even as they modernize and improve the watering system at the facility. Should they be successful and if there is another test in 5-10 years time, chances are likely that the ratings will improve and Warsteiner will compete with the likes of Wicküler, Ur-krostitzer and Jever, just to name a few. But until this happens, there is a lot of work to do. Remember, if the product improves, the image will improve. 🙂

 

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Year of the Beer Day 27: Ur-Krostitzer Pils

urkrostitzer pils

This beer tasting run, going on day 27, starts off with a good quote: “Great People make Great Beer and Great Beers make Great People.” Fame is achieved when making the best beer for the people to enjoy whereas some of the great beers people drink or brew make them the greatest.  And this is how the figure on the Ur-krostitzer beer products came about.

In 1632, during the 30-years war which Prussia, Sweden and France collided with metal hardware, horses as well as blood and sweat, King Gustaf Adolph II of Sweden with his men, made their way to the village of Krostitz enroute to Leipzig, bringing with them the know-how of making beer and a trunk full of goods left behind for the villagers. Thanks to their peace offering and for making a good beer, the king was given the Braumeister crown in a form of a gold ring provided by the villagers. 🙂 ❤  Whether his peace offering contributed to the end of the war in 1648 remains open, but it was since then the king has become a legend in the town near the present border of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt between Leipzig and Bitterfeld, and the he has become the face for the beer.

Although I have drunk the Ur-krostitzer pilsener on occasion since coming to Germany in 1999, some of the readers recommended evaluating this beer because of its taste. Henceforth, I decided to give it a try and see how this beer ranks up there with the rest of the German beers I’ve tasted since starting this marathon. 🙂

Upon appearance, the beer has a gold color with a great clarity and head. The carbonation is lively and the beer has a full body upon drinking it. So far, so good and so typical of a German pilsener. Yet the flavor of the beer and the taste far trumps the aroma as the last one was rather faint with bread malt and earth hops, this leaving it neutral. However, the flavor of the beer has a strong intensity but a neutral balance leaning towards the bitter side, as the beer has a taste of grain and bread malt as well as a herbal hops and a citrus flavor to it. That combined with a warming, mouthcoating taste makes the beer taste really nice, with a long finish and a real freshness to it. In other words, the beer is herbal but hearty, and the impression is the beer was brewed with care to provide an excellent taste to it. There is a reason why this beer is recommended to drink by the readers, as I’m hardly in a position to disagree.

Grade: 1,7/ A-: Ur-Krostitzer beer has an excellent image as far as beer is concerned. Thanks to the Swedish King, the beer stands out as one of the most highly recommended to try while in Germany. The brewery has four kinds of beer available, but one should try the pilsener first as it has a great taste and gets one’s fill in a hurry. This great beer goes together with its prestige regarding social responsibility. Every year since 2004 (in light of the 470th anniversary of its founding), the Ur-krostitzer Ring is awarded to a person(s) who has done research on the history of Mitteldeutschland (namely Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt). The brewery itself has a long tradition of inventing and innovating the products. Aside from the know-how given by the Swedes, the brewery is known for its Braunbier (pure barley beer), Doppelbier (stark beer) and Kovent (light (tap) beer. Add the dark beer and pilsener to the list and the brewery has reaped in fame and recognition for its high quality and great taste. This one to be included as well.  So Prost! 😀

 

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Year of the Beer Day 26: Angerbräu Premium Pils

angerbräu

Day 26 of the beer marathon and as we head back to the pilsener series, we revisit the Thuringian capital of Erfurt and try this beer: The Angerbräu. Little is known about the brewery except the fact that it was one of many that used to exist in Erfurt prior to World War II and the days of Communism in East Germany. After German reunification, the brewery became part of the Braugold family, another brewery in Erfurt that subsequentially relocated to Brunswick in Lower Saxony.

The Angerbräu Premium Pilsener is the lone beer product that is being sold under the Braugold umbrella, even though Braugold has its own pilsener and another beer, Riebeck, has its own pilsener. As I had tried the Braugold Spezial and was disappointed with the taste, I figured to try the Angerbräu in hopes that the beer stands out from the rest.

But it didn’t! 😦

While the Angerbräu has an amber color, which is somewhat unusual for a pilsener, all the other characteristics are mostly the same: clear color, persistent head and a medium body. What got me was the very faint carbonation, which I was warned that meant something not good. The aroma was weak with a bread malt smell, which made it smell somewhat sweet. One can conclude that the aroma was neutral.  However, the flavor of the beer was all but bitter. While the taste consisted of grain and bread malt as well as herbal hops with some citrus, the balance was bitter and it was noticeable on the tongue as it had a astringent and chalky taste to it. The beer was anything but fresh.  In other words, carbonation can play a role in determining how fresh the beer is, let alone how high of quality a pilsener beer is, let alone a beer in general.

Grade: 4,0/ D: This beer is not a dead beer. While Braugold has at least three different kinds of pilsener, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this beer should be on the chopping block. As mentioned at the beginning, pilseners can have different flavors, pending on the water quality and the types of hops and malts used. If one wants a word of advice if the beer should survive under the conglomerate’s grasp, it would be to visit the other breweries for ideas on how to improve the produce, including the ones, whose pilseners I’ve tried: Jever, Wicküler, Sachsen Krone and Wernesgrüner, just to name a few. Only then, a few visits and the advice given can make a big difference. Think about it. 🙂

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Year of the Beer Day 25: Jever Pilsener

jever

Day 25 and we head north to the Frisan region of Lower Saxony and the town of Jever, home of this beer. While the brewery, founded by Diedrich König in 1848, is one of many in the region, it did accomplish many feats for a brewery in the northern half of Germany. König found something special about the Jever beer and established his family business and marketed the beer in the region, before he died in 1867. His son Theodor Fetköter took over and converted the family-business into a large brewery, where he was innovative in his craftery. The brewery build a water supply system providing quality water for brewing. Furthermore, he developed special bottles, like this one, to fill with pilseners. And lastly, he spearheaded efforts to advertise the beer, making Jever one of the first beers to do that.  After World War I, the brewery was sold to the St. Pauli-Bavaria Brewing company based in Hamburg, which later allowed the brewery to sell beer under the name, Jever Pilsener. That beer has become very popular in the supermarkets and can still be found today. The brewery itself still operates in Jever but under the umbrella of the Radeberger Group.

I was told that the beer was really good and a great example of a northern pilsener. Therefore, I decided to give it a try. The beer’s appearance was impressive with a clear gold color and a near persistant head. It’s carbination was lively. The aroma was really strong, one of the strongest I’ve seen in a beer so far, with a smell of grain and nut malt as well as herbal malt. While the balance is towards the sharp end, the impression was quite nice because the aroma was typical of a pilsener.

As far as flavor is concerned, this was typical of a northern pilsener with grain malt, earth and herbal hops and some citrus. While the balance was bitter and the intensity of the flavor was strong, the lemony flavor made the pils taste rather nice. Yet if one has not tried a German pilsener and tries this beer, the first sensation can be a combination of bitter, sweet and sour at once, resulting in the taste being spicy and prickly. But it gets better after two or three more sips, and the beer will be one to use for consumption.

Grade: 1,7/ A-  The Jever pilsener is a classic example of a northern pilsener but brewed using innovative methods established by Theodor Fetköter. Because of the special characteristics of the pils, the Jever has continued to craft beer from the Frisan region, thus reinforcing the stereotype that having a local homebase from the beginning produces a good beer. It is not a local beer per se, as it can be found in Germany and other countries, but it is one beer that has a taste that is typical of the region. As northern pils require citrus to make the beer drinkable and not so hard and bitter because of the hard water, the Jever has a bit of a twist that makes it a herbal beer to drink. A pilsner with a twist always makes for a good drink. 🙂

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Lights Out for Hamburg Handball Team

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Hamburg SV leaves German Handball Bundesliga because of Concourse and License Revocation. Legal Action expected.

HAMBURG- There is an old saying that describes the mentality of the European sports leagues: “Money makes the world go round.” If there is no money to operate a team, the team folds. Teams go up and down the elevator model, where promotion to higher tiered leagues and demotion lower tiered leagues are not only based on the performance of the players, but also the financial health of the club. If one puts the American basketball team the Philadelphia 76ers in the equation, that team would have folded by now. The fortunate part is in case of hard times like the basketball team is going through, the league steps in to take ownership, reshape the club and look for a new owner to replace the one ousted for the inability to operate the team properly, especially in financial terms.

For the German professional handball team, Hamburger SV, the management is probably wishing that the American model was in place right now. The HSV has shut down operations this evening after receiving word on Wednesday that the team has lost its license to compete in the Premere League for the rest of the season. Furthermore, they will not be allowed to apply for the first or second tiers of the Bundesliga, thus putting them in the local league. The reason behind this was a snowball effect which has been in the making for well over a year. It started with a deficit, followed by the withdrawl of the main sponsor Andreas Rudolph, who had promised to invest 2.5 million Euros ($3.3 million) into the team, according to information from German public radio station NDR. The team was unable to come up with 2 million Euros at the end of the first half of the season. As a consequence, HSV filed for bankruptcy in December due to not enough liquidity to finance the remaining games of the season and the players. The German Handball Bundesliga revoked its license on Wednesday as a consequence, and the reaction was enormous. While almost all of the players have left the team, the revocation and as a result, the decision to shut down the Premere League team today will have negative repercussions on the league, as many teams hosting HSV in the second half of the season will have to recall the tickets, resulting in massive losses. Some of the teams, including Berlin, Minden and even Flensburg are considering legal actions against the now defunct team, demanding compensation for damages.

Hamburg’s demise is not the first in German or even American sports. Its exit from the top league is the first in handball since 1990. Yet its fall from grace is the first in German sports since the soccer teams of Kickers Offenbach and Dynamo Dresden. Offenbach was delegated to the regional league from the 3rd tier of the Bundesliga after the 2013/14 season for insufficient funding to continue in the upcoming season. Yet the last fall from the top came in 1995, when the German Soccer Federation denied the request of Dynamo Dresden to play in the 1st and 2nd league, thus forcing the eastern Saxony team to play in the regional league. That team is currently in first place in the 3rd League and is knocking on the door to its return to the 2nd League for the first time since 2014. On the American front, most of the teams folding due to financial issues came in the women’s basketball league, WNBA. The last casualty was the Sacramento Monarchs in California, where despite winning the WNBA championship in 2005, the team disbanded in 2009.

However, like this team as well as the Cleveland Browns in American football (which went on hiatus from 1996-99), handball in Hamburg will eventually return to national stage. While the Premere League team, which won the Bundesliga championship in 2011 and the Champions League in 2013, is officially disbanded, despite its current 4th place finish, HSV’s junior team is making its way to the third tier in the handball food chain with its lead in the state league standings. Because the HSV sports organization will not be affected by the sudden destruction of the Premere League handball  team, the junior team will have a chance to fill in the footsteps of the fallen dinosaur. If successful and if management can build a fan base and good sponsorship from companies in the free city, chances are that handball will return to national stage before 2020. It is highly unlikely that despite the potential legal actions, HSV will disappear and not return, like it happened to Saxony Leipzig in 2012. It would be too cruel to the city of nearly 2 million that has a popular Bundesliga soccer team. It will just be a few years before handball returns to national stage, and with that, a bigger fan base that will stay loyal until the very end. Just ask the fans of the Cleveland Browns, let alone the people in Sacramento, who are working to bring back the Monarchs to women’s basketball. 🙂

 

For more on the latest with HSV, please follow NDR whose link is here.

 

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