Year of the Beer Day 37: Ambrosius Klosterbier


Entry from 6 February, 2016

Our next beer on the beer tasting marathon takes us to the state of Baden-Wurttemberg and this Klosterbier, the Ambrosius. Considered a malt liquour because of its high alcohol and malt content, the Ambrosius beer is one of a half dozen types brewed by the Alpirsbacher Brewery, which was founded in 1877 by Johann Gottfried Glauner and is located in the Black Forest southwest of the city of Karlsruhe. Despite its reorganization in 1880 and again after World War II, the brewery has remained in the family ever since and employs 85 brewers. The Ambrosius is famous for two reasons: 1. It was named after a famous theologist and church reformer, Ambrosius Blarer, whose religious practices was famous in the southern part of Baden Wurttemberg and northern Switzerland, and 2. It is one of a handful of beers that uses Tettnanger hops, a special hops that is found in the Tettnanger region near Lake Constance and has a really mild but spicy taste when added in the brewing process. It especially showed when we taste-tested the beer.

Already based on its appearance, the beer had a clear, amber color with a persistent head. Its aroma was strong but somewhat sweet. It is unknown whether the hops had something to do with it or not, but there was a feeling that when drinking the beer, it would feature the secret ingredient, which would make it one of the top 10 highly recommended beers to drink while in Germany.

Sure enough, the hunches were correct, as the mild but spicy taste of tettnanger hops was recognized while drinking it. It had a combination of cinnamon and all-spice flavor, mixed with floral and earthen hops, thus making the beer rather herbal and spicy on one hand, but on the other hand, it left a mild taste. Part of that has to do with the addition of wheat malt and barley, whose concentration is more than the average pilsener.  The beer had an excellent craftsmanship and because of the secret ingredients, leaves a very long but warm  and mouthcoating after-taste, which makes it the beer to drink for special occasions, but also as a social drink.

Grade: 1,0/ A++   The Ambrosius is rare to find in Germany, and one can find it in an exclusive supermarket or beer outlet store. However, it is one beer one should try because it is tasty and it fits for any special occasion. Even without the main course, when drinking it with friends, you will not regret having tried the Tettnanger hops that is added into a strong, dark Klosterbier. You’ll not regret having tried it. 😀

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Genre of the Week: Deutsch

Pride: A source of inspiration. A look at the past to prepare for the future. A look at one’s personal self and what has been successful and what has yet to be conquered. But while a little pride is needed in order to earn self-respect, too much pride can be dangerous to onesself and others.

Each of us are proud of our home country because of its heritage, history and culture that can impress others around us, but also envy others. Sometimes people ask me why America is so proud of itsself. The answer I usually give is simple: Because we are people who love to give and help out. The US led efforts in rebuilding West Germany after World War II ended and assisted in reconstructing Europe, not just for the purpose of containing Communism but for the purpose of helping the war victims rebuild their shattered lives. Believe it or not, America’s efforts contributed a great deal to reuniting Germany in 1990.

And this takes us to the Genre of the Week, which will create discussions in the classroom as well as at the dinner table. Released on ZDF Neo a week ago, this rather profanity-laden video shows us the good, bad and ugly sides of Germany, pending on how a person looks at it. It is good because Germany is being shown as a country learning to take pride, let alone the lead in European politics in many aspects. It is bad because the voice shows irony behind what is mentioned and it sometimes depicts Germans and their culture as arrogant. And the ugly side has to do with the politics, showing people several reminders of what can happen if they vote for the wrong person to take office. In either case, one should watch the video below and think about how Germany has progressed in comparison with other countries. From an American expat’s point of view, it seems that the roles between America and Germany has switched over the past 25 years, with Germany taking the lead and America lagging behind. The question is whether others are of that opinion and the reason behind it.

Have a look at the music video and think about the following questions:


What are some aspects that you are proud of?

What aspects are you not proud of and would like to see changed?

In your opinion, how has Germany changed in comparison with America since 1990? Think of not only the political standpoint, but also in terms of culture, sports, history/heritage and mentality, just to name a few.

What are some items that make a person or country proud? 



Year of the Beer Day 36: Greizer Schloss Pils


Moving on from the UR-saalfelder, our next beer takes us to the Pearl of or Gateway to the Vogtland region in southeastern Thuringia, Greiz. With a population of 24,000 inhabitants, the town is entrenched deep in the valley of the White Elster River and has a castle overlooking the town, a neighboring city gardens, and a town center backed into the steep cliffs. The town also has its own brewery bearing its name. Founded in 1872 by the industrialist Karl Gottlieb Weber, the merchant Karl Anton Merz and the independent gentleman Anon Zeuner, the Greizer has a rather checkered history which includes several takeovers by first nationalists, including the infamous Hitler regime, then the Communists which tabbed the VEB tag on them, and lastly corporate takeovers after the Fall of the Wall. The third one was the most significant because (as you will see in the history page here), the brewery underwent extensive rehabilitation, cleaning the wells, modernizing the crafting machinery, and cleansing it of raw barley, sauerkraut and rice, which had to be used as substitutes for malt during the first two takeovers. Since 2001, it has been privately owned with the Schäfer family having the reigns of the business since 2010.

The Greizer has six assortments of beer, one of which we put under the loop with the pilsener. The Schloss Pils is the most commonly found beers in the region, having won several awards including the DLG Award in 2010 and 2012. The brewery was great enough to provide some details of the beer in the English language (here), and much of the information matches that of my first-hand impression of the beer: slim body, fair head, lively carbonation, and a brillantly clear yellow head. 🙂

Yet looking at the aroma and flavor of the beer, they are a bit different when tasting them. The beer has a strong aroma with a sharp balance, thanks to the usage of grain and bread malt and floral hops. Just as strong is the flavor of the beer, as it appears that a bit of strong floral hops and citrus was used a bit too much, creating a rather bitter taste at first. After a few sips a person can get used to ii, even more so when consuming food. It is highly recommended not to drink your Schloss Pils straight if you are drinking it for the first time, maybe even in general, for its astringent taste can take getting used to. For a pilsener with a touch of hops and citrus, sometimes one needs to cut back a bit and compensate it with other ingredients to create a mild taste, like the other beers I’ve tried so far, like the Sachsen Krone and Zwicküler, its nearby rivals to the north. Otherwise, just having the beer straight while conversing, especially as a first-timer, can make for a rather interesting conversation with some faces being made. 😉

Grade: 2,7/ C+  The Greizer Schloss Pils may be a beer that is good with every meal and for those who are used to drinking it, but personally, it doesn’t make for a good straight drink because of its bitterness and hoppiness. This applies also to those who have not tried a German beer yet. However, sometimes some minor tweeks can make it a better beer and after reading my critique, I’m sure these changes will take place to make it just as tasty as the neighboring beers, most of which have been tasted already. This won’t be the last Greizer beer to try as its bock beer is also on the radar and will be next on the list.

So like the Saalfelder, I’ll be back. 🙂


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Year of the Beer Day 35: Ur-Saalfelder Dark Beer


Day 35 of the German beer marathon, and I’ve decided to open this entry up for forum, especially with regards to this candidate, the Ur-saalfelder.  This beer is produced by the brewery located in the southern Thuringian city of Saalfeld, located 40 kilometers south of Jena along the Saale River. There is a unique history behind this brewery, but there is another beer produced by the same brewery that will be tasted later on, and I intend to play the mosquito and suck the information out of the people at the brewery about that and this beer! 😉

The Ur-saalfelder represents an example of a typical “Märzenbier” which if translated, means strong dark beer. This terminology is cloudy because it can be mistaken for a “Schwarzbier,” which also means dark beer, but with a black color and in most cases, with a strong alcohol content. So the translation and definition alone are rather confusing. In the case of the Ur-saalfelder, the beer is not as dark as it is described, for the beer has a copper-like color, a decent clearness, a persistent head, very lively carbonation and a thick full body. The alcohol content is between 5.7 and 6%, and when drinking it, it has a slickness to it, coating the mouth, and leaving an everlasting taste to it.

However, as far as aroma is concerned, despite its rather sweet smell thanks to bread malt and floral hops, the aroma levels are rather low, meaning one can hardly smell it when opening it up. The flavor on the other hand is a bit different. When tasting it, the Ur-saalfelder has at least four different malt flavors (grain, bread, sweet and toast) and is quite hoppy with herbal and floral dominating. The end result is a clash between sweet and bitter, creating a strong intensity where it is unknown what exactly is in there and what ingredients outdo the other. Nevertheless its excellent craftmanship combined with its balance between neutral and bitter has this beer becoming a tasting experience one should try, and one where a lot of questions are open and need to be answered, such as:

  1. What is the real difference between a Schwarzbier and a Märzenbier, when both mean dark beer?
  2. What are the exact ingredients in the beer? Are they what was sensed while drinking or are there different/additional ones ?
  3. Is having too many hops and malt flavors really that good for the beer?

To our German and/or beer experts, this one is for you to answer, even if it means trying the Märzenbier like the Ur-saalfelder to figure it out. So go for it and let the author know what you think. 🙂

And as for the people at the Saalfelder Brewery, I’ll be back! 😉

Grade: 1,7/ A-

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Year of the Beer Day 34: Altenburger Pilsener

altenburger pilsener

The year 1256 and the production of beer during the Medieval Period was exceptionally strong in many of the kingdoms of what is now Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. This included the kingdom of Saxony-Altenburg in what is now eastern Thuringia and western Saxony, where between 1260 and 1871, about 60 breweries were in operation crafting their own beer for the village people. It is unknown why beer was so common in the kingdom, let alone how it influenced other neighboring kingdoms and tribes, including the Sorbians and Slavic tribes, which prior to ca. 1200, had resided in areas east of the present-day Saale River before Germanic tribes drove them away to areas now called Bohemia and points to the south and east.

When Altenburger Beer was created the same year as the establishment of Germany- 1871, the brewery was built on the property of the Lord Kauerndorf, which had been purchased by Hermann Herold. The production of beer started in 1873 with first the brown dark beer. It was then followed by Bavarian Beer, Bohemian Beer, Pilsener, and draft beer. In 1913, the brewery expanded with the construction of the “Südhaus” building and included modern technology for crafting beer, as concepted by Thomas Ganzenmüller, then touted the most updated in Europe. Altenburger’s independence ended in 1921 when it merged with two  breweries based in Leipzig and Gera because of economic difficulties on the count of hyperinflation. The brewery conglomerate later molded into the United Brewery of Leipzig (VEB Brauerei Leipzig) in 1949, as with other breweries in East Germany as the Communist government consolidated all businesses and gained control over them.  The brewery complex produced 330,000 liters of beer annually- one of the largest outputs of all the VEB breweries during that time- until 1990. After a brief ownership by Kulmbacher, it was bought by Leikeim in eastern Bavaria in 1991 and has been under ownership ever since. The brewery still operates in Alterburg and one can find beer products in a radius from Erfurt to Chemnitz, Leipzig to Hof, and including the areas of Gera, Glauchau, and Halle (Saale).  The brewery is famous for its Christmas market, which has taken place on the grounds since 2010. 🙂


Photo taken by Lucas Friese

The Altenburger Pils is one of seven beers that are crafted by today’s brewery, and is one that was put under the loop for Day 34 of the beer marathon. Like the previous pilsener, the Gessner, the Altenburger has the typical features of a clear, straw-colored appearance with a very persistent head. The carbionation levels are high, even ten minutes after pouring a glass, and upon consumption, the beer has a pretty full body. However, the taste and aroma of the beer could not live up to the hype of the other pilseners, I’ve tried so far.  The aroma consists of grain and toast malt and floral hops, yet the levels were quite low, so one cannot smell it. Nevertheless the impression is that the beer has a herbal but nice smell to it, but it was rather faint.

The flavor of the beer consisted of the same ingredients plus a bit of herbal hops, yet despite the ingredients, the balance of flavor shifted to bitter. The overall taste of the beer is mild on the one hand, but bitter which was dressed with the ingredients, this having a herbal touch to it. It was astingent but warming. Yet with this mild but bitter taste, one could do a better job of crafting the beer as others had a much more refreshing and herbal taste to it, especially for a pilsener. It was not too spectacular, but on the other end, it was quite decent, and many people would be willing to take a good beer, like this one for consumption and while conversing with others.

Grade: 2,3/ B- The Altenburger Pils is a mild but bitter beer that people can enjoy. Its beer production goes back over 700 years and the current establishment reflects on that tradition plus that of the pilsener in Germany. And while the pilsener is typical, the rest of the beers are worth trying, many of which go back many years. Highly recommended to drink, but even more so for the Christmas market, something that has been added to my places to visit during the holiday season list. 😉

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Year of the Beer Day 33: Gessner Premium Pils


Day 33 of the beer-tasting marathon takes us back to the state of Thuringia, where we will be looking at some local breweries for a few days, most of which pride themselves on pilseners produced for locals and visitors in the region. This is because of the recommendations made by some people recently, some of them I had already drunk but decided to put them under the loop because of their high quality taste. 🙂

This includes this beer, the Gessner. Located in Sonneberg, near the Thuringian-Bavarian border, the brewery dates back to 1622, which was family owned, and the beer was brewed strictly based on the German Purity Laws. Given its proximate location at the foot of the Thuringian Forest, and the pure water and soil used for barley and hops, the use of pure ingredients made for a great beer. In 1997, the brewery was renewed and today, owned by the Schäfer family, the beer has racked up high accolades, including gold medals for their beer products by the German Agricultural Society (DLG) for six consecutive years since 2010.

This includes the Premium beer, which if read, should be considered another award or beer of high rating to be added to the list of accolades collected already.  🙂  The  clear, straw-colored beer with its high carbonation count and persistent head may have a weak aroma consisting of bread hops and herbal hops, creating a good balance between sweet and bitter, the flavor of the beer, when tasted, is intense, with bread malt and a combination of floral and herbal hops, creating a bitter but herbal taste. When drinking the beer, one can tell that the beer has a full body with the beer tasting astringent but hearty, and the sensation being slick and mouthcoating. The beer has a smooth taste  and provides a good fill. It has a freshness in it, and one can tell that a lot of work was put into the beer, from planting the barley, to harvesting and using it for crafting a good pilsener, using pure water coming from the forest.  🙂

Grade: 1,7/ A-  The Gessner Beer is a great example of a local beer that only uses pure ingredients for crafting a good pilsener. Its high quality and great taste makes it one of the beers that is recommended when visiting Germany, and in particular, Thuringia. There is a reason behind racking up the gold for its beer quality, which is excellent. And the author is pleased to inform the owners, that he definitely agrees 100%. So keep up the crafting and selling and Prost! 😀


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Year of the Beer Day 32: Chiemsee Light Pils

chiemseer hell pils

The first beer of February 2016 and this one came as a birthday gift (along with about a dozen other different beers) from my wife and family. Chiemsee is one of the most attractive tourist traps in the state of Bavaria. Located between Traunstein and Rosenheim in southeastern Bavaria, east of Munich, the largest lake in the state has several beeches, but three islands that are open to visitors- Krautinsel is uninhabited but is home to cabbage farms, Fraueninsel is home of a nunnery that produces Klosterliquour and Herreninsel has a palace where King Ludwig directed, which was supposed to mimick the Versailles Palace near Paris. Rosenheim is one of the fast growing cities in the state with over 61,000 inhabitants, more than double the population than 50 years ago, with businesses and commerce serving the region. The city used to have a brewery that had existed in the 1800s, but today, there are only two breweries, including this one. According to the website, the Chemigauer Brewery has existed since the 1980s but nothing was mentioned of its exact founding, let alone who was behind it.

While the website’s content is shallow with fonts that are too small, the beer itself is a work in progress. The Chiemseer Hell Pils or light pilsener, as seen in the picture above, is one of three different beer products that belong to the brewery. It has a clear light gold appearance, but signs of a bad beer appeared right away. This included a poor head, meaning the foam was low and only existed for a couple minutes. The carbonation level was really low, and the body was really light. As a general rule, a beer with little or no foam, let alone faint carbonation, constitutes one that is too watery, and if flavors are added to compensate, too bitter. This was noticed with the Sachsen Gold pilsener, which was tasted and given a failing grade early last month.

Yet I have to give the brewery some credit for compensating. My theory was correct as far as flavor is concerned. The beer was too watery, too stale and somewhat too bitter, yet attempts were made to compensate it with herbal and floral hops with a zing of lemon to ensure that it compensated for the malt that was less than usual. Still because of its hoppiness, the taste of the beer appeared to be somewhat off, as the taste was astringent but warm, but the water concentration should have been less when crafting it. The aroma, on the other hand, is rather decent as the balance was normal, and thanks to herbal and floral hops combined with the aforementioned malt barley, the smell is partly herbal and partly bread-like.  Still, in order to have a good beer, one has to have a great aroma and an even greater taste in order for it to be sold to avid beer-drinkers. 😉

Grade: 4,0/ D: The Chiemsee Light Pilsener is not a good example of a good pilsener, let alone a good tap beer because of its excessive water content, combined with the imbalance of ingredients between hops and malt. Yet, what kept me from giving it a failing grade is because of the beer’s fairly decent aroma and the attempts to compensate the flavor with other ingredients. There are two reasons why pilseners are not as loved in Upper Bavaria as they are in the (north-) eastern parts of the state. The first is the predominance of the Weizenbier (wheat beer) because of the rich fields full of that crop. Rosenheim’s close proximity to Munich, which is the Weizenbier capital of Germany, has provided a squeeze in the beer market for other kinds, such as the pilsener. The second reason is because of its lack of means to market the product. As mentioned at the beginning, the website could use some work to provide more information about the brewery and the products crafted. But also important is to improve the product by experimenting on it until perfection is reached. The brewery is young and has time to expand, and so should the pilsener/ tap beer, so that it becomes a popular drink and a counterweight to the other alcoholic beverages in the Chiemsee region. Time is of the essence and it is just a matter of time and efforts until this beer becomes popular because of its taste. So dig in and give me another beer of your kind that is better than this one! 😀

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