July 17, 2012
I received a lot of compliments about the Berliner weisse article a couple of weeks back so I thought I’d regale y’all with another little bit of beer adventure I encountered while visiting Germany oh so many summers ago. This one, however, is an example of beer done wrong.
It’s been noted in my work many times before how, due to the German Reinheitsgebot, or beer purity act, that there’s very little variation when it comes to beer style in that country. The three dominant styles of beer there are lager, weizenbier and bock with the occasional altbier and kolsch thrown in for good measure. It may be because of the Reinheitsgebot’s stipulation that only four ingredients may be used in beer – water, hops, yeast and grain – that most brewers, perhaps, misinterpret this decree to mean that everyone must use the same recipe. And, dang it, from Bayern to Schleswig-Holstein, yes, most of the lager tastes the same.
Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that German beer is one of two things; it’s either very good or it’s very bad.
Example. We were in Idar-Oberstein one late July day. The weather was actually drizzly and chilly. We were there to tour the agate mines but the town’s best feature, in my opinion, was strangely left off our itinerary. There’s a beautiful church carved directly into the side of a giant stone cliff. A church cut out of rock! And we didn’t go?!
After wandering around the damp, boring caves we found an imbiss stand and ordered up a snack and the local brew: Kerner Pils. I glanced up longingly at that stone church and sipped my beer. Perhaps it was the sour grapes of not making the trek up the side of the cliff or it was a subliminal association with the name “Kerner” that told my brain “kernel,” because my beer tasted like corn. Ugh.
I’d like to wash that bad taste memory out of my mouth with a truly superior German pilsner. Flensburger from northern Germany fits the bill perfectly. Pouring up a glimmering gold color, the beer sports a tall, frothy head that takes a minute or two to disappear. Its scents are of young, spicy, leafy hops and fresh bread dough. A very crisp body delivers firm malt sweetness with a dry, herbal bite of Noble hops at the finish. Flensburger is a classic example of European pilsner.
Kerner was an example of how you can’t win them all. Flensburger is a reminder that there are great beers out there… and that most of the fun is in the trying of new things all the time.