The Decoction Principle
by Stan Hieronymus
At the Weihenstephan Institute for Brewing Technology in Freising, professor Martin Krottenthaler possesses both a notebook computer full of PowerPoint presentations and an enthusiastic teaching style that makes his slides and mind-numbing charts engaging.
He spoke about yeast not so much as an ingredient but as a personality, more like we’re used to hearing Belgian brewers talk. His voice resonated with the word “boom” when he described finishing hops.
Krottenthaler hurried happily back to the keyboard when asked if Weihenstephan had studied how traditional decoction mashing (where part of the mash is removed, boiled and returned to the original mash, often two or three times) and less time-consuming infusion mashing differ.
He flipped through the slides, explaining why lesser malts once made decoction necessary. “Boiling is boiling,” he said, showing how the benchmarks the chemists recorded were different throughout the two processes but that the resulting worts still produced almost identical profiles.
Then he introduced the human element. A tasting panel basically confirmed the results, because few of its members could tell the difference—but Krottenthaler was one of those. “For me it was significant,” he said.
I thought of Krottenthaler the next day in Wolnzach when members of the Hallertau hop community turned the topic to farming. “We don’t like it when the discussion about hops is focused only on alpha acids,” said Dr. Johann Pichlmaier, alluding to brewers of international lagers looking for the cheapest way to add obligatory bitterness to their products.
While those who followed discussed hops in terms that would make sense to growers of grapes, I scribbled myself a note: “Lesson of trip: What brewing chemists can measure and what we can taste may be different.”
Munich: A Whirlwind Tour
by Greg Kitsock
So many breweries, so little time. Fortunately, for our livers’ sakes, consolidation has whittled Munich’s “Big Six” down to a Big Four. Paulaner and Hacker Pschorr have merged, as have Spaten and Lowenbrau. Both of these companies are now part of international conglomerates: Heineken controls Paulaner, while InBev owns Spaten.
This might be a blow to Bavarian pride, but the individual product lines remain intact, as do the traditions behind them. For instance, every year on St. Joseph’s Day (March 19), Paulaner ceremoniously taps its Salvator Doppelbock to mark the beginning of the Starkbierzeit (strong beer time).
The word on the street is that InBev may use Spaten’s excess capacity to brew Becks, another German brand in its stable. But don’t expect to see Becks at the Oktoberfest. That honor is reserved for Munich’s own.
Speaking of the Oktoberfest, our bus passes by the Theresa’s Meadow, where the annual celebration takes place. On a cold December day, the vast field is deserted, except for a vendor selling Christmas trees. Next September, however, the meadow will become a beer city, as over 6 million revelers drink oceans of beer and consume nearly half-a-million roast chickens.
So where are all those chickens now? During our week in Bavaria we enjoy some fine cuts of pork and ham, but scarcely see a drumstick or a thigh, making some of us long for Popeye’s and Colonel Sanders. A brewery employee will explain to me that Bavarians consider chicken to be fast-food or ethnic cuisine, not something you’d serve to guests.
Augustiner-Brau is Munich’s last family-owned brewery. It dates back to 1328 and is still a very traditional operation. “In the offices of the owner, I’ve never seen a computer,” comments Manfred Newrzelle, general manager of the Association of Munich Brewers. Augustiner is very unusual, if not unique, in operating its own floor maltings.
Unfortunately, the brewery’s superb Edelstoff (an Export Helles) and other brands are sold only in Germany. But CEO Werner Mayer leaves the door open for trade with the U.S.: “Maybe in ten years we send 10,000 hectoliters to America.”
Our Munich tour concludes at the renowned Hofbräuhaus in the city center. The name means “royal brewhouse,” and the Bavarian government still owns and operates it more than four centuries after its founding. Normally, visitors belly up to the bar for liter steins of some very quaffable beers, but we’re ushered to a quieter dining room above the boisterous beer hall, and allowed smaller vessels for the purpose of beer sampling.
Horst Dornbusch, who helped organize the trip and chaperones us throughout, notes that three major beer styles (Helles, Hefeweizen and Bock) were born here. It becomes a running joke throughout the tour that all major innovations and achievements took place here. Bock beer? Invented at the
Hofbräuhaus. Hops? Discovered here. The wheel. Fire. You name it; it started here.
However, after a few beers, you’re almost willing to believe it.
The big news is that the Hofbräuhaus is franchising itself. Already there are clones of the famous beerhall operating in Las Vegas and Newport, KY, and a branch is set to open in Pittsburgh in late 2006 or early 2007, according to the Hofbräuhaus’s managing director, Dr. Michael Moller.
Additional sites are being scouted in Chicago, Wisconsin, and even China. Which raises a pertinent question: How do you translate “Ein, Zwei, G’suffa!” into Mandarin?
Bock to Basics in Bavaria
By Alan Moen
Bavaria has arguably the richest beer culture in Germany, with some 629 breweries producing 4,500 different labels in 42 different styles. But, as I found out in our recent whirlwind beer tour led by the indefatigable Horst Dornbusch, the ultimate in Bavarian beer is bock.
Introduced by Italian monks and refined by brewing techniques imported from Einbeck in the north, Bavarian bockbier is Germany’s king of beers: a regal malt presence is the signature of this beer and its numerous variations. It’s perhaps the ultimate expression of the flavors of barley or wheat, as translated into beer.
There are several basic styles of German bock bier, both lagers and ales. Helles bock is a deep golden to amber lager, a bit lighter in malt flavor than the traditional dark bock (6-7 percent ABV) and often has a noticeable noble hop accent as well. Dunkel or dunkles bock is light to deep brown lager with a toasty, caramel taste from the use of darker malts, a medium-full body, and usually some sweetness in the finish. Doppelbock or starkbier is not twice as malty or strong as the name implies, but this fuller bodied, denser version has a noticeably higher alcohol content (7- 8.5 %) Finally, eisbock is typically the strongest lager of all, with 9 to 12 percent ABV or more. It’s made by partially freezing the beer to remove some of the water content, creating a less carbonated, more concentrated and stronger brew. On the wheat side of the bock family are weizenbocks, made, like weissbiers, with at least 50 percent malted wheat and ale yeasts. They are light copper to dark brown, cloudy brews with very fruity, spicy yeast flavors and low hops. Dunkles and eisbock versions of weizenbocks are also produced.
Although bock biers are cold-conditioned much longer then most lagers, they should never taste old, and nothing beats a fresh-poured one. While we drank many excellent bottled beers on our trip, the most memorable beers came right from the keg or the tank. In Bamberg, brewmaster Stefan Michel of Mahr’s Bräu poured us a keg of his new Christmas Bock, an outstanding helles version. His enthusiasm and pride added even more flavor to this exciting beer, when tapped by the hand of the man who made it.
The 5th Ingredient
by Jim Parker
When the Bavarians tell you there is nothing but malt, water, hops and yeast in their beer, don’t you believe it. There is a fifth ingredient in many Bavarian beers that is largely imperceptible to the most discriminating palate in the US, but whose presence is palpable on their home turf: history.
With more than a millennium of commercial brewing history, the Germans have come to revere the relics of beers gone by, lovingly maintaining their old brewing equipment even as modernization continues its relentless march.
Hardly a day went by on our Bavarian adventure without some sort of brewing museum on the agenda. From a second-century archeological dig in Reggensburg (that just might be the world’s oldest known malt and brewhouse) to the 1880s brewhouse at Maisel’s in Bayreuth that was replaced in 1974, but still stands in ready working order, the trip was steeped in history.
For a modern-day beer scribe who has become numb to the glitter of modern stainless steel and computer-controlled gadgetry, there is certain rush to seeing—and feeling—on old wooden mash tun, or a smooth copper cool ship (used to lower the temperature on hot wort in the days before heat exchangers).
Sure, these old relics were woefully inefficient, and I am sure the beer they produced would not pass muster these days, but filling a swing-top bottle of Schneider Weisse on a single-bottle filler in the brewery’s on-site museum, I could almost see the centuries of care and craftsmanship flowing into the bottle.