Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Word to the Weisse


I have written before about Schneider und Sonne, the renowned German wheat beer brewer. You can read my original article here, but I don't think I've ever drank any of their beers in the UK. Not until one night last week that was.

Much is written about the Port St Beer House and their beer tasting nights, but little of their older sister Common Bar, in the trendy Northern Quarter of Manchester. It was Common, an edgier, funkier, artier, music led type of place and haunt of pretty studenty young women and skinny, hairy, leery, gawky lads, that hosted a tasting of Schneider beers. This was held in what could be described as a back room, but since it looked out onto the street, plainly wasn't. In our room, the audience was mostly young by my standards, so think late twenties, early thirties, but no doubt regarded as a load of old crinklies by the eager young crew next door. They all looked pretty damned serious. Until the beer flowed that is. What a leveller beer is and what a leveller it should be.

This was billed as a "Beer and Cheese" evening and the cheesy part was hosted by a Swiss Cheese producer, but since there was no hand-out of what the cheeses were and the descriptions and names were rattled out at top speed, we'll pass on the cheese part for now and concentrate on the beer. Now Schneider only brew wheat beer, so all the beers were of that ilk. That's fine, because Schneider, unlike many other German producers have used their imagination more than a little, so subtle and not so subtle variations of the wheat theme were the order of the day. We started off, somewhat surprisingly, with their newest beer, a supposed "one off". Nelson Sauvin uses the hop of that name and is bottle conditioned in champagne style bottles. The beer is 7.3% and while some of the promised, flowers, kiwi and gooseberry could be detected, overall, I didn't think this worked that well. Still, interesting and more variations please.  The basic premise is a good one.

The beers came thick and fast. Next up was Mein Blonde, a traditional pale wheat beer that ticks all the boxes. Spicy, citrus, subdued clove and banana.  A bit of Bavarian summer in a cold and grey Manchester.  Kristall, is a filtered version.  Clear as a bell and refreshing enough. Maybe it is just preference, but it doesn't do it for me in the same way a cloudy wheat beer does.  Then my Schneider favourite and my drink of choice when I'm in The Weisses Bräuhaus in Munich. Original is said to be the recipe of the original wheat beer brewed by the founder. If so, it has been cleaned up in recent years and is now an outstanding wheat beer of great complexity. Bottle conditioned, it has the full banana, clove thing going without excessive sweetness, through to a bitter-sweet finish. A bit darker this one, but a cracker in every way for the wheat beer fan. I'm one in case you didn't guess!

An odd interlude then.  I don't believe I've ever ordered an alcohol free beer in Germany.  Mein Alkoholfreies is said to taste like "ripe corn fields, sparkling and malty-aromatic". Well, to me it tasted like unfermented wort, which is probably what it is. I wasn't alone. It was the only dumper on our table.   Back to normality then with Aventinus, a dark, luscious doppelbock; oh an somewhere in between (by now the beer was taking effect and the noise levels were a notch below cacophony) we had Mein Grünes, another fairly new beer. Organic and 6.2% this has delicious lemony citrus overtones and traditional wheat beer spice. Very easy going to drink and refreshing too. This is another great beer and one which I will be drinking next time I'm in Munich for sure.

Then the beer that knocked John Clarke's socks off.  Hopfenweisse is heavily hopped with American "C " hops.  It has a big booming taste to go with its big booming 8.2% alcohol.  It is wonderful and dangerously and deceptively drinkable. Schneider say "This extreme wheat beer shows how far wheat beer taste can go."  Indeed it does.

Oh yes. The cheese.  I said I'd come back to that. Delicious though they were, they came in such minuscule portions that you couldn't really taste them with the beers. A touch more would have been nice and really have made it a food and beer matching.  No such complaints about the beer though. A  great night ended with a second shared bottle of the Hopfenweisse and we left having experienced what a great brewer can do with a style that most others merely produce to a single repetitive standard. Well done Schneider.  Our experience was enhanced by our two charming table companions, whose attractiveness to us was enhanced in no small way by generous donations of beer to three old soaks.

Young people today aren't all bad.

Beer of the night?  For me and my companions, it had to be Hopfenweisse.  My thanks to James Clay for their kind invitation

25 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

Great to see the Grünes (formerly "Wiesen Edel-Weisse") and Hopfenweisse in regular production.

Both indicators that the call for European brewers not to go chasing after what the yanks are doing should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt.

Tandleman said...

Well I think that Schneider have a sightly different take, but I see your point.

The punny title was of course inspired by you.

The Beer Nut said...

It's a lovely title. Have a gold star.

Steve Lamond said...

I had the Grünes erlier in the week and I found it a bit bland...maybe I should have let it warm up a bit first.

Sid Boggle said...

Of course, German beers such as these represent merely a bubble, and must have been brewed by 20-somethings with their baseball caps on sideways. How dare they disrespect tradition. Germany's moribund and generally inert beer scene won't stand for it. I'm sure CAMRA would find fertile ground for a new branch...

And the Swiss, with those unpasteurised cheeses (I had a source at the London event...) What's wrong with that mass-produced stuff you getin supermarkets...

Ho ho ho, and season's greetings... ;-)

Anonymous said...

i have had the hopfenweisse on numerous occasions and its a great beer.had the tap x on draught last week at the Rake and the hops didnt really stand out as i would have hoped. oh £9.60 a pint as well.hoppy weisse yes but at this price maybe not. john

John Clarke said...

Old soak? Speak for yourself.

Leigh said...

It's good when a brewer holds these events in the UK and they actually work. Dont badly they can be awful, corporate affairs - when done right, they can prove to be a great primer and exploration in one evening. I missed these ones, which is ironic because of all the ones I've been to, i really fancied this one. Real life getting in the way, and all that...

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Erlangernick said...

Wait. Take a traditional beer style, ratchet up the alcohol and change the hops around. How Yankee of them!

I've had one or two of these, and I just can't be arsched to think much of them. But I'm also not a Weizen drinker.

One outSTANDing experimental beer at the Brau-Beviale trade show in Nuremberg last month was a 100% Nelson Pils from one of the brewing schools. A winner.

The Beer Nut said...

Both the Grünes and Hopfenweisse are the result of direct American intervention. The old Edel-Weisse label described the beer as "ale" and had a massive USDA-approved organic badge on it.

Tandleman said...

BN - I didn't know that it was the same beer as I never came across the old Edel Weisse, but I'm happy to take your word for it. Of course adding American hops could easily be, by definition, an American thing, though Ron P might disagree from a historical point of view and anyone else could too, in this global market. Either way, it is good stuff whatever inspired it.

Nick - I know you don't like wheat beer.
John - I'd imagine to our table companions, you were an old soak.

Bailey said...

I reckon Schneider have earned the right to experiment. Their standard wheat beer is the best around and as long as they keep making that, they've got something rock solid to fall back on if the new-fangled stuff doesn't work out. And, anyway, isn't Aventinus far more bonkers than almost any of their new experiments? It was brilliantly described as "monkey beer" by a group of pissed up lads we once saw drinking it in the Pembury...

Erlangernick said...

I wouldn't say I don't like it, unless it's shite. I just don't care for it much.

I have a bottle of some Brit wheat beer or other in the cellar right now...Black Isle IIRC. May have it tonight, I guess.

There are also bottles of BrewDog Paradox Smokehead and Good King Henry stouts down there too. Might not get to them tonight though.

Erlangernick said...

Welches ist besser: Schneider oder Gutmann? Don't you lot make me do my own comparison!

Ben (@CptCheerful) said...

As I understand it, the Schneider version of Hopfenweisse uses a German hop, Sofia. The Brooklyn version uses American hops. The idea was to use purely local ingredients in both beers, and each brewer visited the other to do the first batch as a collaboration. Brooklyn have since discontinued their version, because most of their punters preferred the German version!

Mein Grunes does use American hops (Cascade), and Nelson Sauvin (obviously) uses New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops.

It was interesting speaking with their export manager at these events, as she pointed out that everything they brew still conforms to the purity law, and the brewers are particularly proud of how creative and innovative they're able to be with their beers, whilst staying within the confines of that law.

Ben (@CptCheerful) said...

Wait a tick, I may have got the Hopfenweisse hop wrong...my poor efforts at understanding a German accent and feeble memory may be at fault here. A look through the list of hops on wikipedia suggests it's in fact Saphir:

A new breed of hop that is starting to replace the Hallertauer Mittlefrüh variety (it was mentioned that it was from the Hallertau area), which has become more and more susceptible to disease and pests. Shares many of the Hallertauer Mittlefrüh characteristics and is very well suited as an aroma hop.

Erlangernick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erlangernick said...

Ben:
"It was interesting speaking with their export manager at these events, as she pointed out that everything they brew still conforms to the purity law, and the brewers are particularly proud of how creative and innovative they're able to be with their beers, whilst staying within the confines of that law."

Nothing personal towards you, but what was so interesting about this marketeering nonsense? Such a non-issue, this business of the Reinheitsgebot.

Ben (@CptCheerful) said...

Apologies, I didn't give any context - someone had asked whether the brewer was ever tempted to do other collaboration brews abroad to avoid the restrictions of the Reinheitsgebot and play around with other ingredients (like herbs, spices, fruits, etc).

Her response was an explanation that it's something their not really interested in doing, as they're more proud of being able to be a lot more innovative and creative than a lot of their German peers within the confines of the law.

Erlangernick said...

Ach, so. That is interesting. And good for them for the non-interest in any further collaboration hullabaloo. Why don't brewers just brew more interesting beers on their own?

More generally w.r.t. Weizen...I should round up a bottle of the Schneider Original and the Gutmann and do a comparison. Just to make der Tandelmann envious.

Turns out the Black Isle Wheat Beer is actually a Belgo-style, and was interesting enough in its own right, if not very much like Belgian Wits I've had. Ketchup in the nose and mouth, rather than the typical Wit spicing. I didn't dump it out, anyway.

Ben (@CptCheerful) said...

Ketchup?! That sounds pretty bizarre...

For Schneider, the answer was that working without the restrictions of the Reinheitsgebot wasn't something that appealed particularly. Doing another collaboration at some point might not be completely off the table though - probably would depend on who the other brewer was as much as anything.

Tandleman said...

Nick - As you know I am a big fan of Gutmann, but you'd need to compare it with the Schneider Blonde I reckon.

Erlangernick said...

I see at r8beer that "Mein Blondes" is supposedly the same as "Weizen Hell" at 5.2%. This in contrast to the Original, described as "mahogany-amber" and 5.4%.

Guess I'll have to do a triple-comparison then.

Ray Grimm said...

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Regards,
Ray Grimm