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
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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