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Archive for the ‘Austria’ Category

If you look at the global picture, the trend is clear. Beer consumption is going downhill, if you look at the traditional markets (meaning everywhere but China). The global players are doing their best to gain market shares, sometimes with alliances about as cozy as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

But, frankly, it does not matter. (Well, if you are in China, it probably does).

Because we are getting spoilt for choice. The next wave of the beer revolution is sweeping across Europe.

I torment myself by joining the mailing lists of a selected number of beer retailers, bars and breweries. One of them is the Arendsnest in Amsterdam.

They are having a tasting tonight. This café has long been a promoter of Dutch beers, taking pride in serving craft beers from every corner of the country. But tonight they are staying local, offering beers from seven Amsterdam breweries:

  • Brouwerij de Prael
  • Brouwerij ‘t IJ
  • Brouwerij de 7 deugden
  • Brouwerij de Bekeerde Suster
  • Brouwerij de Snaterende Arend
  • Brouwerij Zeeburg
  • Brouwerij Butcher’s Tears

By this time next year, we’ll be able to hold a similar tasting here in Oslo, with between six and eight breweries in business. Most of them will be exclusively brewpubs, some will possibly bottle some.

There are other European capitals with impressive lists of brewpubs and micros:

  • London must have a few dozen breweries now, up from two or three when Young’s closed down.just a few years ago.
  • Berlin has a fair number, as documented here on this blog.
  • Vienna often escapes the radar for beer tourism, but had a fine selection of brewpubs.

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There has been some discussion about beer innovation lately – today I’ll focus on the opposite, the celebration of beer heritage.

The border region including the Austrian Mühlviertel, the Czech South Bohemia and the German Lower Bavaria  wants to be a lighthouse for beer tourism, according to Genuss Bier. (You are about as far away from the sea as you are likely to get in Europe, so I assume lighthouses are few and far between there..)

The capital of South Bohemia is České Budějovice, better known as Budweis, which shows that their brewing credentials go way back.

The project has a budget of almost a million Euro, most of which come from EU funding (And Norway is most likely a proud sponsor).

There are four elements to be established by mid-2014:

• the establishment of a Beer Academy

• a quality offensive for hotels and restaurants 

• the establishment of a beer fair covering the whole region
• a common marketing of the BeerWorldRegion.

I applaud this for various reasons. There is, obviously, the beer part of it all. The promotion of beer tourism rooted in local traditions and linked with local culture is an end in itself.

On the other hand, have a look at the map. This is a region that today will look idyllic with its fields and forests, towns and castles. But it is also a region that has seen more than its share of war and conflict . The Iron Curtain ran right through this part of the continent, but that is just the culmination of a thousand years of strife.

There are many ways of stimulating the bonds between neighbours that have been separated by political forces. I can hardly think of a more pleasant way of doing this than by beer.

The reason that this struck a chord is probably that I am currently reading  the book Microcosm, a history of the Central European city today known as Wroclaw, recommended by Boak and Bailey in an earlier discussion.

Freshening up my German is rising towards the top of my to do list.

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Some food for thought at the Lieblingsbier.de web site. There is a general discussion on the trends in the German and Austrian markets, which is interesting enough. But the core of the blog post by Felix vom Endt is this (my translation):

I don’t mind if the beer consumption keeps falling in the years ahead. For me this is a clear sign that we as consumers don’t have less appetite for beer, but rather more appetite for the right beer. We choose more carefully and drink with more enjoyment, slower and with more thoughtfulness, mind and soul.

I could not agree more. And this is a good reason for having independent beer writers in the important beer countries of the world, pointing out that we care about quality, not about the quantity of the output om the global giants of the beer industry.

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If Austrian beers (or, more likely, brandy, wine or chocolate), Austian Airlines have teamed up with AustrianGrocery.com, delivering to your door if it’s not prohibited. A shame this seems to be aimed more at the homesick Austrian expat.

I’m afraid that the beer selection is not up to the same standards as the fruit brandies, the Sacher Torte or other delicacies. On the contrary, most of the beers are of the infamous Radler kind, a mix of pale lager and lemonade, a popular beverage in Germany and Austria.

There are, however, other online shops. MyBreweryTap in England offers a wide range of beers, most of them in boxes representing a particular brewery. But there is also a pick and mix list, including both British and import beers. Most interesting are the Hardknott beers from fellow blogger Dave. His operation is small scale, and still seems to be under the radar for beer fans outside the UK. (BTW go read his blog and read his comments to a letter from the Portman group!)

So, I ordered a box. I try not to think about what it will cost me after all the duties, taxes and fees. But at least it is legal now, not like the time when Alan tried to send me a few bottles.

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In a typical Austrian supermarket, you’ll find about 30 beers from 10 breweries. On the other hand, in the country as a whole, there are 172 breweries producing 1000 beers.

Two enthusiasts have decided to do something about that. They are launching myBier.at, offering the best beers from local breweries online.

No list of beers yet, they are currently establishing partnerships with breweries. I don’t know if they will be shipping beers to the rest of Europe – let’s hope so!

(Thanks to Lieblingsbier.de for the tip)

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Seven deadly sins

The Austrian magazine Genuss has a list of the seven deadly sins to avoid if you want to serve beer on tap. We are talking about keg lagers here, not cask condition ales. Nevertheless:

  • Old beer. Once a keg is opened, it should be consumed, preferably on the same day. Not enough turnover to serve beer on tap? Go for good bottled beers instead.
  • Right temperature. What matters is the temperature when it is served to the consumer. If the glass is to be carried through a beer garden in high summer, it needs to be kept cold enough.
  • Wrong pour. Never let the beer tap into the glass. Never use anything to take off the head.
  • Lack of head. Practically all Austrian beers should be served with a proper, good-looking and stable head.
  • Rinsing of used glasses. Only freshly washed glasses should be rinsed in the Spülkranz, unless you want to spread Herpes.
  • Hygiene. The dispensing system and the bar should be kept clean at all times.
  • No cheating. Never fill beer from one glass into another. No pre-tapping to have beer ready. Never.

The translation is a bit halting, but you get the message. Even a humble half liter of lager should be properly cared for.

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Pigs might fly

Even in the traditional lager lands of Central Europe, there are some signs of experimental beers. There are limited editions of barley wines and other brews defying the Reinheitsgebot.  Even a rather traditional brewery like Stiegl in Austria has launched a Stout. Keep them coming!

To keep up with beer news from the region, with an emphasis on Austria, try BIER täglich. At last some use for my rusty school German, the rest of you have to rely on Google translate.

I like the “beer of the month” concept, I wish more breweries would set up something like this. The logistics are probably a nightmare, but it’s what we tickers want.

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According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Norwegian micro (they call it boutique brewery down under) Nøgne Ø was awarded the
Champion Exhibitor trophy, as well as the Champion Small Brewery award at a dinner in Melbourne on Thursday.

 

No details about which beers they entered in the competition.

Nice to conquer new continents.

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Hygiene problems in brewpubs

While we all like to quote historical anecdotes about beer being safer to drink than water, there are critical factors in brewing as well. I have joked about the big lager breweries who seem obsessed about the technical side of beer, but, on the other hand, if you don’t have the necessary knowledge and focus on quality, you’ll soon be out of business.

The Austrian Health and Food Agency AGES took a closer look at some of the brewpubs in three regions, Upper Austria, Tyrol and Salzburg, and the results are not very encouraging.

Twelve of the 25 samples were had microbiological defects. Two of these samples were also criticized for not having original gravity as claimed.

The twelve samples had various problems: beer-spoiling bacteria, lactic acid bacteria or unwanted yeast.  Two samples  from Upper Austria contained- rather unusual – Escherichia coli, probably due to an unsanitary tap or leaking equipment.

AGES points out three critical factors for brewpubs:

  • Poorly cleaned pipes and tanks, increased risk of infection with internal components (such as flow meters and valves) .
  • The yeast used, which may be purchased or from the brewery’s own production.
  • The dispensing system; compensation valves are complicated constructions and they are heavy and cumbersome to clean.  Poorly cleaned beer lines will over time form a biofilm, which is not easily removed.

I dare say that these problems are not limited to Austria…

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Erik at Jerrys

Erik at Jerry's

Frederikshavn, Denmark.

During the summer, this is the gateway to Jutland for ferry-loads of Norwegians and Swedes. Year round it is a destination for those who take the overnight ferry from Oslo, with two hours for shopping – meat and booze mostly.

In this pre-Christmas season, most of the passangers seem to be either sleeping it off or still partying, there are rather few of us who queue up to get off at seven thirty.

We get off and the first stop is the breakfast buffet at Damsgaard supermarket. The shop itself has seen better days, but the cafeteria is still good value for money. Before I sit down with my coffee and rolls, I make a phone call.

There is aa new attraction in town for a beer hound – one of the restaurants has started brewing its own beers. I e-mailed them last week, and the manager gave me his mobile number. They are only open in the evening, but he told me we’ll work something out.

I call, and he tells me he will be in the restaurant in five minutes. This being a small town, so I agree to meet him there.

The door to Jerry’s restaurant is open, and Erik is the man behind the bar. He greets me warmly, and he is pleased that there are people interested in what he is doing. He emphasises that he does not consider himself a brewer. His main beers are not aimed at beer connoisseurs, either. They are simply beers aimed at the pilsener market. The pale ale is rather similar to a pilsener, but the top fermentation means that he can cut down on the conditioning period. The red ale is similar to the Danish Classic style, with some more malty sweetness and a darker color than the pilsener.

The restaurant has been running for 17 years, while the brewing only started this year. He had the big advantage of having an established bar/restaurant and knowing exactly how many thousand liters of beers he sells in a year. This made it possible to set up a more realistic business plan than many others who start both the pub and the brewing at the same time.

So far, he has mainly followed the recipes form the company that delivered the brewing eqipment, Fleck’s Brauhaus Technic in Austria. He tells me they also delivered the equipment to Lillehammer Bryggeri, and when I look them up, I find that they also are behind the Pri Kmeta brewpub in Sofia, which I visited last year.

I addition to the advice from the Austrians, Erik also relies on the advice of an experienced home brewer, who knows how to adjust the settings to get the desired results.

I try both the pale ale and the red ale, and, while not outstanding, they are pleasant beers that can be consumed in quantity. The recipes will be adjusted from the next batch. The pale ale will have a more pronounced hoppiness in the finish, and the red ale will have more body and color.

In addition to the two standard beers, there will also be a rotating seasonal beer , and this will be more experimental. Erik was rightly proud of his Christmas brew, a dark beer at 5.1% ABV with a strong anise aroma. The flavour reveals even more spices, it is brewed with star anise, cardamom, cinnamon and other Christmassy spices. This blend well with the dark beer base, with a malty full body.

I don’t usually taste beers at eight in the mornig, but this was a very pleasant experience. I promise to be back to taste his improved beers the next time I am in town.

There are two boxes with bottled beers on the counter, and I ask if I can buy them to take away. Erik insits on giving them to me as a present, and I won’t argue with that.

Then it is off into the frosty winter morning again, but is doesn’t seem so cold any longer!

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