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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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