Archive for November 19th, 2007

Off to Brussels….

… on the first flight in the morning. It is a business trip, but I hope to consume a few beers and bring some home, too. No live blogging, but I’m back on Friday. Click through the blog roll here while you are waiting, there is a great range of beer blogs out there now.

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Due to Norwegian legislation, Norwegian flagship brewers Nøgne ø had to close down their web site earlier this year. I’m pleased to report that they are back with a web site aimed at the international market.

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There are beers which claim to hail back to the beginning of time, or at least a millennium or so. And they have probably been brewing at the Weienstephan hill in Freising since Ninehundredandsomething. But I don’t think the beer has stayed the same. The brewery has been an educational institution for a long time, for example, and I’m sure the yeast is of a more controllable kind now than they were in the Dark Ages.

No, I think we have to look for more extreme beers to be able to drink liquid history.

Berliner Weisse is one of these extremes – a sour wheat beer.

One reason I think this may be a kind of ur-beer is that this sourness was how they used to brew it, but they did not necessarily like to drink it that way. Like the Belgian sweetening their lambic with candy sugar to create a faro, the burghers of Berlin sweetened theirs sour beer with fruit syrups.

And this was done in cafes. If you are asking for a Berliner Weisse, the waiter will answer you: Mit Schuss? The syrup is then added in the glass. The famous traffic light were the three varieties – the yellow beer without addition, the red with raspberry syrup, the green with woodruff, Waldmeister in German. The versions with the syrup in the bottle are more recent additions.

Low in alcohol, at 3%, these were summer refreshers. According to Michael Jackson, there used to be stronger versions available, and they probably spiked them with stronger stuff, too. Maybe a shot of Jägermeister?

Is it any good? It is not difficult to understand that this has gone out of fashion. It is an acquired taste. Midway between a Bavarian wheat and a Belgian lambic is a way to describe it. The citrus flavour is bordering on vinegar, but it is a sourness that is very refreshing if you like that kind of thing.

There used to be a number of brewers making it, as far as I know there is now only one major brewer and the odd micro brewery producing it. The glass in the photo is from a Berlin visit many years ago. Schultheiss does not make any Weisse any longer.

And how does it taste with the schuss? The woodruff mix is sweet and sour, and it not resemble beer at all. There is a minty toothpaste flavor here, which I frankly would not seek out frequently even if I had the opportunity.

The pink version tastes overwhelmingly of raspberry syrup. A beer to have with ice cream if there ever was one.

There are micros around the globe that make similar beers. But if you want the authentic stuff, I think you should grab it if you have the opportunity.

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It’s gloves off

Seems like Carlsberg are using their Norwegian company to do the dirty work in their raid on Scottish & Newcastle. Maybe they think the Northeasterly part of of the island is more easily scared by Norwegian berserkers than by Danes?

From The Times:

It has emerged that lawyers for Pripps Ringnes, a Carlsberg subsidiary, sent letters at the end of October to the homes of S&N directors and employees who sit on the BBH board, saying they would be individually liable for damages arising from disclosures that breached the shareholders’ agreement.

S&N branded the letters as “unjustified, intimidatory and straightforward threatening”.

A spokesman for the Carlsberg consortium denied this, saying the legal letters were “standard procedure”.

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