Off To The Beer Seminar!

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Today is a great day for beer appreciation, because it is the day that I finally get to host my long-overdue beer-tasting and history of beer seminar. Ten participants have signed on, the space has been reserved, and in a few hours time, I will be giving the attendees a quick (well not too quick) run-down on the history of the brewing craft, coupled with some generous sampling.

I’ve prepared the following list based on what I could find and what seemed indispensable to me as far as representing the history and full range of brewing was concerned. All told, they are divided by style more than historical period, but I will be presenting them in this order since it gives a pretty good idea of how the art evolved over time.

Ancient Beers:
Heather: Salt Spring Island Heather Ale (5% / 650 ml)
(I desperately wanted to find a bomber of Gruit as well, but that variety of beer is both hard to find and hopelessly out of season right now)

Abbey Beers:
Blonde: Affligem Blonde (6.8% / 330ml)
Tripel: Townsite Charleston Tripel (9% / 650 ml)
Sour: Driftwood Belle Royale (8% / 650 ml)

Anglo-American Beer:
Pale Ale: Hoyne’s Down Easy (5.2% / 650ml)
India Pale Ale: Driftwood Fat Tug IPA (7% / 650 ml)
Stout: Hopworks 7-Grain Stout (5.3% / 650 ml)
Barley Wine: Howe Sound Wooly Bugger (10.5% / 375 ml)

German Beer:
Lager: Ayinger Dortmunder Lager (5.5% / 500 ml)
Oktoberfest: Russel Marzen (5.5% / 650ml)
Hefeweizen: Schneider Weisse (5.4% / 500 ml)
Bock: Schneider Weisse Aventinus (8% / 500ml)
Smokebeer: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (6.6% / 500 ml)

The seminar will begin with where and how beer became a cornerstone of civilization – emerging alongside agriculture and sedentary communities some 8000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. I will then go on to how the rise of wine making introduced a sense of cultural distinction during Classical Antiquity, and the influence was largely confined to the parts of Europe where the Roman Empire had influence (France, Spain, Italy, the Mediterranean, but not Germany, the Low Countries, Eastern Europe, or the British Isles).

Then comes the Middle Ages, the establishment of Abbey/Monastery Brewing, the rise of hop use, the advent of Lager and the growing professionalization of the industry. Which then gives way to the industrial revolution and the emergence of brewing as a big business, followed of course by the modern era and the resurgence in craft brewing. It promises to be interesting, I just hope I can keep it down to 20 minutes. Leaves more time from sampling!

I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes and I hope to repeat it in the very near future with some other (and larger) groups of people.

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel

Wow, a name like that doesn’t exactly roll of the English tongue now does it? But amongst German beer enthusiasts, its kind of a big deal! Referring to the Weihenstephan Abbey, which is located in Freising district of Bavaria, Weihenstephan brewery is actually the world’s oldest commercially brewery. No kidding! Established in 725 by Benectine Monks, the monastery opened a commercial brewery in 1040 and has been a purveyor of beers ever since, making it the oldest brewery in the world that is still in operation.

It is even has its own entry on History of Beer archive, being a nexus between the ancient times when brewing was a cottage industry and modern Europe where it had grown into a full-blown enterprise. Today, they make a dozen varieties, most of which are wheat based, and export to thirty-five countries across the world. However, it is their Hefeweissbier Dunkel (Dark Wheat) which concerns me today, so let’s pack up the history lesson and get to some sampling.

Hefeweissbeir Dunkel: Upon opening the bottle, my nose was immediately graced by notes familiar to a weissbier. Smooth, malty, and yeasty, and with a deep color that was quite appetizing. But of course, being a wheat beer, it was also cloudy and translucent, a very good combination! And ultimately the flavor was a perfect combination of the Dunkel and Weiss, being both tawny and smooth, but also malty with a hint of fruit. the only thing that was lacking was spice; this beer has no traces of cloves, coriander or any of the other trace attributes other weissbiers are known for. However, this allows for an especially clean finish, so it all works out just fine! Perfect when enjoyed in a Hofbrauhaus mug, and since it comes in half liter bottles, I was able to fit two bottles to a stein quite perfectly (minus a little foam overflow of, course). If you can find it, try it! You shant be sorry! 4/5

An engraving of the brewery by Michael Wening, dating from about 1700:

And of course a link to the breweries website:
Weihenstephan Brauerei