Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Outer Styles - Breiten Sie Ihren Gaumen aus

If our earlier relations with the people of Germany hadn’t been so….stressed, we would have a seriously different brewing industry right now. You might be able to get a little more than yellow beer when you sit down to dinner at a restaurant.

If Prohibition hadn’t come along to mend peoples’ family lives and spur organized crime, people in America wouldn’t have lost the taste for traditional German beer and the people who used to make it wouldn’t have had to settle for less or close up shop entirely.

“Good fortune and bad are equally necessary to man, to fit him to meet the contingencies of this life.”

So now in modern day America we’re the ones settling. We take what the importers and wholesalers will give us and we hope that it’s been well taken care of along the way. Granted, we’re not desperate here, there’s good German beer to be had and, in a way, we’re probably better off having to hunt a little for some of it too.

Oh wait, we also have all these craft brewers in the states who look a style in the eye and head straight for it. Some shoot for tradition, others turn styles on their heads. So while we may not have the genuine article, at least we have a point of reference.

That brings us to Roggenbier.

I kid you not when I say that I was driving around one day when Roggenbier popped into my head. “Roggen. Roggen, Roggen…bier. What’s a Roggenbier?”

I don’t know where in my subconscious it came from, but I made with the googlage (after the driving thing) and got myself to the style guidelines. A dunkel with rye instead of wheat? This is a necessity. Although finding one is easier said than done. I checked my usual sources which all came up dry, so I stuffed it to the back of my mind as one of those things that would just have to come to me. And a few days later it did.

Iron Hill – Phoenixville.

They did a darned good job of it. The rye brings a bit of dryness to a beer that would otherwise be pretty forward in its sweetness. A little bite of sour, just a subtle nip, really made this beer stick out for me. I really like dunkels, but for my palate I have to drink them sparingly as the combination of phenols, overall sweetness and the fruity esters can be a bit like eating a bowl of cereal in the middle of a session.

Roggenbier saves the day. Taking a good bit of the sweetness away but still leaving the complete yeast profile (Roggens usually keep the same yeast strain as Dunkels, one that is meant impart hints of clove and fruit) leaves a beer that makes you want another (and another) as many good beers should.

The barkeep at Iron Hill also told me they did a Roggenbock last year and to keep my eyes out for it. I certainly will.

Hello baby, I’m gone, goodbye
Half a cup of Rogg ’n Felsen
Farewell to you old Southern sky
I’m on my way


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