Mittwoch, 31. Dezember 2008

Happy New Beer!

I was determined to explore new organic beers in 2008. And that, at least, I managed (don´t ask about the rest of the new year´s resolutions, please!) Whatever else 2008 was, it´s been a good beer year (may be investment sharks just drank too many cocktails!)! Almost wherever I went, I found new organic brews - and some were pretty decent! So, while newspapers review the events of 2008 and make (mostly speculative to absurd) predictions for 2009, I end the year by telling you about some more beers that could sweeten your new year (and bring us closer to an agriculture that won´t cost the earth). - Let me start by finishing off reviewing some beers by the Dutch Brouwereij ´t IJ. Not sure where they get their names from, but their beers are of a consistently high quality. The beer they call Columbus (the bottle shows an ostrich and a sailing ship - a comment on colonialism, that I doubt is intentional, but I do find amusing ...) is strong (9%) but refreshing. It´s got nothing to do with a Pilsner, but it is clearly a beer, as a strong taste of hop lingers on the tongue. The Struis (ostrich), gladly, tastes nothing like ostrich or egg! Though also 9%-strong, it´s smooth and remarkably light. On a dark, rainy night in Amsterdam, it´s bound to lighten your spirits! - The only disappointment I found this year comes, predictably, from France. The Moulin des Moines sounds like a great institution. But may be they should stick to wine and biscuits. Their Pilsner, certainly, is poor. It can only be recommended at the end of a very long hot French countryside day, when you are so thirsty that you gulp the beer down no matter what (sadly, I didn´t experience such a day this year). - Better news comes from much closer to home. The Potsdamer Braumanufaktur does excellently designed bottles and perfectly decent beers. Their motto: "Geld allein macht nicht glücklich. Trinkt Bier!" (Money alone does not make you happy. Drink beer!) is my new year´s resolution for 2009 (I am learning to only set myself tasks I can master ...). Their Potsdamer Stange beer is very light, but tasty. Their Weizen, while it cannot compete with true Bavarian wheat beers (such as those from Bayreuth or Neumarkter Lammsbräu), is still good. For a Prussian version of this ultimate Bavarian drink, it´s remarkable. The best news is that I have still to try their Hell and their Dunkel beers. And in 2009, I must also manage a visit to their brewery and beer garden! Things to look forward to ... - 2008, meanwhile, also saw the launch of the first Berlin-brewed organic beer. The Berliner Bürgerbräu used to be a cooperative (before the Fascists put an end to that) and then was a state owned brewery in East Germany. Today, it is in private hands - and a truly independent brewery with no ties to the big beer conglomorates. The ´Bio Pils´ is a very decent "Feierabendbier" (´after work beer´). It´s light, airy - drinkable. It´s also my newest ethical dilemma! I like this beer; I even recommend it. But, truth be told, I prefer slightly more bitter Pils types. As this beer is the most local, organic choice I can get, I should really make this my ´standard beer´. But can I give up my Neumarkter Lammsbräu (trucked to Berlin from Bavaria)? I doubt it (so it´s not on the resolution list!). - May 2009, however, bring many more organic beers to this world - and my stomach. Organic beer is all we need in one: Pleasure and Revolution. On that fine note, I say: Happy New Beer everyone!

Sonntag, 12. Oktober 2008

Organic beer, Dutch and Swedish style ...

Call me an old fashioned Greenie. But I have to confess, I couldn´t believe my eyes when I searched for organic beers in a Coop store in Malmoe, Sweden, and the only beer I could find was in a can! I was appalled. Not just because beers just don´t taste right after being stored in a can. But also because it seemed just too ironic: an organic brew in environmentally most dubious packaging. But, of course, I was still curious to try (and there was no other store anywhere near the European Social Forum, that had brought me to Malmoe). I was also curious to find out whether Abro, the brewer, would justify the choice of their packaging on their website. They don´t.. I guess they don´t feel they have to, being Sweden´s oldest and largest brewing giant. Should I complain - or just be happy that such a mainstream firm has an organic beer in their range, I wonder!? - Abro describes their organic ´oel´ as ´discreet´; they somehow detect a flavour of citrus in their brew. Their ´discrete´, to be honest, struck me as simply bland. If you think Carlsberg is a decent lager, you might just like this beer. If you are a fan of bland - and slightly sweet - lagers, go for it. But if your taste is for real Pilsner, do not touch it (and not just because it comes in a can!) - Real Pilsner is also not something the Dutch are famous for (sorry). But the Brouwereij ´t IJ does make a fine one! It´s flavoursome, strong, and slightly bitter. It´s how a Pilsner should be. Their wheat beer is also special. It´s strong (7%) and, for a wheat beer, surprisingly somber and hoppy. Not just because of it´s high alcohol content, it´s not a beer I can imagine having a few of on a hot summer day. But it is a true beer experience, and a special, unique taste. It´s a treat; and just right for a dark autumn night in need of some spice. - Luckily, I have four more ´t IJ beers to try over the next few weeks. I got a box of six from my wonderful Greenpeace colleagues as a farewell present. Thanks, Nathalie. Cheers to the Hotel California!

Mittwoch, 23. Juli 2008

Decent organic beer on the rise from Spain to Switzerland!

You know that you have too much on your plate when you do not find the time to write about organic beer. Or at least that is the case for me. Thankfully, I have been drinking plenty - and sampling some new ones over the last few months as well. The most delightful beer experience was in Madrid (of all places), but Red has written all about that far more eloquently than I ever could. If you are ever in Madrid, do find the Naturbier brewery (nice German name ;-) ...) Red is standing outside of. It is well worth it! - If Spain can produce decent organic beer, it should come as no surprise that in German speaking lands, good organic beers are spreading a plenty. On a trip to Switzerland in March, I tried Naturperle, a beer from Appenzell, and found it delightful and refreshing. It is a light beer, so it should taste even better now in summer, slouched on a bench in a beer garden. It's the kind of beer that after a hot and sweaty day means instant relief and relaxation. - If you know me, you will know that I used to scream "Viva Chris Hani, Viva" (and the like) ... but that me uttering "Viva!" in relation to Bavaria is somewhat far fetched. But I have always admitted that Bavaria does have the best beers in the world (especially wheat beers). The "Viva Bavaria" brew by Riedenburger is no exception. In fact, it is exceptionally good and does deserve the 'Best of Bio' prize it won last year. Again, it is on the light, drinkable side, but with a strength of taste and falvour that the Naturperle can't quite muster. - This piece has lightness as its guiding thread ... and I am glad to report that, after the rye-wheat beer, I have managed to locate the new organic Pilsner by Stoertebeker breweries called 1402. It doesn't taste that old ;-). Rather, it tastes fresh and crisp. Of the beers presented here, though, it is my least favourite. For my taste, it is a little too light (or at least it was in spring when I tried it.) For the summer now, all three beers are highly recommended. And while the North Pole ice melts and climate change accelerates, there is at least one bit of good news to report: Organic beers are on the rise. And, by and large, they are pretty fine brews. I drink to that!

Montag, 14. Januar 2008

New Year, New Beer ...

I don't believe in Nature - in some primordial Other, that is 'out there' and needs to be kept untouched. The idea of Nature as the opposite of human civilization is a silly one. It is itself a result of industrial civilization. Historically, the idea of Nature as Other has done much harm. 'Protecting Nature' was used as a prime argument by colonial plunderers to clear indigenous people off land, for example. Sadly, this even continues today.... - When nature reserves and parks are used as places where a more sustainable way of living on planet earth is tried out and 'showcased', though, I rejoice. When a good beer results, you can certainly see me smile. So I was smiling all the way when I came across the Rother Braeu brewery, which is located in the Naturpark Rhoen. Rother Braeu is that rare beast of a brewery that practices what it preaches. It sources locally as well as organically. It mainly sells regionally as well, which is why it took me ages to get hold of their Ur-Pils - a fine, crisp brew that can only be described as refreshing. Ur-Pils is a true lager, as the name suggests. As such, it is as brilliant a thirst cruncher as you will ever find on planet earth. - Rother Braeu is the kind of (small) business I love. But I have to say, that I am also excited by more and more mainstream breweries getting into the organic market. Stoertebeker, brewed in beautiful Stralsund, is a major beer in northern Germany, for example. In one go, they have added four organic beers to their range. I only got hold of the Roggen-Weizen (a rye wheat beer) so far. And I was sceptical. I am not really into dark wheat beers (as I like the sparkling, champagne-like character of wheat beers above all else). But this one stays delicate despite its darkness. It is creamy more than sparkling, but it goes down very well. - Flensburger - or 'Flens' as it is known to the German beer drinker - is one of the very big brands of German beer ( and it's better than some of the other big names, such as Beck's). Opening a Flens is always fun; it makes 'plop' as you remove the ceramic bottle cap. With their organic Kellerbier, the fun does not end there. It's an easy to drink (also slightly darker) beer. It is not light enough to drink for a whole evening at a party, but it goes well with a nice meal. Flens Organic will never become my favourite. But I hope it will get more mainsteam beer drinkers into organic mode! Indeed: May 2008 bring many more new organic beers to the market. My taste buds are ready to sample them all. Happy 2008, everyone. And: Prost.