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Oakes Weekly - July 2, 2009


An unwanted intruder in my Franconian lager
Oakes Weekly July 2, 2009      
Written by Oakes


Vancouver, CANADA -



Don’t get me wrong, I love Franconia. Beer wise, it has been amazing. In addition to the usual German styles and the famous rauchbier (actually hard to come by outside of Schlenkerla) there is one major type of beer. On Ratebeer we call it Zwickel/Keller/Landbier but it could well be called Zwickel/Keller/Land/Ungespundets/Zoigl. Add Lager and Vollbier into the mix, too, if you want. Zwickel is unfiltered beer, no particular style but usually pale and balanced. Kellerbier is similar but hoppier. Landbier basically means “country beer” and thus can mean whatever the brewer wants it to mean. But that usually means something similar to a Zwickel, unless it’s a dark Landbier. Ungespundet is basically another name of Kellerbier (literally, in the case of Mahr’s). Zoigl may mean beer from a communal brewery, but sometimes it just is another reference to country beer. It’s all quite confusing, until you realize that these are relative shades of difference and the beer could in English at least be described as Franconian country lager.



The breweries that make this type of beer are generally small, old and traditional. They often serve just their home village and maybe the surrounding areas. There are parts of this area where a one-day bike ride of maybe 20km would yield three or four days worth of breweries. But behind this paradise is something that greatly concerns me. It’s an old enemy of mine. And it tastes like butter.



The first few times I encountered my nemesis on the Bavarian Summer Tour I felt it was an isolated incident – a brewery here, a beer there. No worries. Recent events have, however, instilled the fear of butter in me. The first was last week, when we walked up to the Mahr’s Keller on Stephansburg. We have long since visited the Mahr’s brewery tap, a killer spot where the barrels of Ungespundet flow freely. The food is great, the crowd vibrant and mixed, the beer fan-freakin-tastic. But it’s in suburbia, which means that not only is it in a boring part of town but it is also a long walk. The Keller, on the other hand, is just ten minutes from our flat in the Altstadt. They serve the U from the barrel, the only place besides the brewery to do so. We were pretty excited. Until the krugs were set down in front of us and the foul stench arose from the foam.



We’re really close to Klosterbrau, maybe five minutes if we walk slow. So we’ve been there a few times and although I probably like the Pils the best I’m not always in a Pils mood. So today I wanted a Braunbier, probably the third time I’ve done that lately. It was completely undrinkable. I took out my notebook (you can’t leave home without it in Franconia) and none of my previous notes mentioned the vile chemical intrusion I was now smelling. And tasting, of course, with the requisite ropey slick mouthfeel. I’d rather suck back a big pint of Regnitz than take another pull from that mug. Same thing happened with the Ottobier at Stilbruch, too.



Now I’m wondering what the hell is going on. Are these breweries simply lacking in proper sanitation? Even so, they should be testing their product. I think this is it, though. You don’t get this character from busy places at busy times. It seems only when business is slow. This must allow whatever infection is taking place to get hold of the beer and work its evil. Plus, at that point it has been taken out of the hands of brewers. And there is some sort of cultural stigma against sending a beer back. I know German beer is good, but it would be kind of dumb to get a big hubris about it. Plus, it seems like nobody else notices. That’s the thing that knocks me out. At Kloster, everybody was drinking the Braunbier. The customers seem to be genetically immune to drinking movie theater squirt butter.



I’m trying to think of other possibilities. They could all be using the same yeast strain, and just not aging certain batches long enough. I’m not convinced of this, though. These breweries are centuries old. They might have some strain similarity but I would be amazed if they are all the same. We could have a situation, though, where one genetic similarity could show if the same error – such as too much repitching – is repeated often enough, even independently.



But all I have are theories, and probably not even good ones since I’m not a brewer. What I need are answers. Why is Franconian beer either amazing or a butterbomb, with little in between? More specifically, how the heck can the same beer be amazing one week and unfit for human consumption the next? I’m playing Russian roulette over here and it should simply not be that way.



Next week: Some of my flavour favourites.


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Comments

DSG says:

Had exactly the same experience with the Braunbier. I think the whole Klosetrbrau visit was my biggest diacetyl experience I’ve had anywhere in Europe. But almost every brewery I’ve been to in Franconia had at least one slightly buttery beer.

64 months ago
pivnizub says:

Hans Modschiedler from Löwenbräu Buttenheim told me, that old brewing kits can really cause heavy problems; especially open fermenters are easily reachable for unwelcome bacteriae. This bacteriae can even survive in welding seams. Together with higher temperatures in summer and only soft filtration, this may be the reason for spoilt brews.

65 months ago
pivnizub says:

Hans Modschiedler from Löwenbräu Buttenheim told me, that old brewing kits can really cause heavy problems; especially open fermenters are easily reachable for unwelcome bacteriae. This bacteriae can even survive in welding seams. Together with higher temperatures in summer and only soft filtration, this may be the reason for spoilt brews.

65 months ago
pivnizub says:

H. Modschiedler from Buttenheim told me, that old brewing kits can really cause heavy problems; open fermenters are easily reachable for unwelcome bacteriae. This bacteriae can even survive in welding seams; Together with only soft filtration, this may be the reason for spoilt brews.

65 months ago
pivnizub says:

Hans Modschiedler from Löwenbräu Buttenheim told me, that old brewing kits can really cause heavy problems; especially open fermenters are easily reachable for unwelcome bacteriae. This bacteriae can even survive in welding seams. Together with higher temperatures in summer and only soft filtration, this may be the reason for spoilt brews.

65 months ago
pivnizub says:

Hans Modschiedler from Löwenbräu Buttenheim told me, that old brewing kits can really cause heavy problems; especially open fermenters are easily reachable for unwelcome bacteriae. This bacteriae can even survive in welding seams. Together with higher temperatures in summer and only soft filtration, this may be the reason for spoilt brews.

65 months ago
mjs says:

I have heard that sometimes customers insist on having diacetyl in their beer. According to a story I heard from a pub owner who import beers from Franconia, a brewerey in Franconia got a new owner who initially brewed beers without diacetyl. It resulted in the local folks complaining and telling that they won’t drink his beer unless there is diacetyl.

65 months ago
Kinz says:

I wonder if genetics might actually play into this a bit. I have a pretty high threshold for diacetyl, usually picking it up in the mouthfeel and muted hops before I actually detect a butter bomb. Is it possible that the people in these regions simply have a limited ability to pick up on this defect? Quality control may affect diacetyl, but public acceptance may indicate another issue.

65 months ago
Oakes says:

I am pleased to say that I have been relatively diacetyl-free for the past two days of riding (six country brewpubs). I still fear that my luck may run out. That said, the number of magical mugs has greatly exceeded the number of butterbombs. That’s what next week’s article will be about.

65 months ago
bierkoning says:

Franconian beers can be diacetyl bombs and sometimes are magic liquids. Possible cause: most Franconian breweries are small and have old brewing kits, hard to be kept spotlessly clean, especially in summer. And it can be boiling hot around Bamberg in the summer.

65 months ago
JorisPPattyn says:

I’ve had diacetyl plenty in Frankenland, and beyond. AND in Czechia! In fact, Ron Pattison claims that virtually all German brewers have (low to very low) levels of diacetyl. Summer means higher consumption, less lagering. But I’m pleased I’m not the only one, having found it @ Mahrs!

65 months ago
mullet says:

Oxygen can lead to diacetyl, which makes sense seeing as you’re observing it with slow-moving beers. But what I want to know is how you went forward in time to publish this article... Two months and I’ll be there to research this phenomenon myself!

66 months ago


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start quote Recent events have, however, instilled the fear of butter in me. end quote