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Oakes Weekly - June 25, 2009

The Braunschweiger Mumme Experience
Oakes Weekly June 25, 2009      
Written by Oakes

Richmond, CANADA -

The Mumme Experience

Braunschweiger Mumme was, according to the few Internet sources available, one of the world’s biggest beer styles a few centuries ago. It was a viscous, highly hopped and highly alcoholic beer. This helped it in export markets since it kept very well, even in summer. For a number of reasons, including trade disputes with important port cities, Mumme lost its export markets and went into decline. Eventually there were just two breweries left producing the style.

One of those breweries closed in the 1950s and the other still operates, and still produces Mumme. It is not a beer style, per se, any more, having lost its hops, alcohol and fermentation. Instead, it is marketed as an energy drink, albeit of vastly different type than the caffeine bombs that normally carry that label. Unlike many of those beverages, Mumme has sufficient calories to actually deliver energy, rather than a caffeine buzz that even labeling regulators confuse for energy.

I did not even know that Mumme still existed until I decided to check out a local coffee shop that looked promising. In conspicuous display, however, were cans of Braunschweiger Mumme, produced by Nettelbeck, the sole remaining producer of the style. At €5.95 per can, it is hardly a bargain, but how can a serious beer geek say no to the prospect to testing out the remnant of this ancient style.

With oh6gdx coming to Bamberg to do some beerhunting, I decided to wait a couple of days to open my can. First a word about the can. It is 250ml in size with a sharp, compelling design in white, blue and red. There is no carbonation in Mumme so the liquid sort of sloshes around. It is remarkably heavy for being such a small can.

We poured the Mumme into snifters and wine glasses (having a limited supply of glassware here). Never in my life have I seen a thicker beverage. It is not quite as thick as malt extract, but it’s close. It pours smoothly but the thickness is, quite frankly, intimidating.

It smells like fresh malt with a caramel accent. We rode our bikes past Weyermanns the other days, pretty much the maltiest place on Earth, and the Mumme smelled like that. Beershine identified Grape Nuts (a breakfast cereal made with barley), which was a very accurate descriptor as well. To drink Mumme is interesting. It is soft and syrupy but it is also so thick you would be challenged to identify it as a beverage. Being made of malt and water, it tastes almost entirely of malt, maybe hinting towards the molassesy side of things.

Of course, you are not supposed to drink Mumme straight up. The intent is that you blend it, either with beer or with milk. So first, some beer. Unfortunately, the only light beer we had on hand was Jever, which to my taste was too hoppy for this mix to work. The concoction ends up being a malted-up pilsner, which is to say a poor man’s dunkel. It might be a good way to consume Mumme, but it is by no means a good way to consume beer.

The next combination was with milk. The Mumme glorped into the glass of milk and settled on the bottom, not mixing at all. Hmmm…I think to make this work probably requires heating. I swirled and swished until the two liquids came together a bit, but I did not find this combination particularly compelling either. Despite being, literally, malted milk it didn’t really taste it. Nothing came together. Next time, I have to heat this combination.

So while Mumme is more of an interesting experience than a great beverage, I am happy to see this ancient beer style still exists, even if in non-beer format. I don’t really know what its availability is, but Bamberg is nowhere near Braunschweig so I suppose any visitor to Germany should key his or her eyes out for this little cans of Mumme.



danielst says:

You could order a 12-pack of the alcoholic Mumme Bier from their website bs-mumme.de. Interesting article indeed.

166 months ago
daknole says:

Sounds like a fun experience. Sounds like one might be able to use that in the kitchen in some fun ways. Maybe as part of a glaze for something?

167 months ago
Oakes says:

abv on this was zero, it's not even RB eligible. They apparently did a fermented version in 2008 but I have no idea how I'd find that.

167 months ago
legion242 says:

What was the abv on it Josh?

167 months ago
CapFlu says:

Since you've raised the profile of this beer, I wonder if Sam Calagione will revive it for the North American crowd. Thanks for the article, Josh!

167 months ago

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start quote Of course, you are not supposed to drink Mumme straight up. The intent is that you blend it, either with beer or with milk. end quote