26 Oct 2012

A window to the past?


About two months ago, I was having a few pints with my friend Artur, a.k.a. the Polish Photobomber. We were talking about beer and life in general and when it was time to go, we decided to close the session with a Rauchweizenbock* that I hadn't drunk for quite awhile.

After we got our pints I realised that, besides being a bit paler than I remembered it, the beer was also a bit sour, and yet, excellent! This contamination (it can be described that way, it hadn't been planned by the brewer) had added a new layer to an already very interesting and quite complex brew.

It would all have remained another interesting sensory experience, if it hadn't been for Adrian's tale about his encounter with a stale Mild, which made him wonder if that wasn't something similar to what stale porters tasted like in the 1800s.

Could it be that this duff rauchweizenbock had also shown me some sort of historical postcard?

In many occasions, and from several sources, I have heard and read that in the B.L (before lager) age, wheat beers where very common in these lands (more so perhaps than barley beers?). Jan Šuráň has also told me more than once that, until modern malting methods had been adopted (mid 19th century?), malts were dried with direct heat, which would result in smoked beers (it wasn't until a recent visit to U Fleku's museum, that includes the old maltings, that I understood how this worked). On top of this, we should consider that, at least until the processes proposed by František Ondřej Poupě had become a staple, brewing was done in conditions that we might today describe as precarious (or "craft", according to others...), thermometers and densimeters were not used, the science behind fermentation was still unknown and hygiene standards were, likely, not something that was taken very much into account, which would indicate that beers with a sour profile weren't something out of the ordinary.

If I'm right and this rauchweizenbock did take my palate on a bit of a time trip, it's no wonder then that cold fermented beers were so successful, and would end up driving to extinction those beers that had been brewed for many centuries. Lagers were cheaper to make, more stable, lighter to the palate, with cleaner flavours and a much higher drinkability as a result (and you don't need to go to the past, I can drink more of a good unfiltered světlý ležák than I can of a good Hefe-Weizen). In a nutshell, people liked them more.

And this is not the only retrospective relevation that came out of this beer. But you'll have to wait a few more days for that.

Na Zdraví!

*This isn't one of those new pseudo-styles without any sense like Imperial Pilsner, it is an accurate technical description of the beer.

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2 comments:

  1. Getting used to drink stale or plain flawed craft beer is a part of the game, at least here in São Paulo. I wonder if I expect too much from beers made in such crafty manner.
    Maybe it's supposed to taste diferent every time I drink it. Sometimes sour, sometimes metallic, sometimes buttery, sometimes just good.

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    1. This beer in particular was one of those exceptions. Technically speaking, it was not good, but I still liked it. At the same time, this is not something that the brewer wanted. It should be added that I know the brewer and I can say he's pretty skilled, so this is not something that happens often.

      All that said, I feel your pain, bro...:) But you, as a blogger, can at least try to change that...

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