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Friday, October 19, 2012

Bavaria: Sausage, Weizen, and ... Nelson Sauvin?

KELHEIM. We made our way south last night and found ourselves in Kelheim this morning. Weizen aficionados may recognize that as the home of Schneider and Sohn, the fiercely independent family-owned brewery. I selected Schneider because I knew they continued to use open-fermentation and bottle conditioning.

All true. But Schneider also has a forward-looking brewer who is experimenting with techniques and ingredients that shocked me. We began our tour in the cellar where the brewery ages bottles of Aventinus for three years (by coincidence, Schneider is hosting a gathering of importers. From around the world). Then we did a tasting of some of the more recent additions to the line: a strong wheat made with Nelson Sauvin hops (and, remarkably, bittered with Cascade from Hallertau), a barrel-aged eisbock, and, most amazingly, a cuvée made with barrel-aged eisbock and Aventinus (weizen bock). That last beer rocked my world. It was aged in French Pinot and Merlot barrels, and one of them had brettanomyces. The resulting beer was amazing to behold: lots of dark berry, sherry, and a light drying from the brett. Sally exclaimed (audibly): "I didn't know you could brew beer like this in Germany."

You can, and Hans-Peter Drexler is. He's expanding the barrel-aging program, and the old cellars in which Schneider now ages the Aventinus is the brewery's old ice cellar. Five years ago he pioneered hoppy weisses with Garrett Oliver, and his interest in hops continues. (I gave him a Double Mountain Killer Green, and he was familiar with--and possibly interested in trying--fresh hop beers.) Of course, the traditional weizen (65% of the brewery's output) continues along, traditionally.

A very fine day indeed.

(Pics: open fermentation, the cellars, and "downtown" Kelheim at dusk.)

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