Monthly Archives: May 2013

“Radler”: The Solution to my Beer Dilemma

Stiegl Radler Grapefruit

Stiegl Radler Grapefruit

You might have gotten this fact about me if you are a regular reader: I don’t like beer. In a state like Michigan, with its vibrant microbrewing scene, this is almost blasphemy. Throw in that I am German of all nationalities and it is downright crazy, outrageous and reason to hand in my passport. I cannot tell you how often I get these incredulous stares when I tell someone that I don’t like beer…I can’t really tell you why I don’t like beer. I have come to believe it is its bitterness that I don’t find redeeming or pleasant.

Don’t get me wrong. I do drink beer, once in a while, and I also believe in social conventions that dictate “beer and sports”, for example. I have tried drinking wine watching sports, but it is not the same. So, I do believe there is a room for beer, I just make sure it tastes as little as possible like beer. Which is why I drink PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon), the occasional Miller Lite or Miller Highlife. They compare to the German light weight beer “Kölsch”, the beer brewed in the city of Cologne. It drinks like lemonade and comes in small 0.2 liter glasses, so you just keep drinking and drinking and drinking. You can order it by the meter (the glasses are put on a one meter wooden board) and as long as you don’t cover your glass, you will receive new glasses without being asked. What makes this beer great for me is that it hardly tastes like beer.

My go to beer based drink in Germany, however, is something different. It is what in the US is referred to as “shandy”, a mix of beer and lemonade. In German, this type of beer is either called “Alsterwasser” (Water of the Alster, a river in Hamburg, usually in Northern Germany) or “Radler” (Bicycler, usually referred to with this word in Southern Germany). As a rule of thumb, a lot of them are 50% beer and 50% lemon soda, which in Germany is usually referred to as “lemonade”. The ratio can vary in either direction. It is insanely refreshing, does not taste like beer (major plus!) and is widely available.

Anecdotes suggest that the Radler was invented by a desperate Bavarian innkeeper in the 1920s. It was a warm, friendly summer Sunday afternoon and tons of people were out and about, passing his inn. The owner was selling record numbers of beer (it probably didn’t help than Bavarians drink huge amounts of beer from big glasses) and by the afternoon he started running out of beer. So in his desperation, he started mixing in lemon soda and selling it as the perfect drink for people riding their bicycles, hence the name “Radler”. I assume that beer and other stuff has been mixed before, but I do like the anecdote nonetheless. And I like to think that I was saved by this innkeeper when going out to a pub. Because thanks to him, I have something to order. And enjoy!

Nina is completely different: She LOVES strong IPAs, dark wheat beers and everything strong in beers. This often leads to waiters confusing our orders when we are in Germany, because usually guys order these beers, not girls. And girls order Radler, not guys…but hey, I stand by my love for Radler, especially in the summer heat.

German breweries have begun picking up on this trend over the last decade and have been selling premixed Radler, just like breweries have in the US. My favorite premixed Radlers are made by Beck’s and I am still hoping that given Beck’s omnipresence in the US these might eventually find their way here as well. I also really enjoy a mix of Weizenbier (wheat beer) with grapefruit juice sold by the Frankfurt brewery Schöfferhofer. I wish they’d sell that here…

While we were in Chicago last week, I received a text message from my friend John, The Food and Wine Hedonist, asking me whether I could bring him back some Austrian Radler that was available in Chicago. I was naturally intrigued. And after some hunting, I found Stiegl Radler with grapefruit soda at House of Glunz, an old wine store which apparently serves as the main importer of the stuff in Chicago. But it should be available at any decent liquor store in Chicago. Glunz sells it in half liter cans (classy, I know) and I was happy to bring some back for John and myself. Especially because it is really affordable, too: I paid $2.50 for four half liter cans!!!

We opened a couple of cans for a BBQ on Sunday and I quite liked the mix. It is VERY easy to drink, you hardly taste the alcohol at all. It hit a lot of right spots, although it seemed a bit too watery all in all. Given that its flavor was grapefruit, I naturally compared it to the wheat-grapefruit mix I mentioned above, and that is definitely better, has a bit more heft to it. But I’d still encourage you, beer lover (like Nina) or not (like me), to go out and find a Radler instead of a shandy. I don’t know what makes the difference between domestic shandies and European Radler, I just know I taste it…It sure gives me hope that other importers will pick up on this trend.

John has written a great article about discovering Stiegl Radler in his natural enthusiastic terms here.

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Just a quick update

Dear friends, I am back from some travelling (Chicago, baby!) and will be posting more regularly again. There is more travelling to come this summer, but I will try to be better about posting. I have a post coming up about shandies and am super excited about what looks like my participation in the Finger Lakes Wine Month’s final virtual tasting event on May 25, 2013 (I received an unspecified UPS tracking email from the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance weighing 19 lbs which seems suspicious to me!). Come join on Twitter or Facebook between 6pm and 10pm! More information can be found here.

After some going back and forth, I have now also registered the domain http://www.thewinegetter.com. It seemed like the right move after a year of blogging. I am enjoying blogging tremendously and it sure looks like I will continue doing it for the foreseeable future which means making it more permanent is a good thing. This has no consequences for you: You can reach my blog either through the old address or the new address (which will hopefully go active in the next few days). No need to update your records, I will still be hosting my site with WordPress so the old links should all still work; you will just be redirected to the new domain.

And with this, let me close with the hope that spring (or maybe even summer!) will reach the Midwest soon. I’ve had it with cold temperatures for now…

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Tasting with Friends: Strange Fruit

Last Friday, we had the third of our group of friends’ wine tastings. The previous tastings were themed around old world and new world Malbecs and European reds (which we conducted blindly). Not only did this time’s hosts decide to cook us a spectacular meal, they also picked a really cool theme for the night: “Strange Fruit”. They had initially thought about restricting the allowed wines to unknown grape varieties or regions, but later settled for strange fruit, which proved to be an awesome theme.

My initial thoughts for what wines to bring were centered around grape varieties that were strange or not very common, but I then also thought about wines that tasted different than expected. I had a couple of ideas and we ended up bringing a bottle of German Riesling (what’s unexpected about this, you may ask, but bear with me!), a bottle of the Ruchè we had tried with Nina’s birthday burgers and a Cannonau di Sardegna, both Italian reds.

Meierer Logo

Meierer Logo

2011 Meierer Riesling WTF!?

2011 Meierer Riesling WTF!?

We started with the 2011 Meierer Riesling WTF!? (12% ABV, limited to 300 bottles made). When Nina and I first tried this wine at the winery in the summer of 2012, it was definitely one of the weirdest Rieslings we ever had, hence the name… Matthias, the winemaker, had decided to produce this wine in the way one would usually make a Pinot Noir: He let the must sit on the skins and stems for a couple of days. This really changed the nose and palate of this wine making it intense and I would never have guessed it was a Riesling if I had not known. I was eager to share this wine with the group, so we made it our apéritif. The wine showed itself in a slightly darker yellow, pretty much pee color. The nose showed acidity, some sour apple, I got hints of vanilla and coconut, but there seemed to be a decisive lack of fruit in the nose. The palate was herbal and what I would call branch-y, with healthy acidity and some apple aromas. Most in the group remarked on that it reminded them of a Chardonnay. The finish was long, with some bitterness. I like the experiment itself, I am not sure I would want to drink this wine all the time…but how could one, with only 300 bottles made? (I wrote in depth about the winery here). And it definitely fit the tasting’s motto.

2011 Agape

2011 Barafakas Winery Agape

The first course of the meal was an arugula salad with cranberries, walnuts and blue cheese. We paired it with a 2011 Barafakas Winery Agape, a Greek white wine blend from the Peloponnese peninsula. The wine is made with 50% Roditis grapes and 50% Savatiano grapes and had 12.5% ABV. The label promised strong acidity as well as citrus, banana and peach aromas. It poured in a light yellow color and had a very subdued nose. I really was not able to discern anything in the nose. The flavor profile on the palate showed a dry, slightly buttery wine with virtually no acidity or fruit aromas, some bitterness and a decent amount of heft to it. Nina said it seemed syrupy to her in texture (not sugar), I am not sure I got that. All in all, a bit boring. But then again, a lot of Southern European dry whites give me that impression. That said, it paired exceptionally well with the salad. The acidity in the dressing, the blue cheese and the nuttiness of the arugula made for good companions.

2010 Osél Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato

2010 Osél Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato

For the pasta course, a classical dish of orechiette pasta and tomato-based ragù sauce, we first opened the 2010 Osél Ruchè di Castagnole Monferato that we had brought. My notes resembled the notes I made when we initially tried it in March, which is why I just repost them here: “It poured in a lighter red with some hints of brick. The nose was floral and perfumy with cherry and jammy notes. Rather enticing. The flavor profile of this light to medium bodied wine was very intense, with again cherry and some earthy aromas. There was noticeable residual sugar, maybe a tad too sweet. It had a peppery and slightly bitter finish that was rather short.” All in all, it seemed fruitier this time around, which I did not mind at all. Still a solid wine.

NV Accattoli Lacrima di Morro d'Alba

NV Accattoli Lacrima di Morro d’Alba

We then opened a NV Accattoli Lacrima di Morro d’Alba DOC, an Italian red wine made from 100% Lacrima grapes, an ancient and rare grape variety. The wine had 12.5% ABV (notice a theme here?) and poured in a very dark ruby red. The nose was great, incredibly floral: violets and lavender and other floral aromas. It smelled a bit like an old grandma, but in a good way, if that makes any sense…On the palate, the wine was medium-bodied and soooo silky. That was the first thing I noticed: I really loved the texture of the wine. There was some cherry, and some smokiness to it, but the dominating factor was its black currant and blackberry aromas. Incredible. If you ever had black currant juice (I have, they sell it in Germany and it is AWESOME with sparkling water), you know what I am talking about. Just a wonderful currant, cassis bomb. There were hardly any tannins in this wine, and the finish was quite short. This was seriously yummy. And it paired well with the homemade dark chocolate ice cream. The fruitiness was great and the lack of tannins also helped when pairing it with the ice cream.

2008 Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna DOC

2008 Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna DOC

We then proceeded to open my back up bottle, the 2008 Sella & Mosca S.P.A. Cannonau di Sardegna  DOC Riserva. I had brought the wine in case we’d run short because given our hosts gracious and laborious meals, we guests were providing the wine, and two of our friends couldn’t make it, so we would potentially have been short of wine. I had initially bought this bottle because I liked the label and the word Cannonau…which I had hoped was another strange fruit, but it turns out that it is the Sardinian name for Mourvèdre. The wine poured in a brickish red. The nose showed wet tobacco, a serious level of ripeness and some age, sweet plums, and, honoring the tasting’s motto: horse sweat. Significant horse sweat. Well, that was weird. On the palate, it felt flat with serious acidity (others were less kind and said sour), had a short finish and was not very enjoyable. I guess the fruitiness of the Lacrima, the wine we had before, did not help this contender, but it still seemed like it had serious issues which was too bad…

Johnny Drum Bourbon

Johnny Drum Bourbon

We finished the night with a glass of small batch Bourbon that our host, a total Bourbon aficionado, pulled from the kitchen closet. It was delicious and a great finish for another awesome tasting night. We’ll try to work another one into the time before we head out for our big trip this year, and I already cannot wait.

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