Category Archives: Beer

Lindemans Lambic Beers

Lindemans Lambic Beers

Lindemans Lambic Beers

Dear friends, with the year coming to an end and me still not having had the time to sit down and write some new, well-thought out posts, I decided to republish this piece from last December, because it mirrors what we have been drinking a lot here in Alaska: Lambics. It was also the first article on beer that I posted here…so it does have nostalgic value. Wishing you a great New Year’s Eve and, as we say in German, a “good slide into 2014”! See you next year.

“I am not really a beer drinker. I recognize its value while watching sports or also during BBQs, but otherwise I am not enjoying beer very much. Especially the oh so beloved IPAs give me the creeps. I don’t understand or appreciate their bitterness. If I have to, I go for pilsner style beers. There are some exceptions, though, beers that I really enjoy: And those are Belgian beers that have fruit added to them (a sacrilegious act for Germans!). Whatever makes beer taste less like beer makes me happy. Nina and I actually toasted to our engagement with a raspberry beer that we had in the fridge only to find out later when we looked at the label that it was a “mort subite” (sudden death, how fitting)…

Now, this is the second time I am celebrating Christmas with my wife’s family in Alaska. It is breathtakingly gorgeous and about as Christmassy as it gets: tons of snow, lots of darkness (aka tons of sleep), and crisp and clean air. Everything is very relaxed with my in laws which I also appreciate. One of the Christmas traditions is to have lambics, because my mother in law loves them. They are a type of Belgian fruit beers. The brand we get, because it is readily available, is from Lindemans Brewery in Vlezenbeek, Belgium which has been around since 1811.

Lambics are produced with spontaneous fermentation, that means unlike other beers they use the yeasts that naturally are dispersed in the air instead of cultured yeasts. Lindemans ferments the beer, then adds the fruit and starts a second fermentation. The resulting beers remind me way more of a cider than a beer (which is good for me). If you want to know more, their U.S. importers have a pretty decent website (here).

This year, we were able to have a veritable cross-tasting because we had acquired 750ml bottles of framboise (raspberry), cassis (black currant), pomme (apple), pêche (peach) and kriek (sour cherries). Up until Christmas Day, I only ever had raspberry and loved it.

Lindemans Framboise and Cassis

Lindemans Framboise and Cassis

The framboise lambic was as good as ever: Nicely acidic, full of that wonderfully tart raspberry aroma that I like so much.

The cassis was stunning: It really smelled as intense as the cassis liqueur that you add to sparkling wine or still white wine to make kir royal or kir. It had a wonderfully strong blackcurrant aroma which was topped by the refreshing maltiness of the beer.

The pomme was very similar to a cider, although a bit more acidic than the ciders I prefer. It was quite sour actually, but still refreshing. Not in the top for me. I would prefer a cider over this one.

The pêche was the most interesting for me. I am not a big fan of peaches, they tend to be too sweet for my taste without redeeming acidity. But, as you may guess from my previous notes on lambics, in this beer it worked because there was a healthy amount of acidity. The peach aromas balanced that nicely and were never overbearing. Decent lambic.

The kriek is problematic for me because I don’t like cherries very much. I just had a sip of it, and it was ok. If you like cherries, like pretty much everyone, you would most likely be quite happy with this one. My in laws definitely were.

Lindemans Peche, Pomme and Kriek

Lindemans Peche, Pomme and Kriek

It was tons of fun tasting through these different, vibrant varieties of lambic. They are easily available in the U.S. (I have seen them in liquor stores, at the grocery store and even in wine stores), so go grab a bottle if you can. You’re in for a treat if you like fruity beers.”

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“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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