You know it’s been a long day at the beer festival when guys in lederhosen start doing the moonwalk.
— The essence of the moment, Saturday night at the Berlin beerfest.
More than 2,000 beers from over 300 breweries hailing from 86 countries — all spread out over two kilometers in the middle of the city. No, this is not Oktoberfest.
So many beers yet so little time. That’s the Berlin Beer Festival.
While we don’t really consider ourselves beer experts, living in the Czech Republic for five years did a bit to realign our taste buds. Living thick in a beer-brewing culture tuned us onto the importance of the essence, ingredients, and dimensions of a good beer — hops, yeast, malt, foam and head, appearance, aroma and finish.
When we heard the 15th annual Berlin Bierfestival was on, we sensed a good opportunity to dip into some draft goodness — from the crafty trappist brewers of Belgium to the cuckoo beers of German monasteries.
Berlin Beerfest: A Few Favorites
After some sampling, our inclinations were confirmed. Belgian, German and Czech beers really are among the best, if not the best in the world. Sure it’s the science — the right ingredients like hops and water are important. But it’s the art, the hands of craft brewers and their tradition are what make a good beer into something truly great.
Grimbergen Optimo Bruno: Belgium. A dark, double fermented beer, Optimo Bruno quite possibly takes the golden bear award for the weekend. Weighing in at a hefty 10% alcohol content, but with a subtlety and oh-so-slight sweetness that its Grimbergen Double and Triple cousins (also tasty) couldn’t quite pull off.
Blond, Double, or Triple, Grimbergen were all worthy of a quaff. Grimbergen (and Belgium in general) clearly does something special with its brews.
Leffe Dark: Belgium. Many know the name. Perhaps you’ve had a bottle of blond. If you haven’t had a taste of the Leffe Dark, seek it out. Rich, roast-y, a bit of ale, and the tiniest bit of fruit. This is one to sit with. And so we did, for an hour-long conversation among friends.
Radigks Roggenbier: Brandenburg, Germany. Our final taste of the weekend and what a way to depart. A rye beer, creamy and rich. When the pour was finished, bubbles welled up from the bottom of the glass. An effervescent pour with beautiful foam, but quick to disappear. Soft, almost like silk. And not sweet, only the slightest bit rye. Some claim they get bananas out of a glass of the stuff, but we somehow missed that highlight.
Fuller’s Vintage Ale: United Kingdom. Of the ales we tasted, this was the one we enjoyed most. Not an exceptionally strong ale. Light, but a hint of nut. Slightly chilled, it struck us as surprisingly perfect on a warm day.
Bernard: Czech Republic. One of our favorite neighborhood beers from our days in Prague. When served from a clean tap (not always the case), it’s full, heady, unpasteurized and just bitter enough. For a crisp, clean pilsner it’s among the best.
Katharina von Bora Kuckucksbier: Saxony, Germany. Here’s a beer with story. Named after Martin Luther’s wife, the brewery is literally run by a bunch of nuns. But they crank out some interesting barrels, including this medium brew that finishes like a dunkel with a faint touch of honey.
Zunft Kölsch: Cologne, Germany. Our first time tasting a Kölsch, the traditional beer of the German city of Köln (Cologne). Mildly grassy, grainy, hoppy. Fresh and crisp, only a hint of bitter. Traditionally served in tall, very skinny glasses (think something to hold a gin and tonic.)
So next time we’re faced with 2,000 beers, where should we begin?
Where would you begin? What are your favorite beers of the world?