I'm just back from a week in Bavaria. A week of Bierkellers and beer halls, country pubs and city boozers. An experience that's reinforced my feelings for German beer. Renewed my appreciation of what German beer delivers so well: simple perfection.
Real Lager. That was one putative title for this piece. Because there's one form of Lager with a very special place in my glass. Lager in its truest, simplest form. Soft and inviting. Pure and clean. Beer with nothing added and nothing taken out. Bayrischer Anstich. A barrel on the bar, a tap hammered in, joy poured out. The German equivalent of cask beer.
Out in the backwaters of Franconia, I drank lots of beer from tiny village breweries. Breweries with one or two outlets, brewing tiny amounts. A few hundred hectolitres, half what many brewpubs brew. Often they make just one beer. I love these throwbacks. Where the passion of generations is funnelled into a single product.
But you'll be surprised by two of the glasses that satisfied me most. Many accuse them of blandness. I'd say: subtly seductive. Everyday drinking beers, meant to be consumed in large draughts. Beers seemingly on sale in every other Munich pub: Augustiner Helles and Edelstoff.
Not an hour in Munich and I was in the Augustinerkeller. Dodging thick spots of rain while the sun shone ironically on. A Mass of Edelstoff beaded with moisture, mimicking the rain. The first half litre disappeared in a clutch of guiltless gulps. The world, despite the spitting skies, was warm and welcoming. Poured from a fat-bellied barrel, a merry monk bestowing blessings, beer like liquid sunlight, cheering from within. But it wasn't the most satisfying.
Nürnberger Bratwurstglöckl. "Augustiner Hell aus dem Holzfass" the wall announced. Helles, the little brother of Edelstoff. Augustiner's Cooking Lager. A beer bereft of pretension, unassuming, self-effacing even. But one that satisfied. That didn't just hit the spot, more beat it senseless.
Visiting the gents, I saw it. A piglet next to Augustinerkeller's suckling sows. A baby barrel, brass tap shining like a tiny sun.
Bayrischer Anstich. Such a wonderful thing. It makes a simple beer simply perfect.
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