Tuesday 29 January 2008


A while back I promised to write about Lichtenhainer. It's about time I fulfilled my promise.

Much of my information comes from an excellent article entitled "Vom Kleinsten deutschen Ort, der Braugeschichte machte" in, of all things, Getränkefachgrosshandel magazine of February 1998. The trade magazine for drinks wholesalers. Not only is it detailed, it's also properly-referenced.

Several old brewing manuals are quoted with details about the beer itself. Right down my street. I realise not all of you can read German. So I've translated the most important bits. They may sound a bit stilted. That doesn't matter, does it? As long as you get the gist of what they mean.

First off, here's a passage from "Die Bierbrauerei", 1915, by Rommel and Fehmann:

"Lichtenhainer is also a pale beer brewed from lightly smoked malt, though only barley malt is used. The approximately 8º Plato wort is very lightly hopped and only boiled very briefly and exposed to either a spontaneously appearing or deliberately started lactic acid bacteria infection that gives the beer it's weakly sour taste. The mostly young beer, which isn't expected to be clear, is usually served from a barrel. "
That's actually quite a confusing description. It sounds as if Lichtenhainer is being soured during the primary fermentation. But that isn't the case. It belongs to the very small group of German sour beers that are not sour at the end of primary fermentation.

This quote from Dr Max Delbrück's Brauerei-Lexicon of 1910 makes it much clearer when Lichtenhainer is exposed to the bugs:

"Lichtenhainer is made from smoked barley malt alone, it acquires its sourish taste not during primary fermentation, as does Berliner Weisse, but only through a later developing infection with lactic acid bacteria. . . ."

In "Moderne Braumethoden" by J Ohlberg (1927) it says of Lichtenhainer:
"To make this type of beer one third wheat and two-thirds barley malt are used. The wheat malt is ground fine, the barley coarse, to help filtering. The mashing procedure is brief, a kettle mash or a thick mash. The hopping rate is one pound [half kilo] per zentner [100 kg 50 kg] of malt, boil time 90 minutes. It's pitched with top-fermenting yeast, one lier per zentner. Fermentation temperature 22º C , barrel fermentation. Primary then bottich (vat? tub?) fermentation is rarer; pitching temperature usually 15º C. The gravity of the wort is between 8 and 10º [Plato]. They are highly-attenuated, highly carbonated and wholesome and are regarded as special beers."
"Handbuch der Fabrikation Obergäriger Biere" by Alwin Kulitscher, 1904 (a book I would dearly love to own):
"In Lichtenhainer wheat (up to 50%) and barley malt are used, one of which should be smoked."
There is quite a bit of variation in the recipes given. You have to be very careful when you see the term Weissbier mentioned. It doesn't necessarily mean that a beer contains wheat. Up until sometime in the 19th century German beer was divided into two main groups: Weissbier (white beer) and Braunbier (brown beer). The former was brewed from air-dried malt, the latter from kiln-dried malt. What I'm trying to say is that just because Lichtenhainer is referred to as a Weissbier, doesn't mean that it couldn't be an all-barley beer.

A Professor in Jena University performed a chemical analysis of the beers on sale in the area. It was published in "Journal für Technische und Ökonomische Chemie, 1833, pages 196 - 206. Lichtenhain is now a suburb of Jena, but used to be a village a couple of miles outside town. It seems to have been very popular with student drinking societies. The professor says:

"All the beers examined were brown beers made from kilned malt. All were pale and clear, except for the Lichtenhainer, which was a little cloudy and only cleared after standing for a long time. This cloudiness is a charateristic of the beer and is in no way a fault."

This is what his a analysis showed:

sg of beer: 1.0098
absolute alcohol: 3.168 (not sure if they mean ABW or ABV)

and some weird stuff about salts that I don't understand.

I've just founsd another bit about Lichtenhainer. It's from "Lehrbuch der rationalen Praxis der landwirtschaftelichen Gewerbe" by Dr. Fr. Jul. Otto, 1859.

"Belgian beers are, in my opinion, the non plus ultra of bad beers, they are hard and sour, so without any sort of force that one must be used to them, as with Lichtenhainer beer in Jena, to find them enjoyable or tasty."
Most modern German drinkers would probably concur.

"Real" Lichtenahainer came from the villages of Wöllnitz, Ziegenhain, Ammerbach, Winzerla and, of course, Lichtenhain. At its peak towards the end of the 19th century, Lichtenhainer was made all over Thuringen - in Weimar, Mühlhausen, Eisenach (where I got married), Bitterfeld, Ehringsdorf and Hadmersleben.

The last Lichtenhainer was brewed in Wöllnitz at Brauerei Ed Barfuss Söhne in 1983. At least the last for a while. Because in 1997 a brewpub in Wöllnitz started turning out Wöllnitzer Weißbier. A beer in the Lichtenhainer style. And number one on my list. Of beers I must try. Unless they really do revive Grodziskie. In which case I would be hard-pressed to pick a number one.

This is the brewpub making Wöllnitzer Weißbier:

Gasthaus - Brauerei "Talschänke"
Im Pennickental 44
07749 Jena - Wöllnitz
Tel: (03641) 334321
Open daily from 12:00


Elektrolurch said...

A bottle of wöllnitzer weissbier is actually in my cellar. i always thought it was a berliner weisse.....now i am even more curios to taste it one day:)

Anonymous said...

So Lichtenhainer is some kind of halfway house between Berliner Weisse and Gose perhaps? When I was recently in Leipzig they were telling me that they simply added lactic acid (rather than using an actual bacteria), and that was certainly what was listed on the labels of the bottles in the display cabinet at Ohne Bedenken. I'm assuming it was added after primary fermentation, like Lichtenhainer, except of course you say Lichtenhainer uses a bacteria not just lactic acid (and Berliner Weisse is done during primary). Not sure how authentic the Gose is these days of course - Bayerisher Bahnhof tasted simply like a very tart version of Bavarian hefeweizen to me; i much preferred Ohne Bedenken's (which he said was brewed in Doellnitz), which was considerably more sour and a touch more salty. didn't get any whiff of coriander, though the barman assured me there was some in there.

Did you get married at the Wartburg?
Ed (New Zealand).

Ron Pattinson said...

elektrolurch, you jammy git.

There's an irony somewhere that what had been regarded as the most mainstream German sour beer - Berliner Weisse - is now dead in Berlin (I don't count the disgusting crap sold as Kindl Weisse) while Lichtenhainer has done the Lazarus bit and more breweries are making Gose than any time since at least the 1930's.

Anoniem, no Lichtenhainer is something else. The lactic acid operates at a completely different phase. And it's smoked. It's more closely related to Grodziskie (Grätzer).

The Bayerischer Bahnhof Gose doesn't match the old descriptions of Gose I've read. Not sour enough and too much coriander. Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose (Brewed by Bauer) is much better and is more like what I had expected after reading old texts. Leave it a year or two and it really improves. I wish I had some to stick away.

I got married in a palace just off the main square. Quite classy. Especially the photographer we hadn't ordered.

Anonymous said...

There's still a bottle im my cellar of this great stuff and plan to go to Jena this summer again for buying lots of the Wöllnitzer Weißbier. I might bring some bottles to the next belgium beer festival where I apear.

Ron Pattinson said...

kölschtrinker, lety me know which festivals you'll be going to. I would love to try wöllnitzer. You're welcome to one of my beers in exchange.

Anonymous said...

Yep, next time you get a bottle and not just a picture. I'll appear where Sebastian does, Berliner Bierfestival, European Beer Festival and next time in belgium will probably be at the Kerstbierfestival.

Ron Pattinson said...

kölschtrinker, I'll be at the Berliner Bierfestival. Hopefully see you then.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'll store the last bottle that I have atm.

Anonymous said...

Please contact me on RB under Koelschtrinker otherwise it'll be difficult to find you at the festival

Unknown said...

As you're probably aware, Dr Fritz Briem has revived Grodziskie!

Anonymous said...

Live Oak Brewing Company is currently selling their Grodziskie. It is legit.

Chorlton Brewing Co said...

I wonder whether Lichtenhainer had a brettanomyces character similar to berlinerweisse?

Ron Pattinson said...

Chorlton Brewing,

quite likely, I'd guess.

Ed Crotty said...

We have it in chicago - https://www.beermenus.com/beers/38750-off-color-15-feet