Fearful Symmetries

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19 August, 2013

Berghoff Reinvents Itself: Germaniac Kotbusser

Earlier this year the venerable Berghoff underwent some remodeling. Owner Ben Minkoff brought in a couple of consultants who designed new labels and reformulated the brand's beers in order to elevate them above their less than premium status and into craft territory. Minkoff gets credit from me for not abandoning Berghoff's focus on German style brews and the reorg even begat a new line of special brews called the Überbier series. The first entry is Germaniac, a Kotbusser-style ale.

What is a Kotbusser? It's a northern German pale ale that presumably originated or was popular in the city of Cottbus. The Kotbusser was formulated with wheat and oats, in addition to barley, and had honey and possibly molasses. From what I can piece together of the beer's history, it went the way of the dodo in the late 19th century after Germany became a country and the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot became the law of the land. You can check out a Kotbusser recipe from 1853 over at Ron Pattinson's blog. Note the absence of molasses and the low hopping rate.

One of the consultants brought in by Berghoff was Randy Mosher, a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to brewing has he writes about tasting, brewing, memorabilia, and apparently just about anything related to beer. His book Radical Brewing contains a recipe for Kotbusser so Germaniac was likely his idea.

Germaniac is a pretty beer, pouring a light gold color and clear. There was a modicum of bubbles in my glass and my pour produced a small head which went away all too quickly. My nose caught a sprightly grainy aroma along with some spicy hops and a sweetness that reminded me of creamed corn.

On the tongue Germaniac has a medium body that was fairly smooth and a bit creamy – no doubt due to the addition of oats to grain bill. I was a bit afraid that Berghoff's move towards craft and words “pale ale” on the label meant that this was going to be hop bomb but I was pleasantly surprised. The malt shone through first and was very bread-like. Being an ale, there was also a hint of fruity sweetness that was accompanied by some earthy flavors which, I presume, are from the honey and molasses. All of these made for a nice ménage à trois. But it wasn't long before the hops made their presence known. As in the aroma, the hops here were the noble, spicy kind and provided a nice counterpoint to the rest of the flavors.

The hops also gave the beer a dry finish and left a lingering grassy taste. As I drank, I noticed that Germaniac didn't leave much Schaumhaftvermoegen and what there was didn't stick around for long.

Junk food pairing: At 6.3% A.B.V. Germaniac is no session beer so bust open a box of Chicken in Biskit crackers for some padding.

I really enjoyed Germaniac but I made the mistake of drinking it on a rather warm summer day. This is more of a spring beer, to my taste – something to alternate with New Glarus' Cabin Fever. It has a little bit of heft to it for those days when Jack Frost is on the run. Still, I liked having both the malt and hops up front as well as the subtle accents the honey and molasses bring to the table here.

It was a very pleasant surprise for me to have Berghoff resurrect an extinct northern German style of bier. Perhaps Minkoff's next beer will be a Breyhan. I won't hold my breath but I do look forward to tasting what they come up with. Best of luck to Berghoff on trying to ingratiate themselves into the craft community. Beer Advocate's Germaniac page has no reviews and the geniuses there have made an epic taxonomic failure by categorizing it as an American Pale Ale so it seems that Berghoff has a long row to hoe.

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|| Palmer, 6:48 PM


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