Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

31 August, 2015

The Grätzer, er, Grodziskie That May Really Be a Lichtenhainer: Grätzer by New Belgium and 3 Floyds Brewing Cos.



Last year New Belgium and 3 Floyds collaborated on a brew and thusly Grätzer was born. Grätzer – the style, not the beer shown above - is made from oak smoked wheat malt exclusively. It was rather light on the palate and hopped enough to have been at least moderately bitter. At some point and some places willow bark was also part of the recipe.

While new Belgium and 3 Floyds concede that it's "a long-buried style from Poland", they use the German name for their beer. These Polish brewers make a good case for using the Polish appellation, Grodziskie.

The supposed “easiness” that German names carry over the Polish ones is an echo of anti-Polish propaganda, which was never examined in the West after World War II. Indeed, Polish language may appear strange and difficult to some, yet it is important to recognize the harm in the claim that such difficulties are somehow “universal” or “natural” and to learn about the history of such thinking and the continued harm it brings.

Now that I've wasted a bit of your time arguing that the beer at hand should properly be called a Grodziskie, it's a bit ironic that this concoction doesn't seem to be a Grodziskie at all but rather some kind of Lichtenhainer since, as Ron Pattinson points out, the Grodziskie was not a sour beer whereas the brew here is.

Regardless of nomenclature, I carry on…

A word of warning before I continue: the beer was released last spring or summer and the bottle says that the contents were best enjoyed by May 2015. So I'm a bit late. Hopefully three months or so didn't diminish the beer significantly.

Grätzer pours a deep, deep reddish brown that was nearly black. My glass was opaque and the beer defied any attempt to get light to penetrate it. I held the glass up to a light on my ceiling and then to a window but neither could penetrate the Stygian gloom held therein. From what I could tell the beer was clear. It was nicely effervescent too with a big foamy tan head that proved in no hurry to dissipate.

Smoky goodness caught my nose first. Curiously enough, I also smelled some sweetness that was tropically fruity. There were also some wonderful toasty-chocolate/coffee roasted grain tones. A fine start, if you ask me. The taste was similar. There was a moderate smokiness hand-in-hand with more of those chocolatey grainy flavors. The malt also provided some sweetness here which I found to be like stone fruit as opposed to mangoes or papayas. These flavors were tempered by a bit of dryness from the carbonation. Lactobacillus was added to the beer but in a small quantity. I caught a hint of sour immediately but the tartness came mostly in the finish which saw the nearly ubiquitous smoke come to a diminuendo and be superseded by some herbal hop bitterness and the more pronounced lacto sour.

Judging purely by Grätzer's Cimmerian appearance, you'd think this was a heavy beer but that's not the case. Grätzer has a light body and is rather small at 4.5% A.B.V. yet it is a tasty gallimaufry of malt pleasures with the grains offering smoky, chocolatey, and sweet flavors. While the malt is front and center on the palate, the carbonation and the lactic acid bacteria help keep everything balanced. As for the finish, I thoroughly enjoyed how the taste changed from being malt-centric to one that was slightly dry with some hop bitterness and acidulous to boot. Grätzer is a rather nimble beer as it managed to be rather hearty yet also light & refreshing at the same time.

Junk food pairing: If you still have some Grätzer and don't want to give it to me, then drink it now and pair it with Jay's Barbeque potato chips. Unless Jay's has changed the recipe, these chips have a prominent paprika flavor as opposed to a sweet BBQ sauce one. The earthy spice complements the smoke well. If you can get your hands on Polish junk food then I'd bet Lay's Papryka chips would be the perfect companion.

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|| Palmer, 11:30 AM

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