Fearful Symmetries

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26 August, 2015

What-Ifs, Maybes, and Might-Have-Beens: First Bavarian Pale Ale by Apostelbräu

What-Ifs, Maybes, and Might-Have-Beens: First Bavarian Pale Ale by Apostelbräu

I'm in media res of clearing out the beer in my basement. Now, I don't mean the big brews aging on a shelf in the corner but rather the other ones on the floor. Occasionally I'll run across a real gem that escaped my mind. It is rescued in the nick of time and a fine gustatory experience is had. At other times I run into beers have eluded me for just too long and they've taken a turn for the worse. What follows is one of these latter cases. Sadly.

A pale ale brewed in Germany?! Yes, you read that right. Note also how Apostelbräu brands itself as a craft brewery. Rudolf Hirz of Apostelbräu is a bit of a maverick, apparently. I read that he also innovated in the late 1980s by brewing spelt beer, spelt being a variety of wheat. The grain also features in First Bavarian Pale Ale. It seems that the grain is more common in Germany than it is here in the States where it's generally considered a specialty grain.

The first thing I ponder when seeing a beer from Germany such as a pale ale or one that departs markedly from the Rheinheitsgebot is whether or not the brew is export-only. It's one thing for German brewers to brew English pale ale and to add things like quince, spruce, and rhubarb to their beers; but, if these are just going to be exported never to touch the lips of German drinkers, exactly how much has changed? Luckily it seems that First Bavarian Pale Ale is available in Germany as well as at Binny's in suburban Chicago.

The beer poured a nice gold, as you can see. It was naturtrüb - naturally hazy. From what I've read, spelt has more protein than the other more common varieties of wheat so I am left to wonder if spelt beers are hazier than normal wheat brews. My pour produced a fine head that was white and pillowy and which dissipated rather slowly. There were rather few bubbles in the liquid itself.

The aroma was rather sweet with the malt having a caramel scent. This is likely due to the age of the beer but there was also grassy hops to be had so I assume that the beer wasn't quite senescent yet but rather middle aged. On the tongue the sweetness all but disappeared which again leads me to believe that the beer, while not fresh, wasn't ready for the old beer home. It had a mellow malt flavor which was bready while the grassy hop flavor returned. It didn't have much in the way of fruitiness which I presume was the result of its, shall we say, extended aging.

It finished a bit watery with a moderate spicy hop bitterness.

This brew wasn't as far gone as either the Roggen Gold or Uerige Alt that I've had recently. Or at least I don't think it was judging by the hop flavor and the lack of sweetness on the tongue. Still, this was not a fresh beer.

It should go without saying that I'd love to try a fresh(er) bottle of First Bavarian Pale Ale. It tastes like Apostelbräu used a Noble hop here instead of…well, what do the English generally use in their pale ales? Fuggles? Goldings? From what I've been able to gather, Apostelbräu was one of the first breweries in Germany to try their hand at an English pale ale. I wonder if this was inspired by beers from England or by the American craft beer boom or…? The use of spelt here gives a Teutonic slant on the style and, if Noble hops were used, then all the more so. Another one to look out for the next time I'm at Binny's. Has anyone seen this here in Madison?

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|| Palmer, 3:56 PM


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