Oooh! Another bier from the free spirits at Braustelle in Cologne. The last (and first) bier of theirs I reviewed was a cherry sour porter
and now I have a Lichtenhainer.
What is a Lichtenhainer? The name derives from the town of Lichtenhain in central Germany. Lichtenhain is a suburb of the city of Jena which is about the size of Green Bay. According to Ron Pattinson
, students at the university in Jena did a lot of drinking in Lichtenhain. (For my fellow Wisconsinites, imagine if UW-Green Bay students headed over to De Pere to consume mass quantities.) The style was popular in Thuringia, the region of central Germany wherein lies Lichtenhain, and brewed in various cities in the area.
If you read Ron's post, you'll find that the style is described differently at different times by different people. For example, some say it should be brewed with 100% barley while others include wheat in their descriptions. Regardless, Lichtenhainer is a light, sour, and smoky bier with a de-emphasis on hops. Presumably it belongs to the same family as the Berliner Weisse, gose, and Grodziskie/Grätzer. Also like its cousins, I assume that Lichtenhainer fell out of fashion starting in the second half of the 19th century as lagers became popular and the Reinheitsgebot
began to be applied outside of Bavaria.
Abraxxxas can perhaps be described as an imperial Lichtenhainer as it is the bigger (6% A.B.V.) version of Abraxas (3.8% A.B.V.) I have never had the latter so I'm unsure if the beer at hand is more sour, more smoky, etc. than its little brother.
If memory serves, the last few beers I've reviewed have had a golden hue and Abraxxxas is no different. The beer was hazy as well which led me to believe that there's wheat in it. My pour produced a nice off-white cap – about an inch of frothiness atop the turbid golden elixir. There was a modicum of bubbles going up inside the glass.
The aroma surprised me by being very fruity. First peach and then cherry were bound together by gentle wisps of smoke. The smell was an olfactory joy like no other I'd experienced before. The taste had a measured smokiness to it and not a more intense one like a Schlenkerla rauchbier. Just as the smoke flavor was restrained so too was the sourness. It was a lemony lactic tartness but far removed from the near-lethal sours from Destihl
that I've had lately. While they may both be sibilant words, smoke and sour aren't flavors that I generally think of as going great together. Chocolate and peanut butter they ain't, right?. Yet the contrast between a modicum of smoke and a little citrus sour is quite tasty. A bit of carbonation added a hint of dryness and there was a distinct grain/cracker flavor which became a bit sweeter and breadier as the beer warmed. This provided a more 'neutral" taste to the proceedings and some contrast to the smoke'n'sour.
For the finish the gentle, luscious smokiness lingered while the carbonation added a bit of bite. This dryness commingled with a hint of bready sweetness for a rather complex ending. The Schaumhaftvermoegen
was pleasing as there were some large patches of foam lining my glass.
Truth be told, I adored this bier from my first sip. To start, I love smoke beers. From the smokier Schlenkerlas to this brew with its much milder smokiness, it is simply a flavor I love. Seemingly against all odds, the smoke and sour just blend perfectly. Abraxxxas' body is medium-light with the carbonation giveing the beer a nice bubbly mouthfeel. The A.B.V. aside, "imperial" is perhaps not an appropriate descriptor as there isn't anything heavy, über-intense, or otherwise dictatorial about Abraxxxas' flavor. Instead it is quite easy-drinking with a 500ml bottle being nowhere near enough.
Junk food pairing: Pair your Abraxxxas with a handful of Sriracha almonds. They add a little more complementary smoke as well as a bit of chili which melds well with the beer's smoke'n'sour fantasia.
Labels: Beer, Freigeist Bierkultur, Lichtenhainer