Fearful Symmetries

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30 December, 2015

Funky Cold Hefe-Gerste: Dampf Loc by The Local Option Bierwerker



It is not often that one sees a dampfbier so when I saw Dampf Loc I had to grab a bottle.

Let me get the producer spiel out of the way first. Dampf Loc is a Local Option Bierwerker brew. The Local Option is a tavern in Chicago that collaborates with breweries to make beer with their name on it. Most of the collaborative brews are made with Pub Dog Brewing Company out east in Maryland. I'm not sure if the crew from The Local Option actually brews the beer out at Pub Dog or if they simply help formulate the beer or who. I've encountered articles calling The Local Option gang "gypsy brewers" while others say that they simply design the beers. Since I don't get paid to do this I am going to, as Iris DeMent sings, let the mystery be.

Dampf Loc is a dampfbier or "steam beer" in German. It's a style that arose in southeastern Bavaria in the dim and distant past and died out about a hundred years ago. The name reportedly comes from the vast quantities of foam and bubbles found atop the beer as it fermented which had the appearance of steam, as if the beer were boiling. Beneath the foam was an all-barley brew being fermented with weissbier yeast that would not be lagered. This traditional description doesn't stop the German brewery that resurrected the style from lagering their dampfbier nor from using a non-weissbier yeast strain, however.

But wait. Perhaps you are saying, "Don't we Americans have steam beer?" Yes, yes we do. Well, it's Steam Beer™ when the Anchor Brewing folks brew it. Otherwise it's a California Common. This American iteration – today, anyway – is an all-malt beer that uses a lager yeast but ferments at warmer temperatures than is normal for lagers. Furthermore the beer is cold conditioned at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit instead of being lagered at around 35 degrees.

And so, while the dampfbier and the Steam Beer share a name and both confound common brewing expectations, they aren't that similar otherwise.

Alrighty, then. Onto Dampf Loc.

It pours a dull gold color and is quite turbid. This is a very effervescent bier. My pour produced a large ecru head that was firm and in no hurry to leave. In addition, there were lots of bubbles inside the bier making their way upwards.

I was rather surprised, even if I ought not to have been, that Dampf Loc had a big banana aroma. I just wasn’t sure what kind of phenols/esters would be produced by the weissbier yeast in the absence of wheat. There was also an equally prominent bready smell while a grassy scent lurked in the background. Curiously enough, the banana did not come out in the taste. In its stead was an earthy vanilla flavor along with bread & dough, stone fruit, and some grassy/herbal hop flavor that wasn’t particularly bitter. While there is some sweetness here, the taste is actually fairly clean as the honeyed flavors are rather subdued and kept in check by the carbonation as well.

The bier almost does a 180 at the finish which is crisp and dry as the sweeter flavors fade and the hops move to fore and become spicier tasting. There was Schaumhaftvermoegen aplenty with my glass having been lined with webbing all around.

Not knowing what a traditional dampfbier tastes like I am unable to judge Dampf Loc on its authenticity or lack thereof. On the other hand I found it to be a very tasty brew. It had a medium-light body which made it quite refreshing after shoveling wet, heavy snow. I liked how it had an ale-like taste with some fruity flavors and sweetness yet finished very much like a lager with a Noble dryness. I also enjoyed the balance in the taste between malty sweetness and some fruitiness from the yeast.

Junk food pairing: Pair Dampf Loc with warm, soft pretzels. They will accent the maltiness of the bier while at the same time avoid getting in the way of the more low-key flavors on display.

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|| Palmer, 6:07 PM

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