American microbrewers have yet to embrace the Lichtenhainer the way it has its cousins, the Gose and Berliner Weisse and I don't see this changing in the near future. Sour is acceptable – indeed, it is trendy. Smoke, however, is not.
As I noted when I reviewed the non-fruited version
of this bier, its name comes from the central German town of Lichtenhain and was popular back in the day. The Lichtenhainer is a light, sour bier just like the Gose and Berliner Weisse but also smoky like the Grodziskie/Grätzer. The best of both worlds!
Freigeist Bierkultur seems the obvious choice to resurrect this near-extinct German bier style. Proprietor Sebastian Sauer obviously has a keen interest in his country's brewing history as he does his best to nurse historical styles that are on life support back to health. And he often does so thumbing his nose at any brewing regulations that seek to restrict the ingredients he can put in his biers.
I'm not sure exactly what regulations he flaunts because the more I read about German brewing laws, the more confused I get. It seems that the infamous Reinheitsgebot
underwent some changes when Germany was reunited in 1990 and also that brewing laws vary by state. Unsurprisingly, I get the distinct impression that Bavaria's laws are the most restrictive. Witness Camba Bavaria beset by the Bavarian government
who didn't take kindly to the use of lactose in their milk stout.
My bottle says that the bier therein was brewed at Eittinger Fischerbrau in Eitting, Germany. I looked up Eitting and discovered that it is located in Bavaria. I guess Sauer was trying to hide in plain sight. He must have had to barricade himself inside the brewery against the Brauereigendarmerie when he unleashed his Mango Gose Eisbock.
What we have here is Abraxxxas with pear. Coming in at 6% A.B.V. Abraxxxas is the big brother to Abraxas which is a shade lighter at 3.8%. Swiss-German author Hermann Heese adorns the label as he apparently referenced the gnostic deity Abraxas in at least one of his novels. (I don't recall any mention of god in Demian
The bier pours a light straw color and has a slight haze. Historically some brewers used wheat in their Lichtenhainers while others did not. Freigeist apparently has. The big, white, frothy head did not last long but there was plenty of effervescence as the plentiful bubbles in the bier attested.
That luscious temptress that is smoke made her presence known in the aroma. Not a deluge, but more than a simple tchotchke. The sour seemed to be lactic as there was a bit of citrus sour here too. The pear was on the faint side and was joined by vinous/tea-like smell.
All of those bubbles added up to a healthy carbonation. Lady Smoke was big and bold on my first sip but she mellowed as I continued to taste her. She has that rich, savory smoke taste which leads me to believe that we have beech wood smoked malt in Abraxxxas. The sour which was fairly prominent to my nose was on the mild side to my tongue, although it had a nice citrus taste. At first the pear was faint but there if you looked for it and it gave a nice bit of sweetness. However, as the bier warmed, the fruitiness gave up wallflower status came out to dance. Mind you, we're not talking Ballast Point levels of fruit but I didn't have to look for it.
At the finish the smoke faded but the tartness remained to greet a goodly dose of spicy hops which added some bitterness and made things rather dry. I also detected some salinity which I didn't expect as there was none in the non-fruited Abraxxxas. Schaumhaftvermoegen
was notable by its absence.
The pear and the smoke reminded me of that tasty dish Bohnen, Birnen und Speck, auf Hamburger Art (Beans, Pears and Bacon, Hamburg Style)
while the pear and spicy hops hinted at a saison. It is best to let pear Abraxxxas warm before quaffing as it brings out the pear flavor and sweetness and gives you this wonderful gestalt of smoke, sour, and sweet. The moderately sharp and acidic feel really helped give this bier a slightly dry, wine-like taste which was thoroughly unexpected and quite tasty.
Junk food pairing: Go with a bag of Steakhouse Funyuns with your pear Abraxxxas. The steakhouse part will add some complementary smoke flavor while the mild onion-esque taste enters into a synergistic relationship with the pear that results in gustatory delight.
Labels: Beer, Freigeist Bierkultur, Lichtenhainer