Last week Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and I traveled to Munich, Germany to visit our son. While we were there, we took a quick trip over the Alps to spend a weekend in Venice, Italy. We were able to visit a couple of famous beer meccas in Munich, the Augustiner Keller and the Hofbrauhaus. They are amazing for their size, their atmosphere, and their ability to bring both locals and tourists together into an incredible melting pot. Germans drink their beer in one liter glass mugs (“Ein mas bier, bitte”). To the left is a picture of a wall full of these glass mugs ready to be filled and brought to your table by waiters or waitresses who can carry 4 or 5 of these mugs filled with beer at a time!! For someone who drinks their beer in 12oz or 22 oz sizes, one liter is quite a bit! Germany also hastheir purity law (Reinheitsgebot) which mandates that beer brewed in Germany can only use hops, malted grains, water and yeast. That means the beer choices are limited to Pils, Helles, Lager, or Dunkel……..NO STOUTS!!! They are also really into Radlers, which are mugs of one half beer and one half lemon soda (think 7-Up). While it is refreshing and I could see myself enjoying a glass on a hot summer day, the sweetness overtakes the beer taste after awhile. German beer isn’t much over 5% ABV, so it’s an easy drink and at some point, it becomes more about quantity. To each is own, but that isn’t for the Stoutwhisperer! I want my Stout!
The purity law, enacted back in 1516 (!), seems to have really put a lid on any craft beer industry. There seems to be only 8-10 breweries that dominate the German beer market. However, I was lucky enough to find a Stout from a small craft brewery in Munich called Crew Republic. Their slogan is “Craft Beer is not a Crime!” They appear to be brewing their beer in spite of the purity law and the authorities seem to be turning a blind eye to them, so I’m not sure how widely the Purity Law is actually enforced. I was able to enjoy a bottle of their Roundhouse Kick Imperial Stout – a good representative of a standard straightforward Imperial Stout! I was fortunate to find this Stout – apparently, they have a very small distribution to local restaurants (perhaps not to upset the big boys) and do most of their sales via mail order!
In Italy, beer clearly takes a back seat to wine, so in most places, my beer choices were Moretti and Peroni, not the most exciting of choices. Rumor has it that there are more breweries in Italy as well as a growing craft beer industry, but in Venice I saw no evidence of that, so we’ll leave it at that!
As you might expect, while it was great to visit my son and to visit two incredible cities in Munich and Venice, from a Stoutwhisperer perspective, I am glad to be back home! I cracked open a Prairie Artisan Ale Pirate BOMB! to celebrate my return to the states and reveled in all of the flavors and tastes that I missed overseas. I’m looking forward to getting back to my tasting routine and sampling some new and different Stouts!