Wine drinker with a beer problem visits England and Germany

As a wine drinker with a beer problem, I find that Germany and England make ideal destinations. Especially in the countryside — where wine selections tend to be appalling (and, in England, expensive at two Aussie dollars to the pound) — beer becomes the default option in most restaurants, cafés and pubs.

And there’s as big a difference in the choice of brew as there is between the languages. In England the superb three-decade legacy of CAMRA (campaign for real ale) manifests itself in every inn and village.

The signs scream ‘great food real ale’. And there doesn’t seem to be an outlet that doesn’t have, if not real ‘real ale’ a pretty good commercial facsimile of one. Often real, pumped-from-the-keg ales sit side by side with nitrogen-sparged versions – prompting a comparison, of course, and consumption of a few more pints than planned.

In Germany, beautifully crisp, dry, bitter golden lagers dominate the scene, and you can buy them anywhere – even in the local florist if you happen to be in Lychen. They’re absolutely delicious with warm weather and great platters of tender pig knuckles.

But there are dark lagers and a good sprinkling, in both country and city, of dark and light wheat ales, two examples reviewed below. And if you’re within one hundred kilometres of Berlin you’ll find heaps of sweet and sour Berliner weisse, too.

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier 500ml $5.49
This beautiful example of the Southern German wheat beer style comes from the Weihenstephen brewery, dating to 1040. It’s bottle conditioned and therefore has a yeast (hefe) haze and spectacular head. It has the lightness and crispness of a wheat ale with a delicious, soft, smooth mid-palate and invitingly fruity aroma.

Erdinger Dunkler Weizenbock (Bavaria) 500ml $6.99
Erdinger’s distinctive dark bock combines the sharpness and freshness of wheat beer with the strong flavours of roasted grains. And a high alcohol content of 7.3 per cent gives a mid-palate warmth and richness not normally seen in wheat ales. As a traditional winter drink it’s in it element at the moment.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008