Sunday, 12 December 2010

On beer, mulled wine, and why never the twain should meet.

Mmmm...smoky smoked beer
Bamberg is famous for a number of reasons, one of which is the smoked beer, or Rauchbier as it is called in Deutsch.  Interesting drop, the aroma (smoky funnily enough) slaps you from about half a metre away, and the taste is a surprisingly intriguing and pleasing combination of smoke, hops, ashtrays and treacle.  The beer is pretty full on though, so although a single glass (500 mL) is an absolute must if you’re ever in the city, ordering a second may not be such a sound investment.  And while Bamberg smoked beer is worth the effort, their Christmas Bierpunsch is a very different beast…

One of the great certainties of Germany nearing Christmas is that, no matter where you are, a warm glass of Glühwein (mulled wine) is never too far away.  When you’re standing in snow and sub-zero degrees, traditional Rot (red) Glühwein is an absolutely sensational drop, spiced with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and orange, and sweetened with sugar or honey, especially consumed outside from small kitsch mugs.  In addition, if you get bored there appears to be an endless amount of variations on offer, including Weisserglühwein (mulled white wine), mulled cider, pear juice with pear schnapps and chocolate, and mulled blueberry wine, just to name a few.  You can also get proper alcoholic eggnog or a chocolate with an added shot of Jägermeister (or Jäger-tea for that matter), but neither Sara nor I have been brave enough to try either (yet).

Digression aside, in Bamberg, having taken shelter from the elements for some Flammkuchen (a French/German pizza variant) and the promise of a hot mug of something boozy, we were told the pub we were in did not actually serve Glühwein.  Instead, the pub had Bierpunsch on offer, “like Glühwein, but with beer” we were told. That kind of bold claim meant I had to order one, and I think it might be the second worst thing I’ve paid money for here so far (after the tripe in Schwäbisch Hall).

Bierpunsch - don"t ask me what was in the bucket
Some ingredients were never meant to be together, and I could have probably told you beforehand that orange juice and beer were one such combination.  It’s not completely surprising to see beer and orange juice here in Germany, given that Radler here is not restricted to mixing beer with lemonade, but with cola or Fanta instead if one prefers, but to heat the combination is a step even further into madness.  The first few sips were alright, I suspect because my curiosity had, for a brief moment, over-ridden the alarm-bells from my taste buds.  Needless to say, as an overall experience it was horrible, and the combination of beer, orange and the normal mulling spices continued to wage war over my tongue for quite some time after I finished the cup.

Such folly isn't restricted solely to Bamberg of course, they do a mulled wheat-beer here in Bayreuth.  Common sense suggests it too will not be a smart idea, but how can one ever be sure without trying?  That’s me in Germany for you I guess, consuming ridiculous foods and drinks so that you don’t have to.

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