Monday, April 1, 2013

Professor Fritz Briem - Grodziskie / Grätzer Review

Professor Fritz Briem Grodziskie

Brewery: Professor Fritz Briem (Germany)
Style: Lichtenhainer
ABV: 4.0%
Grade: B-

You know what would be weird? It would be weird if a brewer from a country — say, Germany, for example — set out to brew a nearly-extinct historical style from that very country, but, for whatever reason, labelled the beer as the wrong style. Well, someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that's what we have here. Even though I drank this a few weeks ago, it seems I got April Fool'd.

So, I'm pretty sure Professor Fritz Briem's Grodziskie is not actually a Grodziskie (a style also known as Grätzer, in Germany), but actually the even-more-obscure Lichtenhainer style. How did I conclude this? Well, the bottle describes this beer as a sour smoked wheat beer. But based on my research, there's no mention of historic Grodziskie beer being soured at all. Yes, it was brewed with 100% smoked wheat — as was the Lichtenhainer style, which was specifically mentioned to have been soured. Both smoked wheat beers, one sour, one not. And yet Fritz Briem is calling this version a Grodziskie. Hmm. Now, I'm not a beer historian, so someone please chime in in the comments if I'm wrong here.

Nomenclature aside, how is the beer? Assuming this would be a real oddball, I gave myself some time just to pick apart the aroma, and was surprised how little this smelled like a beer that was either 1). smoked or 2). sour. In fact, it smells kind of like an American wheat beer, with the grassy tang of wheat, clean malt, and some fruity character that's probably part yeast and part hops. Flavor-wise, it's still shockingly clean — where the hell did that smoked malt go? Did I somehow get a bottle that was filled with the wrong beer?

The beer (whatever the hell it is) is extremely clean, almost kolsch-like, and the sourness is of such a mild-sort that it actually just makes the beer seem more crisp, rather than puckering or succulent. There's a sort of minerally-presence in the mouthfeel, which is basically the opposite of sour. Once again, you get bready, creamy wheat, a full, smooth body, and some fruity, yeasty hints. The smoke is almost entirely missing, as well; you could easily interpret it as the spice from some hop variety. Once the beer warms — and it did, because I found myself drinking this much, much slower than usual — it actually manages to turn somewhat flatly sweet, the way that a bland lager is cloyingly sweet, when warm. And so, I found myself liking it less and less. 

If this at all resembles either real Grodziskie or Lichtenhainer, it's actually rather easy to imagine this once being a mainstream beer style, rather than an extinct historical curiosity. You could give this to a fan of hefeweizens or Belgian wits and I think they would rather enjoy it, interpreting its few little quirks as some mellow spice character. Just don't tell them it's a smoked sour beer. In fact, don't tell any beer nerds that either. I'm still not entirely convinced that my bottle wasn't somehow filled with the wrong beer.

Availability: 16 ounce bottle. Rotating availability.

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