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About this Blog

Welcome to Po'Nutrition Fax! This blog is about alcohol - it has nothing to do with health or wellness, and the only relationship between this and Edgar Allen Poe is that he was an alcoholic.

I used to work in a liquor store and developed a taste for all different types of booze. As my collection grew, I felt the need to share my knowledge of, interest in, and experiences with my purchases - from the standards (e.g. whisk(e)y, gin) to the less-than-standard (e.g. kirschwasser, raki). You'll also find a lot on beer (another love of mine).

This is not about how much I can drink nor do I promote over-excess of alcohol. As with most blogs, there is some self-reflection included with most of the reviews. The point is to encourage everyone to reflect on what they drink.

Leave comments or ask questions! Also, "follow" me if you like what you read - I am not making money from this blog but if I see more interest in this and hear some feedback, it will encourage me to write more.

Cheers!
Mike

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Drinking in Bavaria: Part 1 - Beer

At Andechs Monastary
The pint (16oz) is the standard in the U.S. but I think the liter should be the new standard

In May of this year (2012), I traveled to Germany for a family reunion.  I had been in contact with my German relatives since 2002 and had missed two previous reunions - because I had little-to-no expendable income to spend on such a trip and I was a little intimidated by a European vacation too.  Not that Europe itself is intimidating but the general dislike of Americans abroad, the long flights, and strength of the Euro combined to create my hesitation.  However, in 2011 a couple of good friends were getting married in her home country of Hungary and we (my girlfriend and I) were invited to the wedding.  My initial reaction was "Nah, it's too far - but 'Congratulations'" (which I didn't say to them but answered instead with "I'll think about it") but then I reconsidered my position; these were good friends and I should be there, no matter what.  So "long story short," it was a fantastic experience - plus the "locals" were friendly, the flights weren't too bad, and Hungary uses the weaker-forint as their currency...

Having changed my mind about European travel and having a job that pays me better than my previous jobs, I decided this was the year to go to my family reunion.

My surname is Bavarian so the reunion was to be held in Bavaria.  Our hotel was right on the Ammersee - complete with waterfront biergarten!

Biergartens, like this one (below) in the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, are outdoor, public spaces to drink beer and eat.  In these puritanical, alcohol-fearing United States, this sight is pretty rare; a biergarten is normally not a public space, but a private enterprise as either an extension of an already established bar/tavern or a stand-alone business.  Either way, you have to be a patron of the bar in order to drink and eat (or even just sit) at an American "biergarten."

Biergartens are great - the U.S. needs more of them (Buffalo, NY especially)

As this was Bavaria - there was lots of beer to drink.  However, being an American, I was disappointed in the choices of beer.  "Disappoint" may be too strong a word here because my disappointment was not in the beer itself but rather the number of choices available.  My exposure to German culture made me reflect on my American values and I realized that our culture values quantity over quality.

While there, I could only choose from three styles: Helles, Dünkel, and Weissbier from each brewer (although some breweries had a Maibock too).  Lagers are king in Germany so there were no Ales available (although they refer to them as Altbiers in Germany - "alt" meaning "old" as an ale is made from an older brewing process than lagers).  To be fair, Weissbiers ("white" or "wheat" beers) are ales but they are a class of their own.  Furthermore, the hop most widely used is the Hallertau, whereas most smaller American breweries use a wider range of hops largely contributing to a wider range of "flavors."  However, the Hallertau is refined, if not elegant, in its subtlety (subtle in relation to "bigger and hoppier" English and American ales).  Subtlety is important in colder beers (like lagers) since the colder temperature you serve lagers at (as opposed to "warmer" ales) would mask some of the flavors of a more "aggressive" hop.  While Alts are available elsewhere in Germany, this was Bavaria, this was "Bavarian lager country" (so no Kölsch or Pilsners either) so I would just have to accept that - and I did.

In addition, my options of breweries were basically limited to Hofbräu, Spaten, König Ludwig II, and Paulaner. Sure there are others but these were the ones most often available.  If you think about the number of beers available in the U.S. you have not only your choice of macro-breweries, but craft-breweries, micro-, and now even nano-breweries.  In this range of choices, you have real bad beer, really great beer, and a bunch in between.  So this American cultural "value" (that places great emphasis on range of choices) sees three options and I think "One is bad, one is O.K., and one is great" - even if all of them are great quality!  In addition, the big names in beer in the U.S. normally dominate a beer list  (at most places) and they normally don't make great quality beer.  Seeing these same names dominating every beer list made me think of U.S. macrobreweries domination and further contributed to my "disappointment."  I cursed this "American value" time and time again because these were all great quality beers and I enjoyed each one - why couldn't I just get over this "value" where "quantity of choice" is better than "quality of choice?"

In Bavaria, it seems, quality is valued over quantity.  Which makes sense because basically, if every option available is high-quality, you can never make a bad choice (especially when it comes to beer).

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