The 17th Lahnsteiner Beer Seminar’s topic reaches back into the medieval ages, back into a time, when hops as a beer spice was not yet known in the Rhineland. At that time, local beer brewers had to rely on herbs and spices that grew in the region. “Gruit” was the local name of the herbal blend, which was used to improve the beer’s flavour and stabilize its quality. The experimental versions of such a Gruit Beer were presented by seminar leader and brewery owner Dr. Markus Fohr on 27th September 2012 – one was rather mild, the other one rather spicy. Both have been produced using a special herbs and spices mix produced by the herbs trading company Pfeffersack & Soehne in Koblenz. An exciting start for nose, tongue and palate.
After this impressive start, the seminar participants turned to beer and chocolate and its many combinations. Five different types of chocolate, from sweet white over brown milk chocolate to dark chocolates with 50, 70 or even 86% cocoa content were combined with three different beers (Schwarzbier, Dark Bock and Light Bock) – fifteen different combinations and taste sensations. Whilst the dark and bitter Bock underlined the bitterness of the chocolate, and the light bock with its malty body highlighted the sweetness of the white chocolate, the Schwarzbier offered the greatest challenge: It contrasted excitingly with the white chocolate, developed even an interesting metallic taste; with the brown milk chocolate, it developed a sour note; and in the contest with the bitterness of the dark chocolate it provided a brave fight, but finally had to surrender. The 86% cocoa chocolate clearly dominated, even benefited from the beer bitterness; and in this combination, the Schwarzbier could only perform as a slightly watery background sensation to this chocolate.
A Barrel Aged Imperial Stout from the Firestone Walker Brewery in California concluded today’s seminar. Jet black, oily-viscous, highly alcoholic with about 13%, with highly complex aroma and taste sensations, the Parabola challenged once again all minds of the seminar participants. A mighty beer; a great beer, to be enjoyed only in tiny amounts, focused on the degustation; a beer that gives proof on how many distinct, yet harmonic aroma and flavour components can occur in a single, accordingly carefully crafted beer.