Experience, and the advice of friends. Those are my two unerring sources of finding good beer.
The last time I was in Germany, Wendy and I sat on a cruise ship going up the Mosel River where Bitburger, a German Pilsner, was one of the beers being served. I had had it many years before in the same region and so automatically ordered one. It was bright, unbelievably smooth, and perfect for a sunny fall day.
On coming home, our friend Chris Cook, who had lived in Germany for a number of years, commented that Warsteiner, another German Pilsner, was his personal favorite. Following his advice we tried that too, and found another good one.
Well, I had picked up some Warsteiner the other day at Fresh Food in Bedford. Last Saturday I also paid a visit to Bert's Better Beers in Hooksett to find both Bert and Ron (and family) hard at work with many new selections in the store. I picked up some new Trappist ales that you will hear about next week, but also a six-pack of Bitburger for a comparison Pilsner tasting. Here it is:
Bitburger Premium Beer, 4.8% alcohol by volume, $9.65/six-pack, Bert's Better Beers, Hooksett.
Small to medium-size head. Yellow gold beer in the glass with good carbonation. The nose is all hops, with citrus, the lemon range, and some slight hint of spice. The palate is dry with medium-plus bitterness, good acidity, low tannin, and medium carbonation. Low alcohol, very well integrated into the blend. Medium to light body for the overall Pilsner range. Medium intensity flavors of citrus, lemon grass, some pine notes. The bitterness, is quite frankly, out of balance and too strong here for me.
Good quality, but not great, and certainly not as good as the Bitburger I had in Germany. Does this mean I won't drink it? Fat chance. Good for a warm summer day, or fall night.
Warsteiner Premium Verum, 4.8% abv. Fresh Foods Market, Bedford. We are also clearly in the Pilsner ballpark here. Medium white head, frothy over creamy. Where the Bitburger has the market cornered on bitterness, this one has the market cornered on smooth. Predominately hops nose, but with some malt in the background. The palate is also dry, with medium to medium-minus bitterness, well integrated, slightly less acidity than the Bitburger, medium alcohol that is again well integrated. Medium to light body, medium texture, medium flavor intensity predominating in the hops end of the spectrum with citrus, lemon, and a general hoppy notes. There is also some enjoyable malt in the background here, showing up as bread, green, and a tiny hint of toast.
Let me put it this way: When I'm in Germany I'll drink their Bitburger, but when I'm here Warsteiner would be my first choice. They are both good beers; go with the Bitburger if you're someone who loves a higher range of hops bitterness, go with the Warsteiner if smooth is what you're seeking.
Next Week: La Trappe — four genuine Trappist Ales, new to New Hampshire. And maybe some wine too.
Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at email@example.com