Visit The Fatal Glass of Beer site

Like everyone else, I’ve been stuck at home a lot lately. Aside from the three-and-a-bit months of fairly strict lockdown, I’ve also been slow to return to the pub – partly because I’m still anxious about COVID-19 and don’t fancy taking the risk, and partly because I’m happy drinking at home.

My new garden certainly helps. I count myself lucky to have some outdoor space, something of a rarity for rented flats in Brighton. It’s small, and a bit of a ‘fixer-upper’, but big enough that I can satisfy a medium-term dream and sit drinking lager at a trestle table, pretending I’m in a German biergarten.
To further aid this holiday-at-home pretence, I’ve been drinking my way through a box of beers from Franconia, purchased from Hier Gibst Bier (thank you to Jezza on Twitter for the tip). I’d always assumed ordering beer from abroad would take ages and be extremely expensive, but neither is true in this case. Based in Bayreuth, this site stocks beers from all over the region. Of course I understand that bottled beer is a poor substitute for Franconian lagers poured bayerische anstiche in the brewery’s own timber-framed pub, but it’ll do me just fine.
These beers are designed for drinking, not thinking. But I’ve been pondering what makes them so satisfying and so highly regarded. Some of the classic lager descriptors don’t necessarily apply – some of these beers aren’t ‘clean’ for example – diacetyl is not uncommon amongst my selection, but then I’m not diacetyl-averse. They might not be exactly ‘refreshing’ either – they often have a rustic, bready quality that feels more nourishing than quenching.
The Lagerbier from Fassla in Bamberg exemplifies a lot of what these beers do well. Pouring a rich golden colour, it has a huge depth of malt flavour. If that conjures up thoughts of something sweet and sticky then think again, because it’s wonderfully balanced, finishing with herbal hops and a mineral note that leaves it slightly dry.

What is it that makes these beers different to, for example, those found in Munich – good lagers, sure, but in comparison to the best of the Franconian beers in this box, it seems like they’re missing an extra layer of complexity. Is it decoction that makes the difference? Fermenting in open containers? Or are these practices just relics of the brewing past, held onto more for a sense of rustic authenticity than anything that actually benefits the beer?
Maybe I’m onto something with that last thought. I’m attaching a considerable romance to these beers, as my whole pseudo-biergarten project suggests. And I’m fine with that. Another box is on it’s way from Bayreuth as we speak.
As well as the Fassla lager, I especially enjoyed the Kellerbier from Brauhaus Binkert and the Breitenlesauer Pilsner from Krug-Brau. On a slightly different tip, the Fraundorfer Rauchbier from Brauerei Hetzel is an excellent, light and hoppy take on a favourite style of mine.