I will say this openly and clearly, so that even those at the back can hear - I am a Germanophile. I guess a lot of that comes from having lived in a town called Celle when I was a kid, Dad was in the British Army so we got to live in loads of different places. I also like German culture, the music, the people (it is a total myth that Germans have no sense of humour, it is just really quirky), and of course the beer.
A couple of weekends ago Mrs Velkyal went off to Berlin for a trip with a colleague from the school she works in, while I spent 4 days drinking a bit too much, watching Liverpool and generally bimbling about wondering what to do with myself - the first 36 hours are usually ok but then I get bored and tetchy waiting for her to come home. When she got home she presented my with a few bottles of beer, one of which was the Neuzeller Schwarzer Abt you can see in the picture. The observant among you will have noticed that I currently have some Neuzeller Porter in the cellar, which will be used in a comparative tasting of various Baltic Porters in the near future. Mrs Velkyal however didn't remember this and bought the Schwarzer Abt on the strength that she liked the label!
At only 3.9%ABV, I had certain expectations in mind. Dark lager, not too strong, therefore bits of coffee and caramel, nice clean aftertaste and a medium body. Boy was I wrong in style, apart from the dark bit, which it was - ruby red with a big fluffy head that hung around for the duration. The nose was very much coffee, although backed up with some floral notes. Tastewise was where I was most spectacularly wrong, lots of caramel and toffee sweetness, with a just the slightest hint of bitter chocolate chucked in for good measure, and lots of body, although for my tastes a bit too syrupy. This is a big beer hiding behind a small ABV, a session beer with gonads you might say.
From what I have been told by the guys at Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle, Schwarzer Abt is one of those German beers which would have all the Reinheitsgebot freaks tearing their hair out, whether on their head or on the end of their chiny chin chin. Why? Because here is a German beer which uses sugar for a portion of the fermentables! Shock, horror, German beer not sticking to Reinheitsgebot! But you know at the end of the day the key question is very simple, is it a good beer? Yes it is in Schwarzer Abt's case, a decidedly good beer, which would be ideal with a sticky toffee pudding and ice cream to round off a feast - thinking here large amounts of game being eaten straight off the spit in a dark hall, log fire and busty serving wenches!
Note: yes I know Reinheitsgebot has been repealed.