- German Weihnachtbiers and Winterbocks,
they were definitely in the former camp, but to my surprise there are other brewers
who fall into the latter. One such is Kulmbacher
Mönchshof, which is part of the German Brau Holding International group. Its
standard beers – Pils, Bayerisch Hell – are well-made but
fairly typical; where it redeems itself for me is with its excellent
Kellerbier, an amber-coloured brew resembling a lagered bitter ale.
So when I found Mönchshof Weihnachts Bier, I didn't expect it
it would turn out to be a golden Märzen, especially when there's
already a Mönchshof Festbier to fill that slot. Sure, as Märzens go it is rather nice
– lightly hoppy and peachy, with some underlying spice notes –
but it doesn't say Weihnacht to me...
Mönchshof is not alone in this. Carlsberg is touting
the bizarre concept of a Tuborg Weihnachts Pilsener (I'd like to try a
bottle, having seen from Ratebeer that it's not a
Pilsener but a Vienna, but so far I've only seen it on sale in six-packs) and then there's Oettinger's Winterbier, which is very nice with pleasing green hop and toffee-nutty notes, but is
more of an amber lager – perhaps even another Festbier, given its
Incidentally, quite a few people are snarky about Oettinger because it sells its
beer so cheaply – typically €0.50 (40p) for a half-litre –
and operates big industrial breweries, all of which has made it the
largest beer producer in Germany. On the other hand, it is still
locally owned and operates a very efficient single-tier business –
it is famous for not advertising and for cutting out the
Anyway, it has not one but two seasonals, the other being a
Bock. Weighing in at 6.7%, Oettinger Bock is dark amber with a malty
and slightly raisiny nose, and a nice balance of grainy sweetness,
bitterness and roasty malt. Yup, that'll do nicely for a cold winter evening.
By the by, the German word that these shops use a lot is "billig", which seems to have more of a sense of "inexpensive" than "cheap". And while no-one wants to be thought of as cheap, everyone loves a bargain. That means everyone shops at Aldi, Lidl, Penny and the others, albeit sometimes in addition to one of the more up-market chains.
Anyway (again), usually it's just the normal boring German choice of Pils or Weizen, but our local Penny Markt now also has Adelskronen Winterbier, at €1.99 for six plastic bottles. This is a winter Dunkel brewed specially for Penny by Fankfurter Brauhaus – that's Frankfurt an der Oder by the way, right on the (modern) Polish border, not the better known financial centre down south – and it is rather good. It's a proper roasty Dunkel, with nutty plummy hints and a dryish body.
Last but not least, and showing that the multinationals – in this case AB-Inbev – can produce something decent, is Hasseröder Fürstenbräu Granat, or Princely-brew Garnet. Claimed to be in the style of an 1899 Royal Festbier, which means it'd be based on an amber Vienna lager, rather than the Johnny-come-lately golden Pilsner-alike versions, it's roasty and quaffable, with hints of toast and marmalade.
I'm sure there more: I'll keep looking, and drinking! In the meantime, what's the best winter beer – German or otherwise – that you've had so far this season?