I'm an equal opportunity beer and wine lover, so I'm often at my amazing local wine shop called Brooklyn Wine Exchange. I'm there often enough to be a familiar face with a lot of the staff, including the buyer, Tim Farrell. Tim and I will occasionally geek out about our respective passions. He'll impart his wine wisdom during one of BWE's weekly free classes/tastings, and I'll share my knowledge of beer with him. Knowing I would be someone who might appreciate it, he gave me a bottle of beer that he had received from a salesperson called Meinklang Ancient Grains Ale from Brauhaus Gusswerk in Austria. It's touted as the first biodynamic beer in the world. Biodynamic is a term more often associated with the wine world, and refers to agricultural methods that are not only organic and sustainable, but tie in a spiritual or mystical element. The beer is available for sale in some parts of the US (it's imported into Illinois,) but not here in New York, so it was a bit of a rare treat.
It came in a brown 11.2 ounce bottle with an alcohol content of 4.7% ABV. There was no date anywhere on the bottle, so I can't be certain of when it was manufactured. The description on the bottle states it was brewed with naturally fed mountain spring water, hops, malt from barley, spelt, emmer wheat, and einkorn wheat. I've seen several sites call the style a "pilsener" (including Beer Advocate) which seems erroneous to me, since it's labeled "ale" on the bottle, so I would assume was top-fermented. Spelt, emmer (also known as farro,) and einkorn are some of the oldest forms of wheat cultivated by humans, hence the name "Ancient Grains."
As soon as I opened the bottle, I immediately knew it was over-carbonated. Despite resting peacefully (and upright) in my fridge for several days, foam rocketed out of the bottle, so I let it calm down in the sink for a minute. I wasn't sure whether it had been bottle conditioned or not, although it did appear there was some sediment in the bottle, so I poured slowly and left the last little bit in the bottle. It poured a very hazy orange color with intense, roiling carbonation and a dense, pure white head made up of fairly large bubbles. The head stuck around for a while, but did eventually mostly dissipate, leaving little lacing. The aroma was soft, with a yeasty or bready quality and a slight hint of something sharp/acidic and metallic. It reminded me of the way Vienna or Bohemian lagers often smell, like baked bread with honey and a touch of citrus. There was also something faintly earthy about it, like mushrooms, but I might be reaching a bit there.
I took some to time to let it settle, and to experience the aroma, but my first sip still completely filled my mouth with CO2. I have to assume this was a flaw, because I can't imagine the brewery intended it to be at this carbonation level. Thankfully time helped with this, and it eventually reached a respectable carbonation level. The body on this beer in on the thinner side, and the flavors are subtle and soft. It's vaguely sweet and doughy, like a yeast roll you might get at a restaurant. The finish is short, and definitely doesn't linger. I'd say it reminds me of some of the unfiltered beers from Germany I've encountered, like Zwickelbier or Kellerbier, although definitely less intense. It's light and easy drinking, and with its lower ABV I could see it as a spring/summer alternative to macro lagers. Basically, not a beer I would bend over backwards trying to get my hands on, but certainly something quaffable and enjoyable.
Thanks again to Tim from Brooklyn Wine Exchange for sharing! If you're in New York City, be sure to check them out for the excellent, curated selection of wines in their shop as well as their amazing free classes and tastings!
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