Saturday, October 28, 2006


In Salzburg, the local beer is Stiegl Goldbrau, which has been brewed in the city since 1492. The old brewery is at the foot of the Monchsberg, the hill on which the fortress stands; Stiegl is German for “stairs,” so named because the brewery stood next to the stairs leading up to the fortress. Unfortunately, the brewery has, since 1492, moved its operations to modern facilities near the airport, where the tourist can vist Brauwelt, billed as “Europe’s largest exhibition of beers.” Stiegl Goldbrau is an excellent, smooth golden lager, traditionally served with a good head. Beer glasses in Austria are marked for a half liter (,5l) and a third of a liter (,3l), with at least an inch to spare for the obligatory foam. Stiegl is a lager, and a good example of its style—the kind of beer that Budweiser would be if it bothered to taste good.

In British pubs, you will find many people drinking lagers, usually Carling or Stella Artois. But the real reason to go into a pub is to drink real ale, or “cask-conditioned ale.” Real ale gains its special quality from living yeast which continues the fermentation process while the ale lies in casks in the publican’s cellar. It’s a far cry from the cold filtered, pasteurized beer popularly swilled in America.

In England, ale is served in pints or halfs, and the glasses are appropriately marked so that you’re assured of getting the statutory amount of your favorite beverage. Most pubs are affliated with a particular large brewery, such as Marston’s or Greene King, although some are unaffiliated “free houses.” A pub will always have on tap ales from its parent brewery (Marston’s Pedigree, for example), but it will also offer “guest ales” from other breweries. Ale comes in different strengths (alcohol percentage), which can usually be determined by the ale’s designation as a “bitter” (3.5-3.8%), “best (or special) bitter” (4.0-4.5%), “extra special bitter” (5.0%+) or “old ale” (6.0%+). My favorites among the ales I’ve tasted in England are Wells Bombardier, The Rev. James (a Welsh ale), Arkwright's Special Bitter (from Warwick), and the good old standby, Tetley’s.

No comments: