Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grätzer/Grodziskie ... oak-smoked wheat session ale, coming soon to NABC.

David Pierce, NABC's Director of Brewing Operations clues us into a new NABC small batch brew:

Ben Minton will be brewing another new historical re-creation session beer this week. We recently acquired a small quantity of oak (eiche) smoked wheat malt for this beer. The beer will be 100% wheat, something we've never done here, and it will be a very hard beer to brew. If you see Ben pulling out his hair, this is why.

Here is an overview of the style.

Grätzer is actually indigenous to Poland, where it was known as grodziskie. Grätz was the German name for the town Grodzisk, which was, for a little over a hundred years, part of Prussia. But the beer style both pre- and post-dated Prussia, and was in fact still brewed in Poland until the 1990s. Grodzisk was a major center of brewing, and at the end of the 18th Century, boasted 53 brewers.

One of the famous local products in that old-school Beervana was a beer made entirely of smoked wheat malt. The indispensable scholar (and Grätz enthusiast) Ron Pattinson retrieved this information for our edification:

"Grätzer Bier, a rough, bitter beer, brewed from 100% wheat malt with an intense smoke and hop flavour. The green malt undergoes smoking during virtually the whole drying process, is highly dried and has a strong aroma in addition to the smoked flavour. An infusion mash is employed. Hopping rate: for 1 Zentner (100 kg) of malt, 3 kg hops. Gravity just 7º [Plato]. Fermentation is carried out in tuns at a temperature of 15 to 20º C."
--“Bierbrauerei" by M. Krandauer, 1914, page 301.

In brief, the passage highlights a few key points: in addition to being brewed entirely of smoked wheat, the beer is small (1.028; less than 3% ABV) and aggressively hoppy. Although it was fermented cool (60-68 degrees), it was an ale. Also interesting: the beer is hopped during the mash.

Stan Hieronymus, writing in Brewing With Wheat, tracked down homebrewer Kristen England who, after chatting with Pattinson, brewed his own Grätzer. It became one of his favorites. England told Hieronymus, "The amount of smoke and hop in this very low-gravity beer is absolutely massive."


Stan Hieronymus said...

Polish homebrewers are hard at work trying to revive the style. This story provided a good overview, but it appears it went behind a paywall ;<( It exists because Choc in Oklahoma brewed a version. Pretty tasty

The homebrewers aren't necessarily trying to recreate what the beer might have been like 100 years ago, but what it was like in the 1990s before it disappeared. The advantage of that is that people who remember the beer can compare now and then. I had two homebrewed samples last month in Poland that were not super hoppy, but really good.

The yeast is pretty obviously a key, since there's a sour element and more than one strain. BSI has a copy of the one the homebrewers are working with. Additionally, Sun King may (or perhaps already did) brew one. Maybe you guys can have a mini-festival.

The New Albanian said...

It may prove to be a very small step to Imperial Grätzer/Grodziskie.

Thanks for the info, Stan.