Today’s Brews: Gose and Other Beers from the Bayerischer Bahnhof Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei

I tried Gose beer on my first night at the Village Beer Merchant, Buffalo’s premier craft-beer store and one of the epicenters of the growing “drink (and brew) good beer” movement in my hometown.  The brew is classified as a sour wheat beer – but unlike the sour Belgians, this one is brewed with salt water.  Vinny, one of the managers and beer sherpas there, was trying to expand my understanding of the possibilities of beer as an art and a taste-experience.  So he cracked a Stillwater/Westbrook “Gose Gone Wild.”  Sweet – Sour – Salty – this beer rocked me.  So when we passed through Leipzig, Germany, on our way home from Poland, I knew that I had to try a craft Gose beer in that rare brew’s home city.

If I lived in Leipzig, I would probably spend many nights at the Bayerisher Bahnhof Gasthause & Gosebrauerei.  The place is massive, with plenty of indoor seating, and enough space available outside, in the tree shaded and gravel-lined biergarten.  One will ideally visit with a smoker, who will leave his or her cigarette stubs smoking on the ash-steins like joss sticks.  The food in the biergarten looked so delicious that I was tempted to stay for dinner – but after a few half-litres and a soft pretzel, I forgot about the steaming plates being carried to this or that table around me.

Naturally I started with the Original Leipziger Gose.  A cloudy sour-style weiss, the Gose wore a textured head with champagne-like bubbles and lacing.  The aroma was faint, and the taste was likewise subtle – surprisingly so, as my only Gose experience at that point had been with Stillwater’s brew and Anderson Valley’s Highway 128, which are (typical of American beers) bolder, boozier, and brassier.  But this Leipziger Gose was undeniably more refined.

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Lightly lemony; impertinently salty; delightfully sour.  The Gose has hints of yeast, and because of the subtle sourness, you can more easily appreciate that this is a weiss-style beer, something lost in the American homages.  There isn’t anything missing in this beer – but it leaves you wondering if you did miss something.  The taste is elusive; “It tickles you to want more,” my friend and traveling companion Matthias Spruch said.

At the end of the half-litre, I found the Gose highly refreshing, in the same league as some of my favorite German weiss beers – although I wasn’t satisfied; the salt might have contributed to its addictiveness.

We moved on to the Kuppler Weissbier, paired with another pretzel apiece.  The Bayericher Bahnhof brewers know how to make a refreshing summer brew – but the similarity that this beer bore to the Gose left me underwhelmed.  There was again a subtle yeast flavor (all beers at Bayerisher are served unfiltered), and light summery grains, ending in a sharp wheat edge.  I took deep draughts and set the glass down to watch faint bubbles lace the deep golden body, darker than the Gose.  (And – perhaps this was the result of some Gose aftertaste – I felt that the Kuppler, too, had a touch of something sour.)

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Matthias thought the beer was “Tremendous”; Steve thought the Gose was better.  “It’s like a skinny flat chested anorexic supermodel,” he said – “The Augustiner Weissbier is Kate Upton.”

The Kuppler did win my heart, for its subtlety, style, and satisfying finish, but I saw Steve’s point – there are better weissbiers, and at the top of my list, the Augustiner Weiss still reigns supreme.

Finally we tried the Heizer Schwarzbier – something to warm us as the sun set.  I realized with the first sip that subtle really is the preferred mode of operation at Bayericher Bahnhof.   The malts give this a full body – and a wonderful aroma – but the taste is velvety, and agreeable.  There was very little hops, and I would have preferred more – but the brewers do advertise this one for patrons who can’t stomach bitter beers.  It was a good beer on which to end the night, but for me, it was the least impressive of the three.

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I left the brewery with a better understanding of what divides American and European breweries.  For the most part, the Europeans are traditionalists: that’s why really good IPAs are rare, and why lambics and great golds aren’t brewed outside of Belgium.  But the Americans, in their orgy of ingenuity, always err on the side of bigger and bolder.  So, our IPAs are the world’s best, and our Belgians can compete with the style’s home country.  But when it comes to subtle beers – like the weiss and the pils – we barely make a showing.  The Gose beer falls somewhere in the middle.  The style begs for boldness – and that’s why the “Gose Gone Wild,” with its citrus flavors and (in America, almost obligatory) hops, remains the best Gose beer in the world.  But the Leipziger Original holds a special place on my palate.

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Throwback: MAAC Tournament Captain’s Log

 

Kevin Daley, Patrick Clancy, and I sing the national anthem in the Springfield Mass Mutual Center. Behind us, freshmen wear ceremonial robes.

They passed bagels down the bus as a cranberry sun leaked out over the Interstate-90.  It was 6:00 a.m. on Friday and several C-Blockers were tenaciously napping off hangovers earned only a few hours before.  Some had rolled out of beds around 5:30 and slouched to the student center; others despaired of sleep and stayed awake through the early morning, talking, talking. …

As the new Griffin newspaper Editor-in-Chief Jourdon LaBarber gets ready to kick off his first full year in earnest, I found myself reflecting on my time at the paper, with that peerless art and editorial staff – and I realized that I’d done some travel writing during our trip to cover the Canisius College men’s and women’s basketball teams to the Division I MAAC Championships in Springfield, Massachusetts.

So, here is is: The Captain’s Log.

Strange, Beautiful, Shabby, and Grand: The Rich Melancholy of Kraków, Poland

While staying in Góra Świętej Anny (St. Annaberg), a hill-town of 580 souls in Silesia, Poland, my traveling companions and I decided to take a day-trip to Kraków.  The pierogis, we were told, were filling; the women, beautiful.  We’d traded our euros for Polish złoty, and the royal city called to us like dark post-Communist playground.

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We arrived in the mid-afternoon.  The hour-and-a-half drive from St. Annaberg was lengthened considerably by the Polish tolls, which have about the same effect on traffic flow as would massive craters opening up in the pavement for 800 metres at a stretch.  There is no Polish “E-Z Pass,” no way to avoid slowing, stopping, handing 9 or 11 złoty to some toll-taker and waiting for change.  Hundreds of cars stand at these tolls at complete standstill; we never waited less than 15 minutes, and often waited longer.  In 154 kilometres we endured three tolls and paid 25 złoty – I flew into a righteous fury (what the Germans might call Fuchsteufelswild), until I realized that this was equal to 5.94 euros.

I completely forgave the Polish bureaucracy by the time I bit into my first pierogi, at Dynia Resto Bar on ul. Krupnicza, a modern restaurant and cafe (and favorite of the locals) with a spacious, quirky pleasure-garden and top-notch menu.  We started with salmon bruschetta and moved on to pierogis, both meat and Russkie.  (Hand-rolled, baby.  I needn’t say more.)

Matthias (right) and I hungrily awaiting our potato-based salvation – and taking advantage of the wifi, like shameless addicts that we are.

Thus fortified we set out for the most obvious tourist attraction: the Wawel Castle and Cathedral on the Wisła (Vistula) River.  (Although, we did take a pit stop at one of the floating bars that line the banks beneath the castle, to try Tatra, and one or four other Polish beers.)

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Built in the mid 1300s, the castle and its sprawling additions now house one of Europe’s more important art museums, though we arrived too late to see this.  We were also denied entry into the cathedral (pictured in this page’s header), which is an absolute confusion of architectural styles, Gothic butting up against Romanesque, with Baroque cupolas and the Renaissance Sigismund’s Chapel glistening below.  Strangest of all was the Gothic western entrance, where, above the left side of the tall doors, dragon bones hang suspended from short chains.

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The Wawel complex entombs Polish kings and saints by the dozen, but the most famous bones are these, supposedly belonging to Smok Waweleski, a dragon that ravished lambs and virgins until a Polish hero killed him; the castle is built over Waweleski’s cave.  Whether the spars and knobby knuckles hanging above the cathedral’s western entrance are from a dragon or from a mammoth or a whale, as some suggest, I still found it incredible to walk up to these bones, not replicas, hung so casually by the side of a church door, which inspired the founding myth of one of Europe’s oldest cities.

Naturally, though, such awe tired us out: we needed to stop for another drink.  On the advice of Matthew Mullin, a friend from Canisius who had been studying Polish in Krakau for the previous month, we headed to the Kazimierz district.  We wandered for a while, over a pedestrian bridge with Polish lovers’ locks, until we found Eszeweria, on ul. Józefa.

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The place is conspiratorial; it’s dark and creaking and composed almost entirely of corners, nooks, low couches, and odd beds; the entire scene is lit in scores of candles.  The backyard is brighter and quite spacious, but despite the good weather we were drawn inside, into the dark.  It was here that I reflected on the strangeness of Kraków.  I joked through the day about the city’s post-Communist feel – I mean, public restrooms have closing hours – but this is only a half-joke.  Matt told me that no one over the age of 60 will smile – and he was right.  The young people, meanwhile, wore faces painted in the makeup of melancholia – as Steve put it, looking “like every one of them had just left the wake of someone they didn’t know.”  That isn’t to say the people are cold; but one gets the feeling, looking at a beautiful girl with blonde hair with dark lowlights of sadness, burning some funereal cigarette, to tell her about the wild and funky world outside Kraków’s gorgeous, graffiti’d, grand and gloomy architecture.

(Somehow I left the city without holding such a conversation, without spreading this good word.)

The night was wearing on; after lingering in the Rynek Główny, a medieval market square cluttered with clapboard shops selling furs and leathers, filled with pleasantly bored spectators watching a pleasantly boring guitarist on a lit stage, we had a final drink in the PIEC Art jazz club: you can smoke inside, and the Hungarian wines are pleasing, if not of a remarkable vintage.  We were too early for the show; but someday, when I revisit Kraków and have time to indulge in the jazz scene, I’ll be back to this cozy basement club.

Kraków is a beautiful city in many ways; I saw only a fraction of it.  It’s cheap, it’s filled with beautiful people, and every other block, I’ll wager, hides a gem like Eszeweria or the Dynia Resto Bar.  If you want to taste Eastern Europe, this might be a good place to start.

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[You can find more pictures of Kraków in my Flickr gallery here.]

SummerJazz in Hilden, Germany

Less than an hour after leaving Dublin, I walked downstairs at the Blue Note in Hilden, Germany, to hear the incredibly talented Richard bending time in a drum solo.   I was with Matthias Spruch and Pete de Haan, of the Dortmund-based funk collective Blue Elephant, who had come to Hilden for the annual weeklong jazz camp, which brings some of the best cats from the continent together for sessions, combos, and masterclasses.  The Blue Note was hosting their final performance.

Each combo prepared one or two songs, about fifteen minutes total, with the help of their mentor for that week.  The combos rotated quickly, in a jazz marathon that lasted well past one in the morning.  There were some novices, to be sure, but the spirit was noncompetitive – compliments flowed as freely as the Krombacher and were always followed with “Nein, danke, danke.”

Too jazzed to sleep, the players convened in the lobby of their accommodations in Hilden.  Beer bottles multiplied into a glass menagerie on a small central table – chairs spawned and clustered off that, and I floated like a skiff on the German they spoke all around me.

We were standing outside the glass doors when the sky started to lighten like tea steeped in reverse.  A blue glow came from somewhere unseen.  Inside, an almost-middle-aged fusion pianist was giving a back massage – complete with strange oils – to a sixteen year old girl, a fiddler, as he had been doing nonstop since 3 am.  One by one the cats slinked back to their rooms – there would be a final big band concert in about four or five hours (we missed that one).  Three of us stayed and filled a tall trash can to the brim with our bottles.  The sun was high when we slept.

Jack B. Yeats at the Model Gallery

Few people get to see the work of Jack Butler Yeats in a collection as large and well-selected as the one currently on display at the Model gallery in Sligo.

The collection, up 31 May 30 September, intentionally coincides with the Fleadh Cheoil: all the works were selected to demonstrate “music as a key device in his painting.”

His use of horses and circus figures as subjects suggests an interest shared with Picasso, at least in his Rose Period, but continental artist Yeats most resembles is Oskar Kokoschka.  Though his early works draw on pastoral themes and subjects, he showing an early but muted Expressionist influence, his work after 1920 soars, using new colors and subjects and daring to swell up off the canvas like frozen oil flames.  The strokes become so thick at times that Yeats is not so much shaping color as working matter into the shapes of colors, as he moves from representational Expressionism to emotional Expressionism.

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Johnny Patterson Singing ‘Bridget Donoghue,’ (The Singing Clown), 1928

 

The paintings show an Ireland dynamic and set to music made physical on Yeats’ canvasses; and his later work takes the gallery-goer into World War II and the unsettled times around it – turbulent canvases dark with detail eluding definition, cut by sharp flashes of light.  Visitors to Sligo in the next month and a half shouldn’t leave town without seeing this.

 

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[You can find more Jack Yeats pictures in my Sligo Flickr gallery here.]