Reinheitsgebot is a four-letter word

In some brewing circles, adhering to tradition means doing things differently Photo: TheBrewLounge.com

In Germany, Oktoberfest came to a close one clinking liter of beer at a time back on the first weekend of October.

Some German breweries still doggedly hold tight to a 500-year-old beer “purity law” that has many critics, stirs up much controversy, and creates endless debates.

In a nutshell, the original law stated that German beer may only be made with three ingredients: barley; water; and hops. When Louis Pasteur discovered and understood the role of yeast later in the 1800s, the Germans added yeast as the fourth allowed ingredient in beer.

Across the pond, U.S-based brewers are much less likely to adhere to such restrictions. As a result, American brewers of the past 10-20 years are being recognized as creative geniuses in their ability to meld together flavors from these four ingredients as well as a cornucopia of flavors and aromas from dozens of other ingredients.

Head brewer, Ryan Michaels, and assistant brewer, Gerard Olson, relax during the Anti-Reinheitsgebot dinner on September 30, 2010 at McKenzie Brew House in Malvern, Pa.

Head brewer, Ryan Michaels, and assistant brewer, Gerard Olson, relax during the Anti-Reinheitsgebot dinner on September 30, 2010 at McKenzie Brew House in Malvern, Pa.

This was no more evident late last month as McKenzie Brew House in Malvern, Pa. presented a Anti-Reinheitsgebot dinner theme as part of its four day long Oktoberfest Weekend celebration.

The weekend was billed as having “…everything you would expect from an Oktoberfest event— special festival beers, music, and authentic German fare—all with a unique McKenzie spin. Kicking off the weekend is an Anti-Reinheitsgebot Beer Dinner on Thurs., Sept. 30, at 7 pm at our Malvern location’s outdoor deck and patio. The dinner will feature several courses of Oktoberfest fare, each complemented by a German-influenced beer made with non-traditional ingredients….”

The dinner and beer pairings certainly lived up to their non-traditional labels.

Black pepper in an Oktoberfest? Was ist das?

Candied sugar in a “strong lager”? Nein!

And, a barrel-aged beer and a “pumpkinfest” beer at a German Oktoberfest celebration? Ach wo!

Not so fast. Read the title of this dinner again: ‘Anti-Reinheitsgebot’.

Approximately 25 hungry beer lovers were greeted with a complimentary glass of the Saison Vautour which recently took home its third gold medal in four years at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Co.

After a bit of socializing, the group gathered around two large tables to start with a plate full of cheese (a German blue cheese, a Bavarian brie, and a cheddar) paired with Krugebier, a nicely balanced German ale of firm maltiness and snappy German hops.

In the second course, the pepperiness in the Oktoberfest really came to life when paired with the red cabbage, walnuts, and mandarin oranges salad.

Two meat courses, one veal and one sea bass, were paired respectively with a French red wine barrel-aged beer called Hauptspeise and the dark strong lager brewed with candied sugar and called La Faute. Strong flavors both in the glass and on the plate went nicely together in both of these courses.

No beer dinner is complete without dessert and this one did not disappoint. Black forest ice cream with a pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice beer fit the bill as the perfect topper to an ‘Anti-Reinheitsgebot’ dinner.

‘Mad’ King Ludwig is likely rolling in his Royal Vault.


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Bryan Kolesar

Bryan Kolesar has been tracking down great beer for over twenty years. From the most hard-to-find delicately balanced low alcohol beer to the big monsters weighing in at over 10% ABV, he has yet to find a style that does not have a story to tell and a taste to share. Though, when pushed, Kolesar has historically staked a claim to the Saison style as one of the most versatile and his favorite.

In 2005, Bryan co-founded The Brew Lounge blog/website as a canvas to illustrate the best of the craft brewing industry and to document his own travels within it. Though he has lived in Philadelphia and is currently headquartered in the city's western suburbs, Kolesar shares a wealth of information and images that he collects from his travels around the world and some of the best beers that he has tasted along the way.

In 2010, Kolesar came aboard the Communities section of The Washington Times to contribute stories from across the craft brewing industry as it continues more than ever its explosive growth amongst increasingly more of the mainstream alcohol-consuming public. 

While the beer - its tastes, aromas, and incredible pairing opportunities with food - is often the beginning of a story, he often finds it more interesting to dive into the stories behind the people, places, and events associated with the final product. 

Locally around Philadelphia, he has been named a Beer Writer of the Year finalist multiple times, hosted beer/running events during each annual Philly Beer Week, served as a Philly Beer Geek judge, paneled local beers for submission into the Great American Beer Festival competition, judged beer and food competitions, been featured in local publications chronicling the beer scene, and been named the "Best Beer Guy" of 2008. 

In addition to his beer-y pursuits, Kolesar works a professional career in the business world by day and dabbles in distance running, cooking, homebrewing, gardening, photography, and is a staunch advocate for animal rescue/adoption. He lives with his wife, Patty, of fifteen years and has been a long time, mostly suffering, supporter of local Philadelphia sports.

Contact Bryan Kolesar

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