Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ein Bier bitte


I had originally posted this entry in the first interpretation of this blog almost two years ago. I recently stumbled upon some old photos from my trip to Germany back in June 2001, including some of the beers I tried. This was before I had a digital camera so most of the photos are terribly blurry, but I did manage to capture a great shot of a Schwarzbier I drank along the banks of the Oder River in Frankfurt. The beer was from Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle, a brewery located about 35 kilometers south of Frankfurt-Oder. The beer was very low in alcohol (about 3.9%) and very sweet and malty. At the time it seemed amazing, but all these beers were quite novel to me so any beer seemed amazing. Please enjoy this former entry.

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Originally Posted April 2010
I had never been to Europe and I had hardly been out of New England, but here I was at 17-years-old standing atop the Reichstags looking across one of the largest beer drinking nations in the world. I had promised myself that whenever possible I would sit and drink a different beer, a regimen that I accepted readily.

When I landed, my host family picked me up from the airport in a large Citro├źn bus. German dictionary in hand I tried to use my four years of high school German to communicate that I was more than tired and in broken English they explained that they had prepared a large and possibly stomach-engorging array of heavy German dishes for me.

I knew it was breakfast back home but it was dinner in Berlin. I had slept very little in nearly 24 hours, but I dug into the thick vegetable-sauce-topped potato dumplings, braised ham hocks, sausages and, of course, fermented cabbage. To wash down this “breakfast” of champions was a crisp, hoppy Czech Pilsner—my first beer ever. The food was delicious and the beer was satisfying. I finished what I could and slept the rest of the afternoon in my corner room with the warming sunlight of late June spilling in the window.

The two weeks were filled with seeing the sites and enjoying the local flavor. I drank Hefeweizen under the shadow of the Berliner Dom, Dark Lagers in Frankfurt-Oder across from Poland and crisp refreshing Pilsners everywhere in between. I distinctly remember one pleasant afternoon strolling through Potsdam just outside Berlin.

The sun was peaking through the trees creating spots of coolness as I walked through the tall grass around the Heiliger See, a small lake in the northern part of the city. I sat and realized that my two weeks in Germany were coming to a close. I was looking forward to a final meal with my host family that night, but I thought that I’d allow myself one more beer before heading back to Berlin.

The lake was surrounded by vendors selling ice cream and large glass bottles of Coca-Cola and I was certain that Germans would not miss the opportunity to also have a beer on such a beautifully sunny afternoon. Passing through the trees and back out towards the street I spotted a wooden shack with the word bier written on the side. By now my German was sharp, especially when ordering beer. I opted to try a Berliner Weisse with the traditional addition of green waldmeistersirup or woodruff syrup, a sweet, herbal syrup with green dye used to “enhance” these very tart, cloudy wheat beers. I sipped and enjoyed.

Back with my host family, my last meal was a little less than traditional as we sat on the deck of a Greek restaurant drinking ouzo, Dark German Lagers and eating pepper steak. Of course, my experience wasn’t only about beer. I had learned to speak German with Germans. I had seen things I had only read about in books. I got to drive really fast on the highway. And, okay, I got to drink lots of delicious beer.

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