The face is familiar but in unfamiliar surroundings. It’s Jürgen Klopp, head coach at Liverpool FC, who as well as his football duties is the ambassador in Britain for the German beer Erdinger and is seen relishing a foaming glass in a Merseyside pub.
Erdinger is a Weiss beer – the word means wheat in German. It’s a much misunderstood style. People assume because it comes from Germany that it’s a lager but in fact it’s a member of the ale family of beers – warm fermented rather than cold fermented.
Its roots are in Bavaria, the vast southern and semi- independent region of Germany. It’s a beer with a fascinating history. In medieval times, the Bavarian royal court grew and controlled the production of both barley and wheat and it kept supplies of wheat for its own use. The royals and the aristocracy felt it was only right and proper they should consume elegant, pale wheat beer while the masses could make do with brown beer made from barley.
At one time there were more than 30 royal breweries in the region that supplied the upper class. In the 1850s the Schneider Brewery in Munich was allowed to produce wheat beer commercially and Bavarians were finally able to taste the style – and they took to with fervour.
Sales of wheat beer went into decline in the 20th century with the development of a large lager industry. But towards the end of the century it was taken up by a new generation of “green” drinkers who relished the fact that wheat beer is a natural drink, and is neither filtered nor pasteurised and contains active yeast.
Sales of wheat beer grew rapidly and it now enjoys 50 per cent of the beer market. The name is slightly misleading as all wheat beers are a blend of barley and wheat malts. Barley has a higher level of the enzymes that convert starch in the grain into fermentable sugar and it also has a husk that acts as a filter during the brewing process.
The main contribution wheat malt makes to the beer is an appealing yellow/gold colour and a characteristic aroma and flavour of spices and apple and banana fruit. A special yeast culture adds an intriguing flavour that’s similar to Juicy Fruit bubblegum.
Erdinger is one of the major Bavarian producers of wheat beer. It’s based in the picturesque small town Erding and dates from 1537. The current owner, Werner Bombach, is meticulous about the ingredients he uses. He supplies local farmers with seeds to grow barley and wheat to his precise specifications while soft brewing water comes from a bore hole on the site of the brewery. Perle and Tettnang hops come from the Hallertau farms north of Munich.
The finished beer is 5.3 per cent and has a hazy gold colour, and a superb aroma and palate of banana, cloves, a hint of vanilla and spicy hops. The finish is quenching, fruity and full of delicious creamy malt and herbal hops.
Thanks to the support of Jürgen Klopp, Erdinger is now the biggest-selling imported wheat beer in Britain. It’s on sale in Asda, Iceland, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose and a four pack of 330ml bottles is exclusive to Sainsbury’s.
I share Herr Klopp’s love of this fine beer but I’d better not mention I’m a West Ham United supporter…