The Session #129: Missing Beer Styles

sessionBefore I even jump into the 129th entry in the decade-long running Beer Blogging Session, I’m happy to announce that Yours Truly will be hosting the 130th rendition of The Session! I won’t hijack my own post and spill the beans what the topic will be (stay tuned for my announcement next week), so now I can resume tackling this month’s subject as conjured up by Eoghan Walsh and hosted at his Brussels Beer City is: Missing Local Beer Styles.

In 2017 it might seem odd to think that there are beer styles missing from our local markets. We seem to be living in an era of almost ubiquitous choice – where almost every style of beer is available to us either in bars or online, and where new styles quickly break out from their local markets to be brewed by craft or independent breweries around the world. Often though, this choice feels like one between an IPA, a session IPA, a double IPA, a NEIPA, a black IPA (although, really?), West Coast IPA, fruited IPA, etc.

You get the picture.

Outside of large metropolitan areas, areas with a large craft beer culture, or regions without recourse to online shopping the spread of different or new styles can remain limited. …(As such) what beer style would you like to see being brewed in your local market that is not yet being brewed?

Posed this question one month ago, I’d have had a hard time delivering an answer. The only beer style that it seems my local or most of America’s craft breweries completely ignore of late is the English IPA (*rimshot*). But there, on the floor of this year’s GABF, Austin’s Live Oak Brewing was sampling attendees with a smoky motif: a 4.4% Heller Rauchbier, a whopper, jr. of a 3% Grodzinskie, and—voila—what I recall was my first taste of a Lichtenhainer. If you caught yourself reaction with “a what-en-heinie?!” you’re excused for never having heard of it before. In a few words, it’s a smoked German sour ale. In more than a few words, here’s Live Oak’s description from their webpage outlining their brilliant line of six rauchbiers:

Lichtenhaier is a German beer style that vanished in the 1980s. Similar in strength and tartness to Berliner Weisse, this beer adds the intriguing aroma of smoked malt. Fermentation with yeast and Lactobacillus creates an acidic profile. The low bitterness and high level of carbonation allows for full enjoyment of the subtle lemony acid and smoke flavors. Please enjoy this historical re-recreation. OG 9ºP, ABV 3.2%, IBU: 6

Now, I love me some thick, bone-toasting Aecht Schlenkerla Doppelbock at 8% or their 6.4% Hellerbock, each robust with bacony goodness that leaves me reeking as if I’ve stumbled into a bonfire, this Lichtenhainer was still big on smoke, medium on tartness, making it huge on flavor yet a featherweight in both body and alcohol. In other words: a perfect beer! And yet, the only time I’d ever come across the style name was general passages lumping German sour ales together such as goses and gratzers. As was to be expected, I found an entry about them on Shut Up About Barclay Perkins (and much of the good stuff is Ron Pattinson (mis-credited as Martyn Cornell initially because of a spirited sandwich feud taking place on Jay Brooks’s Facebook wall that gave me Martyn-on-the-brain) quoting vintage publications, beginning with this quote from Dr. Max Delbrück’s Brauerei-Lexicon of 1910:

“Lichtenhainer is made from smoked barley malt alone, it acquires its sourish taste not during primary fermentation, as does Berliner Weisse, but only through a later developing infection with lactic acid bacteria. . . .”

As for its appellation, Pattinson notes where Lichtenhainer hails or hailed from:

“Real” Lichtenahainer came from the villages of Wöllnitz, Ziegenhain, Ammerbach, Winzerla and, of course, Lichtenhain.

One thing I personally find interesting is that Lichtenhein, a village in Saxony, is exactly 330 kilometers southeast of Goslar where un-smoked goses emanated and 330 km northeast of Bamberg where non-soured rauchbiers have never gone extinct.

*Update* It only took Ron a few hours to not only see my post but make a few amendments. Not quite corrections as I don’t believe I got anything wrong, per se, about Lichtenhainer’s disapperance, but I’m sure Pattinson would like everyone to be aware that “Berliner Weisse was also smoked until the 1840’s. Grätzer/Grodziskie was never a sour style” and furthermore that “Lichtenhainer only disappeared for a few years.” I will say that, if it only disappeared for a few years, even people who were declared dead and then get their pulse back seconds or minutes later get to claim they were legally dead.

So there we have it. I don’t have much more to extrapolate after that, but I’m glad that I had an answer for this month’s Session and I’m glad the Session gave me an outlet to praise effusively Live Oak’s rendition of a Lichtenhainer as well as add another global destination on my bucketlist to hunt down an authentic iteration. Then again, if more breweries (that I have access to far from Texas) start giving a lick, I would only have to make the journey to my local watering hole.