Saturday, March 24, 2012

20. Zeppelin does not quite climb the Stairway to Heaven

It’s been a while since I sat out in the country drinking beer from a Mason jar. I must say that it does, in fact, make me a bit more relaxed… if not more forgiving. It’s the wee hours of the morning as I write this – about 3 am. We’re spending the weekend with friends at the family’s ranch up near Normangee, Texas.

The day has included the things you would typically expect to find on a holiday weekend (Spring Break Rules!) : Fishing, riding four-wheelers off road, shooting rifles… and of course, drinking some beer. Earlier in the day I’d been drinking my old fallback beer, Shiner Bock. It’s a solid beer and a proud tradition in Texas, and what’s more, it’s one of my favorites, even though it has been surpassed by Shiner Black in my estimation and drinking preference.

The ranch house is quiet now and I’m probably the only one awake, so I thought I’d sit back with one of the three craft brews I brought with me this weekend.  For no reason other than it was windy outside, I decided to give the honors to Zeppelin, a cloudy German beer that definitely honors the birthplace of beer.

I bought Zeppelin at either Central Market or Spec’s Liquor in Houston, Texas. I don’t recall how much I paid for it, so it was probably under $3 for a single. It is bottled by Brauerei Max Leibinger in Ravensburg, Germany. Get info at

First, there is the surprisingly mild aroma coming from what turned out to be a beer with a medium dark color. That is to say, it has a medium-brown color that is darker than ales and most other beers, but I do not feel I can call this a “dark beer,” per se. Although it has a nice, strong flavor, it lacks the heft that you would expect to find in a true dark beer. Also, the beer is cloudy, and very proud of it, as trumpeted on the label:

“A special brew for connoisseurs: Zeppelin is a naturally cloudy, unfiltered specialty brew. Its natural cloudiness and natural ingredients from the Lake Constance region of Germany make Zeppelin a heavenly experience.”

The attractive black and gold label also provides the info on the ABV, which strides in at a rather pedestrian 5.2%. I also noticed the oddity that the bottle has 11.2 ounces of beer, rather than the US standard of 12 ounces or the wonderfully generous UK standard of a pint. Still, why quibble over 0.8 ounces?

After savoring the malty aroma, I did a standard pour that quickly disappointed me: This beer has almost no head at all. I have gotten more impressive heads from a day-old can of Diet Coke than I got from this beer. That made me worry, but that worry was mostly dispelled when I tasted it ice-cold (i.e. around 35-38 degrees) and was rewarded with the roasted malt that had been promised by my nose. There are hops present, but they only bite the tongue when the beer warms to over 55 degrees. Before that, this is a surprisingly smooth, bready tasting beer with a hint of sweetness.  As someone who doesn’t like being slapped by aggressive hops, this was a nice, smooth way to chill out for the evening.

As the wind blew itself away outside, I watched the trees stop dancing beneath the security light on the pole outside and just enjoyed the quiet inherent in this soft German import. The Mason jar is now empty and there was never a hint of lace on the glass. Except for a lingering scent of malt, you would never guess I had just polished off a bottle of German beer at all.

Right now, in this mood and this place, this was an almost-perfect nightcap. Not too bitter, not too strong… it’s sort of the Baby Bear of beers: It was just right. But I’m afraid this is not a memorable beer. It wasn’t great and it wasn’t bad. It was definitely better than some, and if I were offered it in a beer garden I wouldn’t turn it down. But I’m not likely to go out of my way to order it again, either. It just lacks that something special that would make this memorable.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Color:  Very cloudy brown
Aroma: Malty with a sweet undertone.
Hops: Only present at warmer temperatures
Head: What head?
Lace: It must be hanging out with the head because there ain’t none
Carbonation:  Mild but consistent
My Rating: 4.5 out of 10

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