For 22 years, Creative Loafing has honored the “Best of the Bay,” recognizing quality and impact in the Tampa Bay area in categories like politics, the arts, dining and shopping. This year, the celebration is marked not only with a beer festival, but also the release of the first-ever (at least to my knowledge) local-magazine-inspired craft beer. Introducing: LoafinBräu! This German-style altbier was brewed specially for Creative Loafing by the Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Ybor City.
It makes sense that CL would turn to TBBC to craft their first beer. After all, they are within walking distance of each other in Ybor City, and Tampa Bay Brewing is one of the cornerstones of the Tampa Bay craft beer movement while CL is at the forefront of alternative reporting in the area. [Editor's Note: Thanks, Sean, we'll buy you a beer.]
The "alt" in altbier has nothing to do with alt-weeklies, however. It means “old” in German, a reference to the old style of brewing. Altbiers are ales, as were virtually all beers of Europe before lagers were invented in Bavaria in the 16th century. This beer is now identified with the Rhineland, especially its capital city of Düsseldorf, roughly 50 miles from where the borders of Germany, Holland and Belgium meet. The altbier may be an ancient brew, but it acquired its name and its distinction as a modern beer style only in the 1800s, when it became threatened by the “new” beer, the lager style, which is now the most popular brew in the world. Before that time, in Düsseldorf, altbier was just “Bier.”
Düsseldorf is one of the oldest inhabited places on Earth. In fact, Neanderthal, which gave the Neanderthal man his name, is a suburb of Düsseldorf, about 10 miles east of the city center. The Neanderthal roamed the Rhineland some 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, and the first-ever skeletal remains of these precursors of Homosapiens were unearthed in Neanderthal in 1858. While it is unlikely that Neanderthal man ever made beer, we do have reason to believe that his Stone Age successors, the Celtic and Germanic tribes of the Neolithic period, started brewing ales from wild grains in the Rhineland at least 3,000 years ago, and brewing hasn’t stopped there since. Because altbier has evolved from primitive tribal roots, it is arguably the oldest continuously brewed beer style in the world.
LoafinBräu pours a beautiful amber-brown with a nice white head that lingers. The aroma is toffee and malt with a hint of bitterness, but mostly the sweetness comes through. It is smooth on the tongue with a good full body and mild carbonation. The flavors bring more toffee, bready sweetness and a mild bitter hop finish. This beer is delicious, and would be great paired with cooked meats. Beef (burgers or sliced), as well as some of the stronger cheeses, would go well with the LoafinBräu. Of course, bratwurst and pretzels are a given as well.
This beer will only be available for a limited time, and the official release will take place at the Creative Loafing Beer Fest 2012: The Art of Beer. Tickets are still available. See details above.