At the time I described their weissbier as “without doubt a wonderful beer, and the yardstick against which I will measure wheat beers in future.” Well, when I spotted the Weihenstephaner Korbinian, a 7.4% ABV ‘Dunkel’ (dark beer) lurking on the shelves of my favourite beer-monger, I couldn’t resist!
The brew takes its name from Saint Corbinian who, in about AD 720, founded a Benedictine Chapel in the town of Freising, the home of the Weihenstephaner brewery and institute. It should be remembered, however, that the brewery was founded several hundred years later, in AD 1040; making it the oldest brewery in the world by quite a long chalk.
One legend surrounding Saint Corbinian is that a bear killed his horse while en-route to Rome. Saint Corbinian ordered the bear to carry his horses load, and he released it once he had arrived in Rome. The current Pope (Benedict XVI – formerly Cardinal Ratzinger) includes Saint Cobinian’s symbol of a saddled bear within his papal crest.
Cobinian is one of Weihenstephaner’s flagship brews, although not easy to find outside its native Bavaria. The Bavarians appear to be keen to export their Hefe-Weissens but less keen on exporting their Dunkels!
It pours with a rich mocha/caramel head that subsides quite quickly leaving only a faint lacing, much like the Franzikaner Dunkel I tried early in 2010. The nose is much more subtle than the Franziskaner, no orange peel or banana here, just a rich bready treacle smell that promises much.
And that promise is delivered in the flavour, but with great subtlety. There’s no showboating here, just a rich, warming, well flavoured treacle, with the subtlest hints of malt loaf, dried fruit, raisins and perhaps plums.
Unlike certain Belgian brews, this keeps its own council. You know you’re drinking something special, and you know there’s probably quite a bit of alcohol involved, but it doesn’t shout “I’M OVER SEVEN PER CENT ALCOHOL” – it doesn’t need to.
Like an Aston Martin sports car, it just implies the power and assumes you have the smarts to recognise it.
I sampled this on the same evening that I tried the Lump of Coal Stout, and this restored my faith in the integrity of brewers. It should be no surprise to anyone that Sam Adams chose to hook up with Weihenstephaner to try and push the boundaries of the Reinheitsghebot, with their Infinium collaboration beer. These guys know what they’re doing.
They should, they’ve been doing it for nearly a thousand years.
Bob the Brit