When we were invited to pour Ale-Mania beer at the annual beer festival in Lingen the first thought that crossed my mind was where the hell is Lingen? With the help of Google Maps and Wikipedia I learnt that Lingen is a small northern German town in the federal state Lower Saxony, not far from the Dutch border. Whilst Lingen only has a population of 50,000 and is frankly in the middle of nowhere, Lingener Bierkultur has built up an almost cult status in craft beer circles since its launch in 2014 and has a strong local following. We were keen to see what all the fuss was about so we packed our bags, filled our kegs and took a road trip to Lingen for the weekend.
We arrived late Friday afternoon, decorated our bar, tapped the kegs and the guests began to arrive shortly after. Before the evening really took off I took some time to have a look around the festival grounds and grab a bite to eat. The festival itself takes place in a centrally located square surrounded by grand University buildings and greenery. We poured beer alongside 18 other breweries, mainly from Germany and the Netherlands, and food was covered by BBQ pop up Meat and Fire from Berlin and the local kitchen team from the Alte Posthalterei who were serving up German beer festival classics such as Leberkäse and Bratwurst. I ate a bowl of chilli con carne that had been specially prepared for the brewers before the masses were due to arrive and then I headed back to the Ale-Mania bar to pour some beers for the thirsty townsfolk of Lingen.
It was very refreshing and exciting to meet lots of people who were keen to try new and different types of beer for the first time. Festivals are obviously a great chance for beer geeks to get their hands on exciting new releases and otherwise hard-to-come-by beers but Lingen, although small, has a sizeable, contingent of local festivalgoers. They seem to be more interested in drinking good beer and having a bit of a knees up and less arsed about finding hazy IPAs and checking beers in on Untappd. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly belong to the latter category of beer drinker at times, but it was nice to be at a festival where the former category was simply enjoying good beer, laughing and singing merrily as the night went on.
We had actually been warned in advance by other brewers to bring increased supplies of beer due to Lingen’s boozy reputation and the visitors did not disappoint. The atmosphere at the Lingen Bierkultur fest was lively and the locals were curious and friendly. My personal highlight of the festival was the roaming country and blues band. Shortly before last orders on Saturday evening the three man band had been on the move all evening, playing songs in exchange for beer and they eventually set up their makeshift drums and huddled behind the Ale-Mania bar and played a fantastic banjo rendition of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues.
My two highlight beers from the festival were Sufferhead Original from CraftBee. CraftBee is a brewery from Kassel specialising in beers brewed with honey. Sufferhead Original is a 7.8% Stout brewed with honey and African chili. Co-founder and resident beekeeper Michael Hertweck uses honey made by local bees to flavour his beer. The sweetness from the honey and the heat from the chill play elegantly against one another and the beer was neither unbalanced by heat nor by cloying sweetness, which I find to be common with beers that contain these ingredients. Equally as experimental and tasty was the Bockwurst-Bock from Gruthaus. The man behind the gypsy brewery Gruthaus is the eccentric Philipp Overberg from Münster who specialises in brewing historical gruit beer. Bockwurst-Bock is a 7.5% Rauchbier brewed using malt that has been kilned in a butcher’s smokehouse in Münster. The aroma and flavour is all smoky sausage, which is backed up by a rich, dark malty body.
My concluding remarks: Lingen is a dump, the beers were lacklustre and the organiser hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing. He he.