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Session 100: Drew’s Dyrty Dyngus

The first Friday of each month brings together beer bloggers around a common topic under the banner of The Session. This month The Tale of The Ale hosts, giving us the topic “Resurrecting Lost Beer Styles”:

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I wanted to do an interesting topic for the 100th Session and looking back over the other 99 topics, none have touched on lost or almost lost beer styles. There are many of them that have started to come back in to fashion since in the last 10 years due to the rise of craft beer around the world.

If you have a local beer style that died out and is starting to appear again then please let the world know. Not everyone will so just write about any that you have experienced. Some of the recent style resurrections I have come across in Ireland are Kentucky Common, Grodziskie, Gose and some others. Perhaps it’s a beer you have only come across in homebrew circles and is not even made commercially.

Looking over that list, I knew there was only one way to take this. Time to talk to Drew.

Drew’s Dyrty Dyngus

Dyngus Day, for those Americans not from Buffalo, is a Polish holiday held the day after Easter which reduced Anderson Cooper to a giggle fit and made some people quite upset with him. The past two Dyngus Days we’ve featured a small amount of Drew’s Dyrty Dyngus, a Grodziskie made by our resident caskmaster Drew Hardin.

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A brief history of Poland, later Prussia, then Poland again, and then Germany, and finally Poland

Wikipedia says Grodziskie is phonetically spelled ɡrɔˈd͡ʑiskʲɛ as though that means anything to anyone. Grod-ZEKE-ee is how I’d spell it. In any event: the style is a Polish beer made from 100% oak smoked wheat malt.

Drew says there isn’t an exact date for when Grodziskie was first brewed, but that it can be traced back to the Middle Ages and the city of Grodzisk Wielkopolski. Grodzisk was known for producing a dark beer, named Kuc (“small horse”), and a light beer, Grodziskie. Grodzisk was annexed by Prussia in the Partitions of the 19th Century, and then again by Germany during World War 2. The Prussian/German rulers renamed the city Grätz/Graetz, and so Grodziskie is also known as Grätzer.

Then came Communism, and Zjednoczone Browary Grodziskie (United Grodzisk Breweries), the city’s only remaining brewery, was nationalized. It still produced Grodziskie, and experimented with other versions as well: traditionally the beer is roughly 7.7° Plato, while others were as high as 12-14°. In 1990, a year after Poland overthrew its Communist government, United Breweries Grodziskie was once again privatized, but by 1993 it closed its doors. Commercially, Grodziskie was dead.

Grodziskie vs Grätzer

While the two names are used interchangeably, a group of Polish homebrewers and beer lovers make a compelling case for only using the Grodzisk/Grodziskie: Grätz/Grätzer were only used during periods of Prussian/German occupation, they say, when the Polish language was either restricted or, under the Third Reich, outlawed entirely. Grätzer, they say, is an attempt to erase Polish heritage and culture, and in the interest of accuracy and anti-colonialism I’ll be using Grodziskie exclusively from now on.

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Brewing Grodziskie

Beer is water, malt, hops and yeast: saying that Grodziskie is “100% smoked wheat malt”, then, only tells a quarter of the story. Imitating the water around Grodzisk poses little difficulty, but Drew is still searching for the yeast strain used. We can come close, using other commercially available strains, but when you’re going for historical accuracy “close” can seem like a cop out. The strain exists, according to beer historian Ron Pattinson, but seeing as it’s housed at Pivovarský Dům in Prague a ruggedly handsome fellow from Buffalo can’t get his hands on it particularly easily.

Then come the hops: you really need Lublin, but in a pinch you can substitute another low alpha acid noble hop. It’s highly hopped, but not in the sense that an American IPA is. “Sorry, bitter loving hopheads,” Drew says.

Why this?

The history and brewing is all well and good, but how did Drew come to be interested in the style?

He first read about it on Pattinson’s blog, Shut up about Barclay Perkins, which I’ve read off and on for years and have cited semi-frequently here. As Drew is Polish himself he took an interest: he likes digging into the brewing history of the countries he comes from.

Drew isn’t alone: Grodziskie is making a comeback. It has a Ratebeer category now (though Pattinson takes issue), a BJCP style (ditto) and a dark/soured interpretation from New Belgium and Three Floyds.

About the authors

Drew Hardin has a beer and food consulting firm, PrePaired Beer and Food, which conducts public and private pairing events and offers commercial consulting. You may have seen him overseeing the VIP area of Beerology, and will be doing the same at the upcoming Buffalo Brewers Festival. This fall he’ll be working with Nickel City Cheese and Mercantile to host “Beer Nerds and Cheese Curds,” a beer and cheese class. He can be reached at BePrePairedBFLO@gmail.com.

Dan Conley once made brownies with stout in them. They turned out okay.