For many beer enthusiasts, the area known last century as Czechoslovakia was the holy grail of distinctive beers. It was founded on lager-type beers such as Pilsner Urquell, launched in1842 and generally agreed as the original Pilsner.
It is no surprise, therefore, that there is dynamic craft beer production going on in Germany, in Bavaria close to the Czech Republic. The AND UNION brewing company is one of them.
It was set up in Munich in 2007 by three independent entrepreneurs, Rui and Manuel Esteves and Bradley Armitage with creative designer, Samantha Yule and UK-based director Byron Redman making up the whole team. They create the brew concepts and brand design, and produce their beers in collaboration with other long-established breweries.
The most recent is 90-years-old and the oldest they say has nearly 500 years of brewing history, supporting their claim to “make beer in the old-fashioned way with only barley, yeast, hops and water”.
AND UNION makes what they call ‘Modernist Bavarian Craft Beer’. They define ‘modernist’ as ‘purity, rationality, simplicity and the honest expression of the nature of materials and their quality’. Hmmm! You are possibly none the wiser but as a craft enterprise they are coming up with new beers all the time.
Like the name of the brewery, the branding of their beers is creatively quirky, packaged in visually striking, lightweight, 330ml plain-coloured aluminium cans.
I found a range of four in my local Waitrose, each with a distinctive flavour and character.
Their own designed and decorated glass (available online) is subtly waisted and fits perfectly into the hand – strangely relaxing even before the first sip of the beer.
Best of the bunch for my taste is FRIDAY IPA. In a striking artisanal tomato-red can, it is billed as Unfiltered India Pale Ale and, at 6.5 per cent abv, it is a terrific end-of-the-week drink. Dark mahogany colour, malty consistency and plenty of bubbles as you would expect from a German beer. At £2.29 a can it is a bit more than regular British ales can be bought for these days, but at this strength and with its robust malty flavour, it is still a bargain versus the pub.
SUNDAY P/ALE is billed as “balanced and gently spiced, easy-like-Sunday-morning pale ale”. That is what it says on the can and that is what it is in the can. At 5.5 per cent, it has body and a robust Bavarian characteristic golden ale colour. On the shelf in a bright orange can at £2.19 each.
Then there is the UNFILTERED LAGER in a trendy light grey can, perhaps more like we British think of as a German Pilsner. It is billed as “old school lager (read ‘traditional’), unfiltered and bursting with flavour”. I agree with that. At five per cent, the shelf price is £2.19 per 330 ml can.
For the connoisseurs, it is a ‘Helles’ lager type, meaning light and blond and a traditional Munich beer invented by monks in Roman times. Being unfiltered it may have a slight haze, but that is how real lagers should be and it is where the flavour is.
NEU BLACK LAGER is something really different. Dark, unfiltered, at five per cent, it looks a bit like a stout and drinks like a German Alt beer and is surprisingly refreshing even in our hot summer. In a shiny black 330ml can, it is £2.19 on the shelf.