The winking monk on the label of Brauerei Zehendner’s Mönchsambacher lager knows something you don’t. I’m convinced that little halo his silhouette casts on the wall behind him belies his true intentions. He may appear to be an innocent man of the cloth but he knows you’re about to get into something unexpected, something devilishly good, and I am powerless to resist his charms.
In any case, that’s certainly the impression I took after my first taste of this beguiling Franconian lager. Hailing from the town of Mönchsambach, a few miles south west of Bamberg, this is the first time I’ve come across anything from Zehendner. When HB&B’s Jen sent me an enthusiastic email singing the beer’s praises, I just had to try it. When she pointed out its rarity in this country, I became doubly interested in securing a bottle.
There’s something incredibly satisfying about German import lagers. From holding the chunky 500ml bottle in your hand (which I’m convinced are going to come back in a big way over the next year or so) to noticing the little things like the worn ridges of the many-times-recycled bottle and the small nicks on the label indicating its best before date.
Plus you get plenty of beer to enjoy. Take my advice and try building up a big head of foam in your glass with a slow pour. Don’t pour down the side of the glass, pour slow and straight, filling the glass about a third of the way up. After leaving it for a moment add another third, allowing it to settle once more, then topping up the glass, hopefully leaving you with a moussey white head of foam an inch or more thick.
What this does is release some carbonation and laces that foam with hop oils, giving this beer a wonderfully herbal bouquet of German noble hops. However, the hops are barely half the story here, as this is a Franconian lager, and the real story is about the rich, almost juicy malt character that gives Mönchsambacher a sweetness that rings like a church bell, our friend the winking monk no doubt on ringing duty.
It’s a big beer for its style at 5.5%, but it drinks easy and as such won’t last you long. And as the brewers give this beer a best before date of just six weeks, make sure you drink this fresh.
Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. Such has been the overwhelming demand for this beer - and the brevity of its mandated freshness - that we’re completely sold out. Sorry- but keep your eyes peeled for next time…