Knut of Norway sent me an interesting email a few days ago:
When I was in Bavaria last year, I bought a bottle of Bierlikör at the brewery tap at Weienstephan. I have seen on the web site of other German breweries that they have similar liquors, and I wonder what kind of drink this really is. It is quite weak, at 30% alcohol. It is very sweet, tastes of malt and of aniseed. It reminds me of the Scandinavian sweets called "Kongen av Danmark" and of the Portugese Liqour Beirao. So, is this neutral alcohol mixed with malt extract and spices, or is it something else? Can anyone help? Is this exclusivly German?This is not quite the same as the thing I think called "double beer" I have come across referenced in Unger's Beer in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. With "double beer" your average medieval inventor brewer lady made a batch of beer starting with beer from an earlier batch rather than water. It was a basic technique of fortifying the brew and was outlawed fairly quickly where and when it popped up. No, what Knut is referring to is a distillation as no matter who is trying no one has yet made a beer over around 25% and no one has made one over around 14% using traditional methods. Whisky - and even whiskey - is really close to it if you think about it: distilled unhopped ale. When you make beer, before you throw in the yeast the liquid is called wort. Same for whisky. But when you pitch the yeast, whisky wort is now called wash while with beer the wort is now called green beer. [You know, between organic techniques and Irish celebrations, "green beer" is a pretty confused Google search but that is what it is called.]
But what if you distill green beer rather than wash? Is this what Knut's bierlikör is? Are there any other examples? I ask you, oh, people of the beer.