When I traveled to Germany last October with members of The Pink Boots Society, I was given the opportunity to experience the beer, culture, and traditions that are unique to Germany. While visiting Meinel-Bräu in Hof, Germany, Gisi and Moni Meinel-Hansen, sister brewers and family owners, gave us a tour of the brewery. We discussed German beer culture at length, and they treated us to beer and snacks at their Trompeter Biersalon. It was in this rustic yet modern taproom that we were introduced to the German tradition of “bierstacheln”.
Bierstacheln, meaning “beer sting” or “beer spike” in German, is a process during which a short metal stick called a bierstachel (pronounced “beer shta-hll”) is heated to about 600° C (1112° F) and plunged into beer for a few seconds. This caramelizes the residual sugars in the beer, creating a toasted marshmallow-like flavor and a dense, long lasting foam. The temperature of the beer is also raised by 3-5° F. The sensation of the warm foam and the cool beer is a delightful contrast of temperatures.
The bierstacheln tradition owes its creation to the art of blacksmithing. Beer was typically kept outside or in a cold cellar during the winter months. The beer was too cold to enjoy directly from storage, so it would need to be warmed up somehow before drinking. Using the knowledge of their trade, blacksmiths would naturally use a hot piece of metal to warm the beer up to an enjoyable temperature. The resulting beer was much improved, with the added effect of elevated flavors and aromas. This process has become a celebrated tradition in Germany, and has appeared at several bock beer festivals in America.
Upon returning to the States, I was determined to find a bierstachel to call my own. I began scouring the internet for US suppliers, but only found German suppliers. Digging deeper, I discovered the American equivalent of the German bierstachel was the loggerhead, used in colonial times to light cannons, melt tar, cauterize wounds, and froth up beverages like the flip. I had no luck finding loggerheads for sale, either, and found myself scratching my head. I would either have to cough up a ridiculous amount of euro for a German metal stick, or… I’d have to make one myself!
I have zero skills in blacksmithing, so I sought help from Wasatch Forge in Salt Lake City, Utah. Next thing I know, blacksmith Mike Miller-Imperiale and I are in the forge, pounding away at what would soon be my very own bierstachel. He even let me take a few swings with the hammer! I have a new appreciation for blacksmithing, and feel the process of making a bierstachel far outshines the lackluster process of buying one online. Being in the forge, feeling the glow of heat, and watching a plain piece of metal slowly transform into a prized possession was an invaluable experience!
Shameless plug: Wasatch Forge offers blacksmithing classes, does wholesale orders, and also takes commissions. (Their bottle openers are top notch!) Ask about open forge if you’d like to turn your interest into a hobby. Thank you, Mike and Matt, for sharing your passion for blacksmithing with me!
With a bierstachel in one hand and a blowtorch in the other, there’s only one thing left to do. LIGHT IT UP!
- You’ll need a beer with plenty of residual sugar – bocks and dark, sweet beer works best.
- Remove your beer from the fridge and fill a pint glass (or similar) half way while pouring gently.
- Using a propane blowtorch, heat the bierstachel to the recommended temperature. Follow your blacksmith’s or producer’s instructions on how hot the metal can get without causing damage.
- Once the bierstachel is sufficiently heated, turn off the blowtorch, and submerge the bierstachel into the beer for 4-5 seconds, being careful not to touch the sides of the glass.
- Place the bierstachel on a heat resistant surface, and enjoy the beer immediately.
Now go forge yourself a bierstachel and enjoy the caramelized goodness! Prost!