Brasseries Kronenbourg - Kronenbourg 1664
- ABV: 5.0%
- Serving Temperature: 40-45° F
- Suggested Glassware: Pilsner Glass
- Hops: Strisselspalt
Kronenbourg’s flagship brew presents well in the glass: brilliant clarity with an attractive brassy-copper-golden color and a generous cap of white foam. This beer serves as a showcase for the Strisselspalt hop, a local Alsatian varietal that’s been used in Kronenbourg’s beers since 1885, and is coveted by brewers around the world for its classic, well-balanced aromatic character. In fact, it delivers a little bit of everything on the nose, offering up a very European grassy-spicy-herbal-lemony profile, but bolstered by a softly floral, almost fruity, undertone and a hint of anise. As you drink it, expect a crispness upfront, with the malt building nicely across the palate to deliver a subtle, honey-like sweetness and a smooth roundness that is often absent from lagers like this. Look also for some subtle fruity notes reminiscent of apple, pear, and stone fruit. The hops, which were so dominant on the nose, aren’t shy in the flavor, either, delivering a fairly bold grassy spice counterpoint to the malt. Along with a hint of spicy alcohol, the hops keep this beer dry overall from the start to the finish, which lingers for a while. For a pairing, try grilled chicken or fish with lemon, spicy Asian fare like Pad Thai, or even Anisette cookies (an Italian cookie featuring anise and lemon). Cheers!
Although France may not be the first country to come to mind when thinking of a beer drinking culture, it does, in fact, have a rich brewing tradition, particularly in the northwest near Belgium and Germany – countries world-famous for their ancient brewing traditions. It’s not surprising, then, that the largest brewer in France should hail from Strasbourg, in Alsace on the Rhine River and as close to Germany as one can get without getting your feet wet.
Brasseries Kronenbourg was founded in 1664 by Jérôme Hatt. The son of a dyer, he had graduated brewing school in 1649 and joined the coopers guild – a handy trade for a brewer. Originally named “Brasserie du Canon,” the brewery was located in the heart of Strasbourg, where it remained in the Hatt family for generations. Fast forward to 1850: a serious of floods from an overflowing Ill River (a Rhine tributary that flows through the city of Strasbourg) convinced 6th-generation brewer Frédéric Guillaume Hatt to move the brewery to the hills just above the city, to an area known as Cronenbourg. There, he dug extensive caves for the purpose of brewing bottom-fermenting lagers and maturing them in the cool underground conditions.
In 1922, the brewery acquired another Alsatian brewer, Brasserie Tigre, creating the largest brewing company in Alsace. They adopted the name of Tigre’s beer, Tigre Bock, the name by which they’d be most famous as they grew over the next three decades. In 1947, the 8th-generation Hatt brewer, who shared the name Jérôme with the brewery’s founder, changed the company name to Kronenbourg, to honor the area where they’d been brewing for almost a century. With German beers being held in extremely high regard the world over, he chose to use a “K” to accentuate the German-ness of the name.
The brewery’s most iconic beer, Kronenbourg 1664, came to life in 1952, and it quickly went on to become the icon of premium French-brewed lagers. By 1969 the brewery was in need of expansion, so a brand new facility was opened in Obernai, a few miles southwest of the Strasbourg city center. The Obernai brewery has gone on to become the largest in France, and, in addition to Kronenbourg 1664, produces a variety of other Kronenbourg brews such as Blanc, Brune, Rouge, and Premier Cru, along with several other European brands produced on contract. As of this writing, almost a third of all beers consumed in France are Kronenbourg beers, making them far and away the most popular among French consumers. 2014 marks Kronenbourg’s 350th anniversary – which is a remarkable age for a brewery, even by European standards. Here’s hoping they have another bright 350 years to come – Cheers!
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