I wonder if the first person to stick a hot poker in his beer did it accidentally, or on purpose.

Whichever it was, he must have been happy when he took a sip.

The tradition of beer poking, started by the Germans, has been around for a long time. But it seems to be gaining in popularity.

Every once in a while, you can have your beer poked at the Liederkranz.

At last Saturday’s Sommerfest, Steve Stettner was the man in charge of tending the fire.

Besides the beer, all you need is a red hot poker.

“We stick it in the beer and give it a little bit of a twirl,” Stettner said. “It completely changes the flavor and the aroma profile of the beer.”

Germans call the process bierstacheln, which means putting a hot spike into a beer.

The poker has to be 1,571 degrees or hotter.

“The alloy that those pokers are made out of won’t turn red until it’s 1,571 degrees,” Stettner said.

Good things tend to happen around campfires. People say poked beers are the s’mores of beer drinking, Stettner said.

Fans of beer spiking say the heat caramelizes the sugars, imparting a new taste.

They say dark beers are best for beer poking.

“Some beers are better after they’re poked,” Stettner said.

If a beer has too much of a yeast flavor and is “more on the sour side,” beer poking will do a pretty good job of sweetening up the flavor, he said.

As Stettner wielded his hot iron, he wore a T-shirt that read, “eins, zwei, drei, g’suffa.” In English, that means “one, two, three, guzzle.”

Few places in Grand Island are as attractive as the courtyard of the Liederkranz. Not only is the area beautiful, but for some reason the temperature seems a little lower than in the rest of Grand Island.

Last weekend, we had a good time sampling poked beer at the German-American club. We also enjoyed the food, which was prepared by Gloria Otradovsky and Verna Arnall.

Stettner, 41, is in charge of the Liederkranz’s Bier Klub. He is assisted by Fred Otradovsky.

“We do a tasting every month down in the Ratskeller,” Stettner said.

Members of the Bier Klub get a T-shirt. If people accumulate enough points, they also get a stein that was handmade in Germany.

Last year, the Liederkranz included beer poking at its first Boch Fest. The event was going to return in May but was canceled because of COVID-19.

Group members decided to poke beers at Sommerfest.

July isn’t the best time to work around a fire.

“But I think everybody had a good time,” Stettner said. “Nobody complained to me after they had their beer poked.”

Grand Island is a multicultural city. But the first settlers were German, Stettner noted.

Grand Island is lucky to have two German clubs, he said, referring to the Liederkranz and the Platt Duetsche.

The Liederkranz, which closed its doors in mid-March, is in its early stages of reopening. German Night will resume this month.

As part of its 150th anniversary, the club is planning another event Nov. 7.

Stettner, who is vice president of the Liederkranz board, farms between Palmer and Worms. He is also president of the Merrick County Extension Board.

He encourages people to join the Liederkranz.

So does Kim Crawford, who is board president.

Her husband, John, is active at the Liederkanz, but has no title. “He’s just the first husband,” Kim said.

One of Stettner’s favorite German songs is “Ein Prosit.”

In English, the lyrics read, “A toast, a toast, to cheer and good times.”

In days like this, with America divided, who wouldn’t want to lift a stein — or red cup — and make a toast to good times?


 

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