Germany is known for Lagers, but specialties abound
It's no secret that Germany has a huge number of breweries, and while it is true that pilsner-style lagers of uniformly high quality are seen everywhere in the country, no single brand dominates the market in all parts of Germany, as is the case here in America.
Historically, the prevalence of local specialty beers and the persistence of quirky regional habits forestalled the march of the national brands. This remains the case, but only tenuously. The situation is changing more rapidly than most people realize. Small, traditional breweries are going out of business in record numbers, and the United States - - a desert for beer as recently as the early 1980's - - has surpassed Germany in the total number of breweries in operation.
Small breweries survive in Bavaria, a veritable Mecca for lovers of unique lager styles (with a few wheat beers thrown in). In Bavaria, beer drinking remains a traditional social activity intimately connected to the passing of the seasons, and something that is part and parcel of a full, well-rounded life. This is an ideal worthy of respect and emulation, and if there is any direct inspiration for the notion of Rich O's Public House, it is to be found in the atmosphere of the pubs of Bavaria.
It is worth noting that the Bavarian brewing tradition extends to other Central European countries: Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland, as well as Poland and Hungary, and by extension, to any part of the world where lager brewing is practiced.
I've been to many 'beer pilgrimage' sites in Germany, but I pay special homage to Bamberg because it is one of the most prolific brewing cities on earth. The fact that Bamberg's current density of breweries was once the norm in many places speaks to what has been lost and what will continue to die if people refuse to think about what they're drinking and why.
Excellent overview of Bamberg's unbeatable beer scene.
Note: Some web links lead to German-language pages, while others are strictly directional, i.e., I'm just pointing the way. Availability sometimes varies, and so might the price.
What's the deal with the '-ator' suffix? It's all about Doppelbock, Bavaria's meal in a bottle. Find out more here.Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock … 16.9 oz … 5.25
Bottle-conditioned, extra strong Weizenbock (wheat bock) that marries the fruity spiciness of Bavarian-style dark wheat ale with the rich, malty, full-bodied attack of 'double' strength bock beers like Salvator. 8% abv.
A textbook example of an 'Old Bavarian Dark' lager, Ayinger's Dunkel is brewed in a beautiful village in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps southeast of Munich. Malty with a slight hint of noble hops, coffeeish and nutty, and not at all bitter. Standard alcoholic strength: 5.2% abv.
Napoleon’s soldiers first referred to Berlin's distinctive wheat ale as 'the champagne of the north.' Berliner Weisse is pale and sparkling, with a tart acidity that owes to the partial use of a lactic culture during fermentation. Traditionally served with a shot (mit Schuss) of raspberry syrup to soften the bite. The alcohol content is low – between 3% and 4% abv.
There is a long tradition in Europe of brewing reduced alcohol beers - sometimes for consumption by miners and steelworkers, or to be served as 'table beer' for the family. Bitburger's alcohol-free beer is brewed and fermented in the same manner as the brewery's regular hoppy Pils, and the alcohol is extracted at the very end of the process. Consequently, Drive tastes more like real beer than you might expect, lacking only a sustained aftertaste to pass for the real thing.
Hailing from multi-breweried Kulmbach, this big Bavarian specialty (technically, a Doppelbock) weighs in at a hefty gravity of 28 degrees, which translates into an alcohol content in excess of 11% abv. In reality, EKU 28 is a unique specialty brew, with elements both of Doppelbock and Eisbock, malty and quite sweet, but with complex flavors, and a definite alcohol presence. Neither for the faint-hearted, nor the Liteweight.
Golden wheat ale with yeast (hefe -), variously known as Weisse, Weissbier or Weizen, with flavors resembling that of banana, apple and clove and a refreshing carbonation. These fruity flavors are by-products of the fermentation, and hence of the yeast. Nothing is to be gained by adding a slice of lemon. NOTHING! Do you understand?
Delicious amber-to-dark version of Franziskaner's wheat ale.
The popularity of Schwarzbier, or black lager, is enjoying a resurgence in Germany. The color is similar to that of porter, and in many ways, so is the flavor: Roasted and malty, but not sweet, and without discernable bitterness. Kostritzer was one of the finest dark beers brewed in the former East Germany, and now is owned by the brewers of Bitburger Pils. 4.8% abv.
Soft, malty and clean lager from the Marzen and Vienna lager families. Oktoberfest is a Bavarian autumn specialty, ideal with crusty pig’s knuckle that explodes with juice when pierced by a quivering fork - but it's good any time, and is an excellent choice with pizza. 5.8 % abv.
Strong (7.9%), well-balanced, very malty Bavarian dark lager traditionally associated with the coming of spring. Doppelbock originally was brewed by monks for consumption during Lent, hence the nickname of 'liquid bread.' Nowadays, almost all '-ator' beers are commercially brewed, but the effects remain revelatory.
Singular specialty beer brewed by lowering white-hot rocks into the kettle. The malt sugars then carmelize on the rocks, which later are placed in the maturation tanks, initiating a secondary fermentation. The resulting beer isn't so much smoky as it is toffeeish, although there is a faint smokiness in the background.
Cologne’s local beer style is Kolsch, a delicate and subtle golden ale that is mellowed by a period of cold conditioning. Reissdorf’s version is light, with restrained fruitiness and medium carbonation. In Cologne, Kolsch is served in 7-oz glasses from circular trays by efficient, fast-moving waiters. Here? Sounds like too much work for us.
World classic, specialty dark lager brewed with barley malt that has been kilned with smoke from a fire of beechwood. Yes, it tastes exactly like smoke, and it ably complements the dishes served at the brewery’s restaurant in Bamberg: Blood sausage, head cheese, and smoked ham. It also goes quite well with our pizzas and barbecued pork. Circa 5.5% abv.
Brewed the same way as the Marzen, and really no smokier, but a bigger beer from the outset. Circa 7% abv.
The newest Bamberg trend is weizenbier ' wheat ale ' brewed with a portion of smoked barley malt.
Bavarian bottle-conditioned Hefe-Weizen (wheat ale with yeast) first brewed in 1856 by royal decree. Tan color, requisite fruitiness and spiciness, good body and highly quenching
Doppelbock (see Paulaner Salvator), leaning in this interpretation toward the sweet side. Certainly meant to accompany steaming bowls of stew in cold weather (use the beer to sop up the gravy). Circa 7% abv.
Rich and malty-sweet Helles Bier emphasizing the role of barley malt in beer. Lacks the hop bite of a typical Pils, and has a fuller body. This is the lager one finds in Bavarian beer halls, and sometimes remembers drinking after a Mass or three.
Golden, lightly hoppy and with a mild dryness in the finish. A typical, well-made example of a German-style pilsener, which is the dominant style of beer in Germany. Don’t forget the other styles!
Beer from Germany
About German beer, in German.
Ignore the calendar, but good historical information here.
Must reading for those seeking a balanced perspective of the German beer scene.
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