Brewing School in Germany
April 8, 2011
Two weeks in Germany so far… wow. I have to say that it’s all been a very interesting learning experience. From learning the general culture of southern Germany (Bavaria) to learning their general brewing and drinking culture and learning the technical side of brewing from German brewers, this has been the experience of a lifetime.
My experience with Germany so far is that it’s a land very much rooted in tradition and is very slow to change. Many of the breweries in this region have been in operation for several hundreds of years, some many hundreds, and have been ingrained in the culture extremely deeply. Most bars and beer gardens I go to will have a brewery’s logo outside their building that indicates which brewery’s beers I can find inside. Yes, each place has beer from just one brewery, sometimes two. I found this disconcerting at first, but now understand that Germans expect to find a helles (light) lager, dunkel (dark) lager, wheat beer, radler (lager/lemonade mix), and some sort of seasonal (doppelbock, maibock, etc) on tap at every bar. Different cities have certain beer styles that you won’t find much outside the municipal area, like Kolsch in Cologne, Alt in Dusseldorf, and so on. I like that kind of regional diversity.
The styles of beer here have pretty much been set in stone by tradition, and only have small variations between breweries. The country seems to have grown strongly accustomed to lagers, expecting beer to have that clean and crisp taste that ale yeast usually can’t produce, and it shows greatly in how the German professors teach us about brewing. All the information that gets presented to us is focused primarily on lager styles. They reference ales occasionally, but that’s almost always strictly regarding wheat beers. When these styles are discussed here, they seem to have a very narrow view of how each style should be brewed that someone coined that phrase “Germans don’t learn how to brew beer, they learn how to brew ONE beer”. I’ll say this, they may not brew a wide variety of styles, but the styles they brew are brewed extremely well.
The best way I can describe German brewers is that they’re great technical brewers. The few styles they brew tend to be brewed incredibly well and are very tasty. Since most of these are lagers, it’s even more impressive, considering how lagers tend not to have much for flaws to hide behind. It’s great learning these things from these guys and I can’t wait to put some of this knowledge into practice. I really want to brew a good helles sometime soon.
Anyway, gonna cut this post short so we can head to the Hirschgarten to get our drink on while staring at all the gorgeous German women.