Went to Italy on vacation, had epiphany on German beer

Discussion in 'Germany' started by boddhitree, Aug 3, 2012.

  1. boddhitree

    boddhitree Advocate (640) Germany Apr 13, 2008

    Ok... it sounds ridiculous, but really, I had this epiphany while vacation in Como, Italy, on the Lago di Como (Comersee in German). First, in the tourist town of Como, where there are lots of foreigners (George Clooney is one), I found a bottle shop that had... wait for it... Westvleteren 12 in stock! as well as 100 other fabulous beers from around the world.

    It got me thinking. Craft beer is the rage in Italy, but not yet (ok.. green shoots are visible) in Germany, but why is that? It hit me... Italy as wine-centric has virtually no prejudices towards beer and therefore is ripe for a beer revolution that allows creativity and unrestrained enthusiasm about something that is completely foreign. Yet in Germany, with a 1000 years of tradition weighing it down, there's virtually no creativity and being a slave to tradition while focusing on price vs. quality is dooming it to stagnation. Those built in prejudices are what is hindering being open-minded about the possibilities beer can offer in Germany.

    Ok, but what's the point? It's that history can often doom us. I was absolutely blown away at the quality of beer available at some pizza places in Como. On the menu was 2 kinds of Chimay (blue and red), Affligem, and Hofbräu from München. Almost every major restaurant had some German beers on the menu as well as a Belgian. I mean... a lack of tradition is better in the modern world than a long history of beer?
     
  2. I always hated this aspect of German beer culture as well. While I basically agree with the practice of adhering to the Reinheitsgebot, as brewers can still produce creative, interesting beers within its constraints, I think there has been an (unintended?) effect on consumers whereby they get obsessed with this idea of "purity" ... as in, Belgian beers with their cherries, spices, sugar are all "Chemie Biere." In fact, a good friend of mine from Hof, a big fan of Franconian beer with a huge depth of knowledge, was convinced when we took him to Belgium that he was drinking chemically enhanced beers. Silly and superstitious...as many Bavavians (and lots of Germans in general) can be.
     
  3. einhorn

    einhorn Savant (455) California Nov 3, 2005

    Sounds like a local distributor is doing overtime in that area. Maybe it also has to do with the large diversity visiting that area?

    One thing we can agree upon: the status quo in Germany is horrendous, many friends in the Getraenkebranche are still complaining about prices which have been the same for over a decade. No one wants to make the first move in fear of losing market share. The time is ripe for a resurgence of a local beer scene beyond Bamberg & Franken.
     
  4. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Savant (430) Germany Mar 21, 2005

    Why do you want Germany to turn into another Belgium ? What is so wrong with separate countries having separate identities ? What is the point of trying to uproot tradition for a (usually short lived) trend that will just leave everything in ruins and the only result will be an amorphous cultural mix where everyone tries to do everything and nobody does it very good anymore. I want Belgium to stay Belgium, Bavaria to stay Bavaria and the Czech to stay Czech. If I want to experience it, Czechia is an hour and Belgium a 5 hour drive away.

    I mean, what's next ? Norwegian wine ? :)
     
  5. Gutes_Bier

    Gutes_Bier Advocate (515) Germany Jul 31, 2011

    I feel like I should organize my thoughts better before I post to this (fantastic) topic, but I'll shoot a little from the hip here.

    When I first moved here, I felt a lot like Boddhitree. I was (and sometimes still am) frustrated at the utter lack of foreign selection at the local restaurants and more importantly bottle shops. As I have gotten out and tried to be more adventurous, though, I don't think Creativity is the problem. After all, if you make the world's most interesting beer and your market refuses to buy it, what is the point? Besides that, traditional German styles are extremely varied. I don't see any reason why you can't be Traditional and still offer a creative variety. Look at Scheider-Weisse's line-up, for example, or Ayinger. There is a great diversity here in Germany, but that diversity is sadly often not reflected in the local bottle shop or restaurant. I'm not entirely sure why that is, although some have offered good information about Tied Houses and etc. I think it's a good thing that Germans prefer to drink fresh and local, but I also think it can be a double-edged sword, i.e., "Bamberg beer? Why would I want to drink that?" or "Leipziger Gose? Disgusting!" I'm not even going to get into the Kölsch/Altbier thing.

    These days I'm starting to come around to Stahlsturm's way of thinking. Let the Belgian's do their thing, and the Brits, and the Americans, while Germany does their's. If you saw the poll a month or two ago, most people on this site who responded said they prefer German beers to American Interpretations of German beer. Which only stands to reason. I would prefer a Belgian beer (more than likely) to a German Interpretation of Belgian beer. (Side Note: There have been two beers I have dumped out without finishing, one was a Berliner Weiss Grün and the other was a German porter, which was beyond horrible).

    Where Germany really fails, in my opinion, is not opening up the shelves (speaking in generalities here) to foreign competition. It does kill me that I can't pick up a bottle of Orval, Chimay, Westmalle, and what-have-you. I don't know how that will change. If you were to tell a German that you're interested in Italian craft beer, they would just laugh at you. "The Italians can't make beer! Only wine!"

    It's a good discussion, or at least it was before I jumped in. I change my opinion on it almost daily, I think. :) As of right now, I like the traditional beer scene here.
     
    azorie, mountsnow1010 and JimKal like this.
  6. einhorn

    einhorn Savant (455) California Nov 3, 2005

    While I respect Stahlsturm's point of view, as it is common in Germany, I still think that the industry is in dire need of a rejuvenation of some sorts, which shouldn't come from mixing pilsner or hefeweizen with some bizarre NA juice/soda. Just for the record

    Die deutschen Brauer haben laut Statistischem Bundesamt im Juni weiter an Absatz verloren. Der 2011er Juni mit damals -6,9% schien keine große Hürde zu sein, doch gingen im Juni 2012 trotz Fußball-EM weitere 2,9% versteuerter Inlandsabsatz verloren. Aufgelaufen fehlen im ersten Halbjahr im Inland (ohne alkoholfreie Biere/Fassbrause etc.) 2,3%.

    The German brewers have, according to the Federal Statistics Office, continued to lose sales in June. June 2011 with -6.9% at that time seemed to be no big hurdle, but despite the European Football Championship in June of 2012, a further 2.9% of taxed domestic sales were lost. YTY the first 6 months (excluding alcohol-free beers / Fassbrause etc.) are at -2.3%.

    Yes, you read that right: despite the European Fußball Championship and miserable sales in 2011, they still sold less beer this year. We already are familiar with the various reasons (demographics, vodka mixes, etc) , but the "head-in-the-sand-it-will-go-away" tactic means less regional breweries and is killing your (and mine) dear tradition.

    Once again, I am not promoting the Belgian-ization of the German brewing world, but I still believe that if the brewers want to survive the future, they will have to re-invent themselves and brew more exotic styles according to RHG. Adding Dragonfruit juice to pils and grapefruit juice to hefeweizen is looking sillier & more desperate than ever.
     
  7. I actually discussed these issues ("innovation", stagnation, homogenization, etc.) with the head brewers/owners of Schlenkerla and Mahr's, as well as with Frau Sabine Weyermann, while I was over in Bamberg. They were all very aware of the issues, and had, I believe, all seen the film "Hopfen und Malz Verloren." They also agreed that an awakening of sorts was necessary, and to a degree, was already happening. Weyermann may have been the first to notice (and to play a major role), as they originally re-crafted their business plan around producing greater varieties of malt following a trip to the U.S. in 1996. To this day that type of philosophy drives their business. As I have mentioned elsewhere, Matthias Trum has introduced nearly a half dozen new styles over the past 15 years, and those have been very well received. Stephan Michel from Mahr's has likewise introduced a number of new styles, brewed a series of one-offs for various groups, and has even enhanced the hop profiles in their "classic" styles such as the Helles and the Ungespundetes (matter of fact, most of the old favorites I tried while back there seem to have an enhanced hop profile). And Herr Trum even told me that he has a dozen more recipes that he plans to introduce. But, as we all know, change comes SLOWLY in Germany. Still, change is coming, and even happening now.

    What does this mean for the nation's brewing scene as a whole? According to the aforementioned players, it means that smaller, traditional brewers will lead the way in this slow recovery from the pressures exerted over the years by the big conglomerates. So, in a sense, what happened here in the U.S. as, in part, a reaction against homogenization from the Big Boys is happening in Germany as we speak. But, unlike here, brewers are likely not going to go full steam ahead and brew all the recipes they have in store at once and produce a deluge of new beers like we see here in the U.S. -- or for that matter, in a place like Italy, where they basically have a blank slate in terms of what beer styles they can create, as there is basically no beer tradition (or consumer expectations) there. Nor are German brewers necessarily going to look beyond their own borders (our outside of the constricts of the Reinheitsgebot) for inspiration -- the ones I talked to seem to be sufficiently inspired already...and ahead of the game in developing new, yet traditional, recipes. As to what it means in terms of new styles we can expect to see...I honestly don't know. To my mind the unfiltered Kellerbiere and some lesser-known styles from Franconia and the Oberpfalz offer worlds of possibilities, and I, for one, would be happy to see, say, some Kellerpils from the North, perhaps unfiltered Koelsch- and Alt-style ales from the Rhein region, more interpretations of the Czech dark styles, Dampfbier, and, yes, even the lower-alcohol Schankbiere appear in the coming years.
     
    AbelU, LBerges, boddhitree and 2 others like this.
  8. I agree with this. IMO, we need to have similar foresight when it comes to the explosion of U.S. craft beer. For example, a new(ish) local brewer here in SC has as its flagship beers an IPA and a Belgian Wit. We all know they chose these because they currently appeal to the widest possible market(s). However, their beers pale in comparison to the best examples of the style, which are not only readily available (such as SN Torpedo or Bells Two Hearted; Allagash or, yes, Hoegaarden), but are available at a (sometimes much much) better price. Sooner or later one of two things is going to happen: 1. they will have to lower their prices to compete; or 2. they will have to develop enough brand loyalty at the same price point to ensure that these flagship beers keep the operation afloat. I seriously doubt #2 will happen as that does not seem to be their focus at all; and if they choose #1, then I hope their business model will accommodate what will basically be a nearly 50% reduction in revenue....

    Similarly for German brewers, even if the market were there, why should they brew Belgian styles that, ultimately, will be second-rate, especially compared to the originals -- which are available via a quick(ish) jaunt across the border at very good prices (much lower than what they cost in the U.S.). Moreover, German (and even Belgian) drinking is generally tied much more closely to eating than in the U.S., so I seriously doubt that U.S.-style craft beer bars and/or bottle shops would catch on over there to the degree that they could support such a (sub)industry -- so where is the "revolution" supposed to take place? And finally, I believe that the U.S. craft beer scene is going to take a turn toward fewer new styles and more of a focus on things like freshness...which the Germans already do better than anyone else. So while the German tendency to turn "reform" into a decades-long process used to bug the crap out of me, I now see that there is a healthiness and a wisdom to it.
     
    azorie and Stahlsturm like this.
  9. einhorn

    einhorn Savant (455) California Nov 3, 2005

    Good question. IMO it has 2 chances: 1) the regional brewpub which offers new styles in their own outlet/restaurant and 2) one of the big players (Beck's?) introduces a "new" beer, it hits a nerve and then the rampant German "me-too" effect takes it's course.

    I would like to believe this, but I am seeing exactly the opposite here in California. Being unique is key, doing something different and over the top is now expected (I distribute a Triple IPA which retails for $11.99 for 22 ounces, and everybody here is now into sours). Next wave seems to be "session beers". Who knows what's next.
     
  10. Gutes_Bier

    Gutes_Bier Advocate (515) Germany Jul 31, 2011

    Einhorn, if I understand you correctly (and correct me if I have it wrong), you feel that the answer to falling beer sales in Germany is a "shot in the arm" via a new/creative alternative to staid and traditional German beer. However, one example that contradicts this theory is Rothaus. Rothaus has been steadily growing their brand during even these horrible times for beer sales (admittedly this is according to an e-mail from them, but I have no reason to doubt them). If you look at their line-up, though, you will see nothing that is even remotely "edgy" or "trendy" or even "risky". They make their Tannenzäpfle & Pils, Märzen & Eis-Zäpfle, Hefe-Weizen, and Radler. All traditional German styles, but done well. And by sticking to these styles, they have been able to grow in difficult times. Also, as Herr Burgess has reported in other threads, Schlenkerla's attitude is "our past is our future". Schneider-Weisse seems to take the approach of experimentation with one foot firmly planted in tradition. I don't think these brewers have their "head in the sand", I think they know their market very well.

    So what is the answer? Well, I don't know. If I did I think I would be a rich man. However, let's hope it doesn't come from Beck's. ;)
     
  11. boddhitree

    boddhitree Advocate (640) Germany Apr 13, 2008

    I hate to say this, but I wish there were a dislike button here.

    I say this b/c I'm not at all arguing what Stahlsturm is saying. All right, let Belgians make their own, Bayern also their own, blah blah. National, local identity is good and should be maintained, in fact it should be promoted and cherished. Actually, the loss of local individuality is one of the worst losses in Germany, as the giant loss of local brewers, such as what happened in Dortmund. That's wasn't my point.

    Because of a lack of tradition, it seems Italy is following a similar path in craft brewing and being open to creativity and variety as the USA went down starting from the 80's. Go here and see what's available on line, or here for a map of brewpubs and micro-brews. And guess whose beers I noticed were most often on menus in Italy in non-brewpubs? As well as being in the tourist trap of Como, I went to Monza for a day to visit Italian friends and eat dinner. That widened my eyes, too. Answer: German and Belgian, mostly the big names. That told me Italians not only knew their beer, but also are learning from the best. In talking with my Italian friends over a bottle of red wine (ironic, eh?), we talked about how every city or town now has a brewpub and that the idea of experimenting in drinking beer styles is considered cool. Isn't that what happened in the USA and then Britain in the last 2 decades?

    It just hit me that a lack of beer tradition allowed this happen first in the USA, then in Italy, a land that no one would ever mix up as having had until now a beer culture. It's also happened in GB, where a lowering of beer quality over time led to renaissance that's now led to brewers like Brew Dog, et al. It also led me to realize, in contrast to Italy, tradition in Germany has led to ossification of the beer market in Germany.

    Also, if the wine in Norway is good, what's wrong with it? It can't be worse that the sweet crap in Germany.
     
  12. einhorn

    einhorn Savant (455) California Nov 3, 2005

    Well kind of...from May 3, 2011 from a German beverage industry website

    "Die Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus AG (Hauptmarke: Tannenzäpfle) durchlebt schwierige Zeiten. Der Absatz ging 2010 um satte 58.000 hl (-6,4%) zurück. Der Umsatz sank um 5 Mio auf 84 Mio Euro. Dennoch konnte die von Vorstand Dr. Thomas Schäuble geleitete Brauerei eine Dividende von 17 Mio Euro an die Gesellschafterin, das Land Baden-Württemberg, abführen.
    Der nach 2009 (-3,5%) erneute Rückgang wird von der Staatsbrauerei wie folgt begründet: "Erwähnenswert ist, dass Bierausstoß und Umsatz durch massive Sonderangebote mit anderen namhaften Biermarken erschwert wurde. Da Rothaus grundsätzlich darauf verzichtet, Ausstoß durch Sonderaktionen oder Preisnachlässe zu erkaufen, wird dies bewusst in Kauf genommen."

    And then from May 11, 2012

    Bei der Badischen Staatsbrauerei Rothaus zeigt die Absatzkurve weiter nach unten. Im Gegenzug zu 2010, wo die Brauerei mit einem satten Minus von 6,4 Prozent 58.000 hl verlor, verlangsamte sich der Trend 2011 zumindest; die Bierabsatz schrumpfte nur noch um 1,45 % auf jetzt 838.000 hl.

    The brand Rothaus was on fire for a long time due to the high quality of product, it was a "cult" brand with the younger and older generation. That's how they survived for a long time, seems as though these times may be over, even though I really like their products. They could probably grow if they weren't state-owned, especially into the export business (I am not sure if they are currently exporting to the US, I've never seen them on the shelves.)

    Schneider is taking a smart approach, he is brewing solely for the US market with higher margins, no doubt in my mind. He is using old German beer styles, or re-thinking current styles to fit the trend. Maybe he will be the big winner in Germany instead of Beck's (let's hope so)... interestingly enough, Schneider is one of the largest privately owned breweries with a great export business. Great products.
     
    LBerges likes this.
  13. Perhaps we would benefit from shifting our focus from "what the brewery can/should do" to what consumers can/should do. As I said earlier, I think German consumers could be quite a bit more open-minded about the other great brewing nations and their beers. On the other hand, the German consumer has never been almost fully inundated with crap beer the way the U.S. consumer has -- German beer, thanks in large part to the Reinheitsgebot and a focus on freshness has, until now, left little to be desired for the majority of consumers and even more discerning beer lovers (a fresh Jever, Bitburger, or even Warsteiner can be a pretty nice thing!). That said, the current push toward homogenization and the resultant "dumbing down" of beers has opened people's eyes, and, again, started an awakening of sorts. Still, I hope that the awakening is more like that in the U.K. around CAMRA and less like, say, Brew Dog....
     
    Stahlsturm and Gutes_Bier like this.
  14. boddhitree

    boddhitree Advocate (640) Germany Apr 13, 2008

    Kidding, right? Germans being open-minded about beer is like asking Argentinians to be open-minded about beef... ain't gonna happen, at least only incrementally over the decade. This requires education. What open Americans and Brits eyes to the dumbing down of their beer? EDUCATION. First by those like Michael Jackson, then by CAMRA, then slowly by brewpubs and craft brewers. And that's what will be needed in Germany, a slow education of the beer drinking public. It's happening here, but slooooowly. Look at Braufaktum, which is owned by Binding, then Radeburger, then Dr. Oetker, in that order. Their marketing is based as much on educating it's consumer base as it is on sales.

    Bitburger & Warsteiner are examples of marketing triumphing over taste. I never liked them in the past, and they haven't gotten better, but their marketing has managed to make them 2 of the largest independently owned brewers in Germany.
    Finally, Jever is owned by the conglomerate Radeburger Gruppe, and there's been somewhat of a thread here detailing how it's gone from a pervious IBU of 42 to lower 30s.
     
    PancakeMcWaffles likes this.
  15. Gutes_Bier

    Gutes_Bier Advocate (515) Germany Jul 31, 2011

    Herr Burgess is saying it better than I can. Agreed 100%. 200%? Maybe even 500%.

    The problem with the US was not the lack of brewing tradition, it was a presence of a bad brewing tradition*. The market there was ready for something flavorful and new, and supported the experimentation. The "revolution" was consumer-driven, in other words. Germans making something awesome and new have a sort of "Tree Falling In The Woods" conundrum facing them**.

    What you seem to be most impressed with, Boddhitree, is that Italy made those foreign brands available for consumption. That much I think all of us here in Germany can get behind. And it will never happen, or at least, I don't see it happening in a time when German beers are selling so poorly in an already competitively tilted market.

    @Einhorn, thanks for the update regarding Rothaus. FYI, the e-mail I referenced was in the context (sort of) of my question to the brewer as to whether or not they are available in the US. They are not.

    * = talking out of my ass here.
    **= see above footnote.

    Cheers to a good discussion!

     
    einhorn likes this.
  16. Gutes_Bier

    Gutes_Bier Advocate (515) Germany Jul 31, 2011

    I actually enjoyed my last Warsteiner. Bitburger to me is a little m'eh and I never got behind Jever although I'm thinking of giving it a second chance. You guys should try Alpirsbacher Pils if you find it. Nice and hoppy.
     
  17. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Savant (430) Germany Mar 21, 2005

    Waitaminute... First you want a dislike button and then you go on agreeing with me ? o_O Make up your mind dude :)

    Seriously though, what you are advocation is reeducation of a dwindling beer drinking population. Haven't we've had enough reeducation in Germany in the last 70 or so years ? I know, I know, I just can't stay serious... :p
    However, how do you plan on going about that ? With a population that mostly has other worries and by and large is not willing to entertain the idea of change or simply doesn't care ? What I'm trying to say is that the situation here has to grow a LOT worse before you will achieve critical mass and ferment something like the craft beer revolution in the US. I don't know if you are old (and travelled) enough to know US beer in the early 80s but I can assure you, compared to the situation then, Germany (with all our admitted faults) still is beer paradise.

    So my somewhat pragmatic advice is, go get your other beer where it's brewed. I myself take a trip to Belgium about once a year and come back with a trunk full of stuff. Some of it my wife ends up drinking, some of it I give to my mother (she drinks the dark stuff at room temperature... Go figure LOL) and an occasional belgian beer even passes my own lips. Most of it does give me a raging headache though but that's an individual problem. And yeah, I would like to be able to regularly drink stuff I have grown fond of during my travels (Alhambra from southern Spain or Newport Storm Hurrican Amber Ale from lil Rhody come to mind almost instantly) but to me getting stuff from afar only when I'm afar is part of the pleasure of travelling.
     
    spartan1979 and boddhitree like this.
  18. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Savant (430) Germany Mar 21, 2005

    Most breweries I know are (thankfully) not obssessed with this idea of perpetual growth. Seeing how resources (especially clean brewing water from deep fountains) are limited that's a good idea in my book. Also, since I'm consciously watching that matter not a single brewery in my area (Eastern Bavaria) has gone bankrupt. Some closed but that was always because the main brewer got too old to run the business and it wasn't financially feasable to pass on the business. That is mainly because of European Union regulations that mandate that in case of change of ownership the brewery equipment has to be upgraded to modern EU safety and hygiene standards which in case of a 200 year old brewery usually means a 6 digit investment which (even if a new brewer would get the building permits) means that most small places are out of business because it's take 40 years to make that back. Bavarians are a traditional people but even our young aren't dumb enough to shackle themselves for life.

    So, in conjunction with the rapid elimination of the German middle class thanks to the Hartz reforms the EU is the real reason for the accelerated brewery dying we are about to see in the next 20 years. However, that scenario might level the brewing scene to the point where a resurgence such as our esteemed collegue boddhitree advocates may happen. Personally I hope to not live to see the day.
     
    boddhitree likes this.
  19. steveh

    steveh Champion (850) Illinois Oct 8, 2003

    I think this is a fact many BAs are unfamiliar with -- they've heard of the dark days before microbrewing, but I think they tend to dismiss it as they do the days before the internet.

    US "craft" brewing evolved very much from home-brewing which evolved from wanting something better than the swill that was, pretty much, ubiquitous on shelves.

    And what inspired home-brewers and the subsequent micro-brewers? Surprise -- Beers from England and Germany. I grew up in a time where I always knew the best beer came from Germany and when I travelled there for the first time, I wasn't disappointed in any way.

    Is Germany due for a "creative brewing revolution?" If it ain't broke, don't fix it. US brewing was broken and in the early 80s it started being fixed.*

    *Funny note to this -- notice how many micros are starting to dabble in traditional German styles lately?
     
  20. boddhitree

    boddhitree Advocate (640) Germany Apr 13, 2008

    My informal beer education happened in the early 80s in the US & can remember when my German cousin visited and said Michelob was the best of the worst beer in the world: American. The time between the end of Prohibition and the end of the 80s were bad times for beer in the USA. I remember it well and how much better the beer in Germany was at that time, too. However, the overall quality of mass produced beers most Germans can get in their local supermarket or Getränkemarkt has, IMO, gone down. Overall, this hasn't gotten as bad as it ever was in the USA, that's true. That is what has led to the general complacency of the German beer brewers. It's not bad enough to be dire, but still one can get good enough quality, so there's no perceived need for change.

    However, in the USA in the 80s, 99% of consumers saw no need to drink anything other than Bud, Miller or Coors, for they were ignorant of quality or variety in beer. Education changed that, and it took over 2 decades to achieve today's 5 or 10% market share for craft beer, if it's that high at all. Yet it's now filtering into the mainstream and that has taken time.

    Education is what is required here in Germany, too. Inertia is a powerful thing, and the beer market is loaded with it due to tradition. You, Stralsturm, say the pool of possible educable is small and dwindling, yet that was the same in the USA in the 90s, too, where mixed wine coolers, bottled vodka mixed became the rage mostly of the young or women. And who's led the craft brew rev. in the USA? Young-ish folk, the type that in the 90s were attracted to the mixed drinks and wine coolers. They were brought back to beer by the renewed interest in the craft brew scene. That same demographic, the young and women, are the ones who are fleeing beer in Germany, and they're the same that need the steady dose of education. They are the clean slate that I saw in Italy, the easiest to sway and most eager for alternatives to papa's old uncool Pils, the mixed beer drink or the Red Bull-vodka concoctions. In my opinion, they are ripe for a craft beer scene. In Italy, it was the young and hip who were into the craft beer, or so it seemed to me, the same ones tired of the same old red/white wines their grandpas had drunk.

    It took over 2 decades in the USA,... I see the first shoots in German of re-birth of quality and variety of beer in Germany. It doubt it will take 2 decades in Germany, but am a helluva lot more optimistic now than I was 4 years ago. I agree it will have to get worse for the mass brews before it gets better, but it will also take time for a mini-revolution to get off the ground. It will happen... but it requires education first to gourmets, then to the masses. Brewers will have to be brave, and those who are hopefully will be rewarded. Seeing TAP 5 from Schneider being sold in Germany... that's progress. Slow, inching progress, but still, the direction is good. It probably won't be the traditional brewers like those in Oberbayern or Oberfranken who will do it, but it will new brewpubs, new brewers not tied to tradition that will do the yeoman's work, which is exactly what happened in the US craft brew scene.
    Good advice, but just like when Germans went to the Côte d'Azur and went topless for a few decades, then said, why can't we do this back home? Then they suddenly went topless in the 80s in their German pools (only to swing back again to wearing tops today.) The same thing will happen slowly in Germany after they go to brewbups in the USA and then want a similar experience. Sure, it's nice to eat/drink exotic stuff on vacation, but sooner or later we'll want it at home too.

    I believe there will be 2 prongs to a craft beer movement in Germany. The first will go towards the exotic and wild, creative side, and the second will focus on reviving a taste for quality in the local German, traditional styles, everything from a Dortmunder Export to a Bayrische Helles or Weißbeer.

    Am I too naive to expect it to happen, even if we have to wait 2 decades?
     
  21. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Savant (430) Germany Mar 21, 2005

    So you do know, much better than I in fact. Sorry for doubting you :)

    You may have a point there.

    I'm not sure we should have everything at home but people being people you are probably right.

    On a side note, I found the 80s rather traumatizing. I turned 14 in 1980 and seeing the things you describe pretty much everywhere was rather straining on a hormonal level, hahaha.
     
    CypherEnigma likes this.
  22. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Savant (430) Germany Mar 21, 2005

    Maybe they won't bother with a revolution and just repackage. New labels and smaller bottles most likely.

    I think I had a double serving of pessimism this morning... :(
     
  23. boddhitree

    boddhitree Advocate (640) Germany Apr 13, 2008

    Them young whipper snappers don't know what weze went through in the dark ages of the 80s!

    Yes, it started from craft brewers, who went on to found brewpubs and micro-brewers, but they weren't enough. It was them who educated first the gourmets, appealing to the same foodie that wanted that new-fangled raw fish thingy called Sushi or good wine, not just Gallo from the 1 gallon bottle. After that came the more adventurous types.

    That's true, at first it was inspiration from traditional beer drinking countries in Europe, but the craft beer market started to stagnate in the mid-90s. Just copying wasn't that great. I thought back then American craft brews were still weak, often had thin mouthfeel, knock-offs which lacked something the originals in Europe had.

    What really made the craft brew market explode, IMO, is when they started getting creative and made their own styles in the USA, such as ultra-hoppy IPAs, DIIPAs, et al, and then playing with the ingredients. When those who were not foodies or gourmets started tasting things that were wild or creative, beers that had never existed before, beers that they felt gave the same experience having the latest tech gadget gave, that's when things took off in the craft brew area.

    I remember in the early 90s there were lots of brewpubs which opened to simply close after a few unprofitable years. They mostly served the weaker European imitations, at least in my home town of Dallas. Obviously, the market wasn't ready for craft beers because the consumer wasn't and because the product didn't differentiate itself much. It was still to much of a novelty and not enough quality and creativity was there. Almost all the brewpubs closed and many micro-brewed shuttered. However, once the IPAs and other mixed styles came on the scene, then things took off. It took the public being educated beyond foodies and the craft beer market to establish its own identity apart from imitating styles to reach a critical mass to where it could sustain growth.


    Sadly, yes. The German beer market has become a 90% mass market conglomerates, cheaper is better without quality mantra. Marketing of the RHG has triumphed über Alles. Just like Americans are brainwashed to believe they are "the best country in the world" (while having no clue about geography or where the rest of the world actually is), Germans have been brainwashed to believe the RHG is the Holy Grail that has kept their beer better than everywhere in the world. Anyway... it seems if I want creativity and variety in beer now, I gotta go to Italy! Whodda thought it?
     
  24. Have you made it to Franconia/Bamberg? Maybe you could stop on your way to Italy.... ;)
     
    boddhitree likes this.
  25. Gutes_Bier

    Gutes_Bier Advocate (515) Germany Jul 31, 2011

    Maruhn's is closer! And they sell Belgian beers. If you're going out to a restaurant, I can't help you.
     
  26. boddhitree

    boddhitree Advocate (640) Germany Apr 13, 2008

    Yup. Been to Bamberg and a few towns in Oberfranken. That was beer heaven for German beers. My goal for next summer to do a bike tour, town to town, beer to beer. There's an app for that: "Franken Bierland: Heimat der Biere"

    However, Franken is starting to remind me of Heidelburg or Rothenburg ob der Tauber - the vestiges of what life was like in Germany, only now to become tourist traps because they're the last remnants of the past. I hope Franken doesn't go that way, but if you look at all the other places in Germany that have lost or are losing their traditional past in beer, such as Dortmund, northern German Pils', Berliner Weise, even Düsseldofer Alts and Kölsches are mostly owned by Radeburger or have gone out of business today, then the trend is going that way.
     
  27. Seriously, though, if each Franconian brewery marketed its house Kellerbier individually you'd have about 100 new "styles" to choose from with a few strokes of a pen.

    EDIT: to respond to your latest post. On the contrary, if you go back there is a real, palpable sense of dynamism that was completely absent 15 years ago. These brewers have long since resisted the influence of the other brewing regions (including Munich) and are doing to to this day. Every single Bamberg brewery has new offerings that have appeared in the last 10-15 years, and most if not all of the country breweries I visited are following suit.

    When was the last time you were there? Bamberg had definitely become more touristy, but it was always somewhat touristy anyhow (I used to joke that I have appeared in 1000s of photos of the Altes Rathaus as I'd be photographed on my way to class, back from class, to the baker, back from the baker, etc etc.). Still with the University, the stubbornly traditional locals, and some very savvy brewers, it remains as dynamic as ever IMO. Maybe it's because I lived there so long, but it's never stopped feeling like home.
     
    boddhitree likes this.
  28. Gutes_Bier

    Gutes_Bier Advocate (515) Germany Jul 31, 2011

    Boddhitree, you sound like you are in a bad mood today! Can you elaborate on the Alts that are not independent? I was under the impression most of them were. Please note, I don't consider Diebels to be a Düsseldorfer Alt.
     
  29. steveh

    steveh Champion (850) Illinois Oct 8, 2003

    I honestly can't equate extreme with creative. Dumping more hops into a beer to be "different" does not make a brewer creative. Same as overdosing a recipe with spices doesn't make something better, or creative -- it just makes it spicier.
     
    Stahlsturm and herrburgess like this.
  30. Living in Germany can do that to your general mood ;). I can remember hearing constantly how German beer is the best in the world (there's more of an argument for such in Bavaria and Franconia than in FFM) and U.S. beer is crap -- and I can only imagine how much more vehemently I would have protested if such talk were coming from people who drank only Becks/Krombacher/Radeberger. Still, Franconia is safely in the hands of the stubborn Franconians I feel safe in saying...and I believe that is the case for places like Duesseldorf, Koeln, and Munich as well.
     
  31. boddhitree

    boddhitree Advocate (640) Germany Apr 13, 2008

    1. Diebels Alt is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev,
    2. Hansa Alt, Schlösser Alt, Freigraf Alt by Radeburger Gruppe,
    3. Frankenheimer Alt by Warsteiner.
    4. Hannen Alt & Gatzweiler Alt by Carlsburg Group,
    5. Rhenania Alt by Krombacher Brauerei.
    The independents:
    Thank you Wikipedia. Depressing, isn't it?
     
    pixieskid and einhorn like this.
  32. boddhitree

    boddhitree Advocate (640) Germany Apr 13, 2008

    I agree that some beers are TOO extreme, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, even if one only favors traditional beer styles developed before WWII, but that's the good part of art and creativity. People push boundaries until a happy medium is found. They are still NEWLY CREATED beer styles, and lets not forget revived ones like Steam Beer or a few from New England (I forget which ones.) The development of new hops of the Northwest gave the world new beer flavors. This was a huge boost to the boom in craft brew.
     
  33. Gutes_Bier

    Gutes_Bier Advocate (515) Germany Jul 31, 2011

    Depressing only in that I don't live in Düsseldorf! Then again, I am an American who has only been in Germany for two years, so whether or not Diebels, Hannen, and so on were ever any good I don't know. All I do know is that if I lived in a city that had seven different brewers making some tasty alt beer, I'd be a happy man.

    By the way, you started out this post bemoaning the German brewing tradition, and end it by bemoaning the loss of German brewing tradition. I point this out not to make fun, but rather to highlight the puzzle facing German brewers...try brewing something traditional and face the possibility of continued loss of sales, or try brewing something new and have your core customers not purchase it because it is not traditional.
     
  34. Steve - I agree with you and Stahlsturm on the comparison back in the dark days.

    As far as the craft brewers making German styles, they started with ones from the UK, then embraced those from Belgium, and now are looking to German styles as a brewing challange and a niche to be filled.
     
  35. Well, there are new hops in production in Halltertau and elsewhere (and being used in German beers), as well as potentially 100s of "new" styles just waiting for names in Franconia. Like steveh, I, too, think that much of the "creativity" in U.S. craft brewing is smoke (!) and mirrors...and whisky/wine barrels of course! Maybe you're romanticizing to a degree what's going on here? Seriously, I go to the local bottle shop and it's more or less 50 different variations on a couple of styles (RIS, DIPA/IIPA, sours), of which only 1 or 2 (which are usually snatched up by overzealous BAs) really, truly stand out. Or, as the head of sales at Olde Mecklenburg told me recently, he saw a local beer geek getting apprised of all the new beers on tap at his local craft beer bar...to which the geek ultimately replied: "Fuck it, give me an Olde Meck Copper" (i.e. an "old friend" beer). I can understand pining (!) for an IPA/DIPA, but, really, it's not all rainbows and unicorns here, despite what BA would seem to indicate.
     
    boddhitree and steveh like this.
  36. The
    The ones in the first group were not worth my time in 98-99, even though they could be found around a good part of Germany. The ones from the second group were, thouigh you had to go to Duesseldorf. Zum Uerige is still my favorite Alt.
     
  37. Gutes_Bier

    Gutes_Bier Advocate (515) Germany Jul 31, 2011

    After thinking about it, I should have known that: Seen around Heidelberg = Conglomerate while Must Go To Düsseldorf = Independent. Sorry to waste your time, Boddhitree! And agreed about Uerige, at least of the handful that I tried. And their pub is awesome.
     
  38. As for the Hops under development in Germany, at the NHC Stan Hieronymus said that the German hop growers and researchers have seen what has gone on in the PNW, and after Herkules (which he spoke highly of), they have many new high alpha and high aroma hops in the pipeline. Stan is writting a book on Hops for the Brewer's Association and has been doing the in depth research that he is known for, and it is to come out late this year/ early next year.
     
  39. steveh

    steveh Champion (850) Illinois Oct 8, 2003

    Okay, you mentioned DIPA, and...
     
  40. steveh

    steveh Champion (850) Illinois Oct 8, 2003

    No argument there. I was just pointing out how it's all come around -- sort of full circle back, to lighter lagers -- only done better (if not creatively).