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Germany Beer Battle: America vs. Germany

Discussion in 'Europe' started by JackHorzempa, May 3, 2013.

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  1. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,065) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Supporter

    I have been having ‘fun’ with Scott (herrburgess) on another thread. You can never have enough ‘fun’, right? So I figured I would start a thread on the Germany forum.

    There is an article entitled: Beer Battle: America vs. Germany by Clay Risen Aug 28 2009. It was originally published in der Tagesspiegel (a Berlin newspaper) in German, but it was published in the magazine The Atlantic in English.

    Some extracts from the article:

    “Dish water. Piss. A joke. There are a lot of stereotypes about American beer here in Germany. And these stereotypes aren't completely wrong: Budweiser, Miller, Coors--the USA manufactures a lot of famous, awful beers.”

    “In comparison, the German beer market seems a little boring to Americans. It's true that Germany produces Schneider, Weihenstephaner, Andechs, and Schlenkerla. But how often are these beers consumed? Becks, Sternburg, Flensburg, and others are the most-consumed beer brands in Germany, and they are hardly better than Coors or Miller.”

    “ …as an answer you can also find more and more nuanced beers, especially from Pennsylvania. There you can find Stoudt's, which specializes in German beer styles--they brew kölsch, maibock, helles, pils, doppelbock, and hefeweissen. Such innovations make the American beer scene exciting, fun, and surprising.”

    You can read the entire article here:http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/08/beer-battle-america-vs-germany/23950/

    Now, permit me to remind everyone that I did not write this article. Any specific criticisms are best directed to the author: Clay Risen.

    Prost!
     
  2. Jeffreysan

    Jeffreysan Initiate (0) Apr 12, 2013 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    I'm going to see America vs. Germany on June 2 here in DC (soccer)!! It's the only time I'll absolutely be rooting for the US over Germany!

    As it comes to beer, the acutal topic that the OP posted about, I don't take sides. I LOVE both US and German beers. Hell, German Dunkels, Marzens and Doppelbocks are among my favorite styles. I'll gladly drink a Munich Dunkel (Augustiner, Hoffbrau, Pauliner) followed by a Goose Island Honker, Devil's Backbone Vienna Lager, Brooklyn Brown, followed by an Augustiner Maximator, and finishing with a BCBS or AleSmith Wee Heavy. I love it all!
     
    Gutes_Bier and JackHorzempa like this.
  3. WhatANicePub

    WhatANicePub Initiate (182) Jul 1, 2009 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    Um, Becks, Sternburg and Flensburger may not be the world’s most exciting beers, but they are WAY better than Coors or Miller.
     
    VonZipper, Zorro, einhorn and 2 others like this.
  4. Jeffreysan

    Jeffreysan Initiate (0) Apr 12, 2013 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    Agreed.
     
  5. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,233) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Those brands are certainly better than the Coors and Miller flagships, but there are certainly Coors owned/brewed beers on par with or better than anything from Beck's, Sternburg, and Flensburger. Coors' Barmen Pils and most of their AC Golden line-up are terrific by pretty much any standards.
    Coors is the one "big boy" brewer in the US that seems to be taking the good beer movement pretty seriously.
     
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  6. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,964) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    I'd say that the coin dropped for Goose Island was pretty serious.

    So is the AC Golden lineup available nationwide? I can remember drinking Coors' Winterfest (I think that's what they called it) back in the mid-80s when I was just stepping up my appreciation for what beer could be -- it was was a pretty good beer at that time.

    To the original post: drinking a Sierra Nevada Summerfest right now. Sort of the best of both worlds.
     
  7. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,233) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Right now their beers are only in Colorado. For that matter, in most cases they're usually only in the Denver metro area. The closest thing they get to distribution for now is their Colorado Native being available in Frontier airlines. The Sandlot's stuff barely leaves the few blocks around Coors field, although they have actually won more GABF and WBC medals than anyone. It wouldn't shock me to see more of their beers showing up in the mainstream, though. That whole "Band of Brewers" Third Shift was a modified Sandlot recipe. Ditto with Blue Moon & Batch 19.

    The AB/Goose move was definitely massive, but I see that as more of a typical Brito acquisition more than the homegrown approach of Coors launching AC Golden, 10th & Blake, the Sandlot/Blue Moon as pilot breweries. AB's equivalent would probably be Michelob and Shock Top, I guess. Their surprisingly good Michelob Dunkelweiss and the ho-hum Shock Top were started in a pilot program at the Bud plant in Ft. Collins, though.
    I think AB sees craft as something they can buy their way into, while I think Coors is looking to cultivate something of their own. Different approaches for sure, although I guess only time will tell which one works and if either of them end up making a once good beer lousy in the process!
     
  8. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,964) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    To be honest, this doesn't encourage my enthusiasm. I like a good Wit beer and Blue Moon, no matter how often I give it a chance, doesn't send me. I may have to get adventurous and try the Third Shift beers at some stage, but I'm just not convinced yet.

    Yes, different approaches, but both signaling a recognition that there's something to cultivate in the craft -- dare I say, better? -- beer segment. And "time will tell" became my mantra with AB/Goose from day one. So far, not so bad. I just wish they'd open the new brewery so I'm not seeing all this Chicago beer being brewed in New York!
     
  9. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,065) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Supporter

    “That whole "Band of Brewers" Third Shift was a modified Sandlot recipe.”

    Do you know what the modifications are? If so I would like to read the details.

    Cheers!
     
  10. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,233) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I'm posting this from my phone in an airport - hopefully it works. This is where I learned about the Third Shift story: http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety/2013/02/third_shift_amber_lager_a_new.php
     
    boddhitree and JackHorzempa like this.
  11. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,065) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Supporter


    Firstly, thank you for providing that link to that article. The article was a very interesting read.

    I did not find anything in that article which detailed that Third Shift Lager is a modified version of the Flor Hosen beer (the article had a funny story on why the original beer was named Flor Hosen).

    Do you think the modification is just tailoring the beer for production brewing at the Miller Ft. Worth brewery?

    Prost!
     
  12. boddhitree

    boddhitree Devotee (482) Apr 13, 2008 Germany

    I liked this from the comments section of the OP article:
    With beers like Pax of Camba Bavaria now on the scene, I think some Germans can give American craft brewers a run for their money concerning innovation.
     
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  13. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Initiate (0) Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    What an absurd statement... Go to any major German airport and watch the hordes of Germans stampeding out of intercontinental flights into the next EDEKA to purchase beer to wash out the foul taste :stuck_out_tongue:
    Seriously, the USA is nowhere near the top ranks yet and I do not share the common German perception that American beer should be sold with a black warning label next to rat poison or better yet, be poured straight back into whatever infernal abyss it came from, never to pass a humans lips to begin with.Of course, there are beer drinkers and there are thrill seekers.
     
    Hutfabrik and herrburgess like this.
  14. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,031) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    This is one of the best summations of traditional German (and for that matter, UK, Belgian, Czech, etc.) vs. U.S. "craft" beer culture I've ever read.
     
    Pegli, grantcty and Stahlsturm like this.
  15. spartan1979

    spartan1979 Disciple (302) Dec 29, 2005 Missouri

    I may have to steal this line.

    Although I may have to take some exception to this. :slight_smile:
     
  16. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Initiate (0) Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    I guess I should've copyrighted it before I used it, eh ? :grinning:

    Why ? I'm not saying all US beer is crap. Far from it actually. I just think there's way too much thrill seeking going on. There are promising developments of course but let's see what's left of it in 200 years. This is all way too fresh to be taken seriously as a beer brewing nation.
     
  17. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,964) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Too late. I'm already selling t-shirts on E-bay! :grinning:

    This discussion could go on and on -- wait, it has... it's Beer Advocate. But the real side to be taken seriously is the enjoyment of beer that is so much more prominent than it was in the late 70s and early 80s. At least there's choice, big choice, for us on shelves these days.
     
    herrburgess likes this.
  18. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Initiate (0) Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    I guess that is what I question. I feel that for many people here this is just a quick burning phase until they run out of thrills to seek and then move on. I've been deeply involved in a different "underground sub-culture" for over 3 decades and I've seen many waves of people come and go and I realize the social mechanics of this. It's the same with craft beer.
     
    steveh likes this.
  19. spartan1979

    spartan1979 Disciple (302) Dec 29, 2005 Missouri

    I certainly agree with the thrill seeking, that's why I'm stealing that phrase. I'd much rather have a decent bock that the latest chilli-chocolate-cinnamon Imperial Stout. I sometimes wonder if some of these people really like beer. But nowhere near the top ranks?
     
    LBerges likes this.
  20. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Initiate (0) Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    I'm certain they don't. As for top ranks, I guess I should clarify. I was thinking Olympic here, 3 top ranks, the rest is loosers. The US certainly has enough substance even now to make the first 10 with ease. That still leaves 182 sovereign nations on this planet behind them. Happy now ? :slight_smile:
     
  21. LBerges

    LBerges Initiate (0) Feb 14, 2010 Germany

    Guess that 99% of all Americans never had a German beer in their life (and if, it was Becks), and 99,99% never had a German craft beer. And the other way round. 99,9% percent of all Germany never had an American craft beer (and if, it was SamAdams)
    But all feel they can make a statement about beer quality.
    U.S has about 2400 craft breweries now, Germany has more than 600 new ones. In relation to the population (300 vs. 80 million) that is not a big difference.
    The difference is
    1. in history (there are German craft breweries older than 500 years)
    2. in law (drinking age, drinking in public)
    3. in reception (drink to relax vs. thrill ??)

    @Stahlsturm: Let's see what's left of it in 20 years.
    Then you can see if craft brewing is a bubble or a sustainable development.
     
    Ysgard and boddhitree like this.
  22. boddhitree

    boddhitree Devotee (482) Apr 13, 2008 Germany

    Excellent points all.

    The trouble with #1 is that a long history in general, where tradition is all that's left basically, is stultifying, i.e. it becomes a hindrance to progress. Look at the empires of both Rome & UK as examples. Or Kodak. Or America's claim to to be the "best" country in the world (god I loved that video clip!), all based on what the others had done before. Germany and mass produced beer have gone down that same path, but it's one well worn by other countries before it, the USA, UK, even Belgium have. And we see as examples in those same countries is what will happen longer term. Germany will slowly get a craft beer revival, and the last bastions of quality beer of Franken and Bayern will be a huge leader in that, as will upstarts like Pax Bräu and Camba Bavaria.

    #2 is a hinderance to #1. Yes drinking age is 16, but the majority of youth decline beer in favor of juice cocktails and RB/vodka punch. Also, most of people drinking beer in public, i.e. in the train or parks, drink the worst offenders of mass produced swill.

    #3 is similar to #2, in that kids are changing the way they drink. Almost every time I enter a subway station, I see advertisements hoping to stop binge drinking by teens; thus, obvious, huge marketing campaigns to stop a trend that's occured in almost every industrialized country. The most fascinating part of those ads? The drinks of choice pictured is always a juice cocktails and RB/vodka, never a beer, for showing a beer wold make the advert instantly uncool and unbelievably out of touch with young folks.

    So, reactionaries can rant and froth at the mouth at how terrible the craft beer movement is. One thing about this movement that many object is the excesses and extremes it has led to. Well, in my years of cross cultural observations across the globe, that's the way trends and movements work. Excess is normal in the lifespan of trends. Look at the Beatles phenomenon in the early 60s, an study in excess of copying, etc. Or smart phones, where we're also in such a period of excess. The froth calms down and the underlying value of the product is still there, regardless of the overflow of excess. Complaining about the excess is basically throwing the baby out with the bath water. The U.S. is at the teen-age stage of the craft beer development, Germany still in the infant stage. The movement will age and become a more levelheaded adult. Complaining about the craft beer scene in the USA is basically like old codgers complaining about "the music that those upstart teenagers are listening to today." Relax, the excesses are a natural part of a trend's evolution, and complaining about it makes you look like like that uncool old fart.

    Now, where does this leave Germany? History always is a double edged sword, both a hindrance and a beacon of light to help show people out of the morass. German beers will find their own way out of this in its own culturally unique way... and it will happen. Just like the USA before, Germany will copy from abroad, but there will also be innovations peculiar and unique. So get over your old-fart ranting and watch the parade go by.
     
    CBlack85, JackHorzempa and LBerges like this.
  23. LBerges

    LBerges Initiate (0) Feb 14, 2010 Germany

    Sooner or later (if you are a German brewer) you must make a decision about your tradition. Forget about it, try new styles, make a crazy beer, a high-prize beer, even a non-Reinheitsgebot beer?
    At the moment some traditional brewers are at the step of making their first IPA in their career. Wonderful!
    American craft brewers did not have to make that decision. They start from scratch, no tradition to follow, they try everything, create 100 styles. Might be a bubble, we'll see.

    On the long run, the tradition model works very well the beverage industry, see Scotch whisky, Bordeaux Wine, Champagne... Other drinks did not so well. Flavoured vodka was a big bubble for example.

    My point of view:
    If your brewery dates back to 1475, do not mess with the beer. You have a good chance to make beer for the next 500 years. If you build a craft brewery in Berlin in 2013, you can try something new without a risk.

    I live in Berlin and try a new beer at least every week. Great parade.
    And beer from Franconia arrive quite often.
    [​IMG]
     
    boddhitree likes this.
  24. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,031) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    It's kinda hard to "relax" when all you're looking for is a place to enjoy 4-5 of your "old-codger boring beers" and find that the "greatest beer culture in the world" is instead populated by so many screeching teeny-boppers. :wink:

    In all seriousness, though...in many ways, you are, of course, correct. I, personally, never thought I'd get to the point where I dismissed youth culture -- and, as you rightly point out, U.S. "craft" brewing is very much in its teenage rebellion stage -- to such a degree as I do with the craft beer scene here. And, believe it or not, I appreciate the reminders when I get too wound up about it.

    Still, to deny there is a clash of beer cultures is somewhat naive. And I'd use a different analogy from the music scene to describe the current clash: In the 1980's the "hair band" scene was all the rage. Among that scene there was so much absurdity; from the obvious hair to the make-up to the puerile lyrics to the derivative "funk" elements sometimes thrown in. Oddly, no one seemed to see it. I, however, was a big fan of pointing such absurdities out even then. And -- big surprise -- I was charged with being "uncool" for not liking what was all the rage, and even ridiculed for liking the "boring" bands that I was into: REM, The Pixies, U2, The Velvet Underground, etc. Of course there were the hair-band exceptions, like Guns N' Roses and handful of others, that were legitimately good bands and that I respected. But there was so much crap being produced and held up as legitimate that I felt I had to say something.

    Same thing today. In short, the hop heads and "more is better" crowd are the new hair bands. And I, for one, am going to continue to call them on their absurd antics. Maybe someday they'll look back at all the globbed-on "make-up" they were slapping on their (largely) mediocre beers and admit that, yes, things may have gotten a bit out of hand....
     
    boddhitree likes this.
  25. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,031) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    p.s. The "Fab Four" of U.S. craft beer are Fritz Maytag, Jim Koch, Ken Grossman, and Jack McAuliffe. And we see what many of the cool kids of the current scene think about them. :wink:
     
  26. spartan1979

    spartan1979 Disciple (302) Dec 29, 2005 Missouri

    I can accept that! Prost!
     
    Stahlsturm likes this.
  27. spartan1979

    spartan1979 Disciple (302) Dec 29, 2005 Missouri

    I'm not quite sure of your definition of German craft beer, but what percentage of Germans have had German craft beer?
     
  28. boddhitree

    boddhitree Devotee (482) Apr 13, 2008 Germany

    I estimate the number to be 0.59% and that may be too high.
     
  29. boddhitree

    boddhitree Devotee (482) Apr 13, 2008 Germany

    Big surprise, I also abhorred hair bands in the 80s and was into the New Wave/Punk music then too. I also agree with the Hair Band analogy is a good 'un. And just like the hair bands were mass market excesses that masked some real decent music of that era, if we just let the teenagers have their fun today and run hog wild, us with more refined tastes know where to locate the diamonds in rough.
     
    herrburgess likes this.
  30. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Initiate (0) Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    Well, 12 million Bavarians and Franconians have had it at some point so we're up to at least 15 % right there :stuck_out_tongue:
     
  31. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Initiate (0) Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    So did I. I was / am / likely ever will be a Thrasher :grinning:
     
    herrburgess likes this.
  32. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,964) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Is that my problem? Too much Def Leppard has made me immune to "innovation?" :stuck_out_tongue:
     
    herrburgess likes this.
  33. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,031) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Pour Some Sugar on Me was voted #1 video of all time back in the late 80s. Matter of fact, that could be the slogan for some of these ultra-attenuated, hop extract juice West Coast IPAs....
     
  34. Crusader

    Crusader Initiate (199) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I do enjoy alot of the 80s hairbands though so I don't really want to riff too much on them and associate them with sugary craft beers which I don't enjoy quite as much. Then again sweetness has long been appreciated in Swedish beers, especially in the Christmas or yule beers when people brewed a beer of a higher original gravity and thus higher sweetness, perhaps due to it being one of few sources of sweetness available in pre-industrial Swedish society. Sweetness in beer is thus not a modern thing per se, although I personally prefer a beer of a lower original gravity and less residual sweetness a la a German pilsner.

    Therefor it's not really fair to label the sweeter craft beers of today as a modern creation. Even if Swedish beers would have been alone in being rather sweet, then this still would have amounted to an authentic traditional beer culture which was based on sweeter beers (and Swedish beers were top fermented/spontaneously fermented until German lager brewing made its way here, at which point Swedish beer drinkers demanded sweeter lager beers than the ones the German brew masters were used to brewing).
     
    Gutes_Bier likes this.
  35. Crusader

    Crusader Initiate (199) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I see, I thought the "ultra attenuated" part was a mistake :stuck_out_tongue:. My bad.
     
  36. Crusader

    Crusader Initiate (199) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I actually enjoy the American craft beers (those which make it over here naturally) which are more attenuated and don't have as much sugary sweetness or syrupy body to go along with their hoppiness. The best example I've come across so far would be Lagunitas New Dogtown. I don't care as much for their Maximus DIPA which has a higher abv and alot more noticable sweetness, and is thus less attenuated afaik.

    The only message I get out of that video is that the end is upon us and that we should prepare for the day of reckoning :stuck_out_tongue: .
     
    herrburgess likes this.
  37. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,964) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Eh -- guess that's not my problem then -- I was listening to the Stones, Replacements and Stevie Ray in '89, maybe a little Lou Reed, Neville Bros, Bob Mould and Petty mixed in for good measure. :wink:
     
  38. spartan1979

    spartan1979 Disciple (302) Dec 29, 2005 Missouri

    I guess that gets back to what the definition of German craft beer is.
     
    steveh likes this.
  39. LBerges

    LBerges Initiate (0) Feb 14, 2010 Germany

    Sorry, I do not have a definition of German craft beer.
    When you take the U.S. definition, all German breweries (except some ABInbev subsidiaries) are craft breweries. Does not make sense.
    But to give a figure:
    I guess that a majority of German beer drinker had a beer that does not come from the 10 major companies (who have a 50% market share)
    A second guess: 25% have had beer from a small brewery (< 10.000 hl/yr). Many would like to try, but they do not live in the neighbourhood of one of these breweries.
     
  40. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,031) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Battling the drawbacks of trying to produce an authentic Rauchbier here. I think we're getting close (maybe need to dial back the Caramunich II a bit):

    [​IMG]

    Prost!
     
    LBerges and steveh like this.
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