Introduction to German Beer

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by BigIronH, Apr 24, 2021.

  1. BigIronH

    BigIronH Aspirant (212) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Trader

    So last night I found an awesome store that stocks a ton of imports from Germany. I’ve never had a German import and I’m looking for some direction. For one, is there any difference in the beer itself such as brewing processes or ingredients? Second, is there any kind of direction I should go in regarding style, or just wing it like I have been with local brews? From what I saw, it doesn’t look like the beers I’ve had so far share a ton in common with the particular offerings I looked at. It might sound silly but is there German import IPA’s, fruit ales, and milk stouts or are those styles not common? And if they are common and I’m just not seeing them at this particular establishment, then are they even worth getting? As in, are they any different from the same styles I get at home? Lots of questions, hoping for some guidance.

    Cheers.
     
  2. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,932) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    Wow -- tall task. But my umbrella suggestion, as it would be with wading into any new beer experience(s), start light (body, color, ABV) and work up to the bigger, bolder stuff.

    See if the store has the Weihenstephaner lineup. That's a great intro series. Start with the Original and Pilsner and go from there.

    I'd also suggest looking at the BA style info for further research on what to expect from each style and why they are what they are (and aren't).
     
    cavedave, defunksta, Junior and 22 others like this.
  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,978) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    My first suggestion is to read Ron Pattinson's blog:

    http://barclayperkins.blogspot.com/2014/10/modern-german-beer-styles_24.html

    Ron participates on BA as @patto1ro so if you have further questions I would recommend you tag him.

    Welcome to the world of German beers!

    Prost!

    P.S. Start reading the Bock tasting thread that is going on this weekend to learn more about Bock type beers.
     
    cavedave, Junior, Gajo74 and 18 others like this.
  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,978) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    One more suggestion: carefully check the dates on those beers. The majority of German brewed beers at my local beer retailers are too old.

    Cheers!
     
    Junior, Amendm, officerbill and 10 others like this.
  5. Providence

    Providence Crusader (732) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island
    Trader

    Aecht Shlenkerla Helles has a mild Smokey flavor to it. It is one of my most favorite beers ever. The rest of their stuff (marzen, bock, weizen) are awesome too, but much smokier tasting than the helles.
     
  6. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,932) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    I'd think Rauchbier could be a jarring initiation into the beers of a region. Might send someone screaming back to Bud Light! :wink:
     
    cavedave, Junior, Hophazzard and 15 others like this.
  7. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,827) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    Ah you're from Michigan. The German imports are somewhat limited compared to some other parts of the US.

    My advice is to start with styles that are readily available from Germany. Helles, Pils, Kölsch. As
    @JackHorzempa says check those dates. I saw a German beer at a place by me, looked at the date and it was a year past the best by date. Ugh.
     
    Junior, Amendm, jakecattleco and 6 others like this.
  8. Apathetiq

    Apathetiq Aspirant (254) Sep 10, 2012 Massachusetts
    Trader

  9. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Poo-Bah (1,774) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    Those styles are not common and may not be imported from Germany at all. You are likely going to have access to a variety of lager styles as well as some wheat beers from Germany.
     
    KentT, jgido759, cjgiant and 4 others like this.
  10. DCH

    DCH Aspirant (217) Jun 12, 2013 New York

  11. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (7,638) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Society

    I suggest that you make a list/take some pics to see what you have going on there.
     
    jakecattleco, BigIronH and jonphisher like this.
  12. jonphisher

    jonphisher Devotee (487) Aug 9, 2015 New Jersey
    Trader

    If you are looking for clean, balanced and drinkable beers then you will not be disappointed. As with everything there is a lot of variety so the more exploring you do the better.

    I’m gonna steal a quote @AlcahueteJ posted once that could apply to German beers, well since by in large to me means mostly lager...

    I feel like discovering the wonderful world of lagers is like the red pill and blue pill in the Matrix, with the red pill showing you lagers.

    “This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up and find yourself standing back in line waiting for the latest New England IPA. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.”


    Copyright @AlcahueteJ
     
    Junior, vurt, jgido759 and 21 others like this.
  13. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,978) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Yes, Germany is well known for their lagers. The most popular (most consumed by volume) beer in Germany are Pilsners (a lager).

    But don't forget about the German beer styles that are fermented using ale yeast strains.I am personally a fan of Kolsch, Alt and Hefeweizen beers for example. And there are others.

    Prost!
     
  14. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (136) Mar 16, 2018 Tennessee

    I got my start with Hefeweizen/Weißbier, a popular and common style in Germany and the US. Unlike most German beers, it’s an ale, but it manages to be both light and expressive at the same time. Many breweries like Schneider have adapted the style to use modern American hops to more closely resemble an IPA, while retaining their traditional varieties. Schneider is the gold standard for Weiß, closely followed by Weihenstephaner, Paulaner, and Franziskaner.

    Personally my favorite German style is Dunkel, and a German-adjacent style, Vienna Lager. A good Dunkel is light and crisp like a lager should be, but yet has a rich backbone of dark bread and toffee, and Vienna is similar, with nice nutty qualities. Many American breweries make Vienna Lagers, so it is a familiar style to many American craft beer aficionados.

    Honestly, very rarely do I go for Pilsner or Helles; they’re a great starting point for a newcomer, but I don’t think they’re as interesting as other German styles, partly because they’re so ubiquitous. All the macro beer brands have based their lagers on Helles/Pilsner.
     
  15. BigIronH

    BigIronH Aspirant (212) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Trader

    I don’t think I’m in danger of that at this point.:grin:
     
  16. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,932) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    Have you *had* Rauchbier? Talk to me after. :wink:
     
    cavedave, vurt, Singlefinpin and 7 others like this.
  17. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,072) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    First off, if you've found a store with a good selection of German imports, I'm going to assume that you live in the Detroit area or Grand Rapids area. My experience has been that there aren't many places in Michigan that stock many imports, and when you do find a place there is dust on the bottles. So beware!

    Secondly, if you spill the beans and tell me which store, I might go there for my shopping. Which store will also tell me the proximity where you live, and I hope it is a Grand Rapids place. That puts the store closer to me so that I can shop there, but it also lets me tell you that you have two breweries that are fairly close to you that specialize in brewing German-style beers, and going there to drink the beers fresh is your best choice.

    Cedar Springs Brewing and Territorial Brewing (Battle Creek) both do a very good job brewing beers that are very representative of the various German styles. I'm partial to Territorial because it's one of my home breweries, but I've also been to Cedar Springs to enjoy that brewery too. It has better food choices, but Territorial is pretty good too. (Let me know if you come to Battle Creek and I'll meet up with you. The first one is on me.)

    In the Beer Styles definitions here on BA, read the descriptions of the Bocks, Lagers and Pale Lagers categories, and click on each sub style to check out the most popular beers in each style. Your store may carry many of the imports that are on the list. https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/styles/

    Also check this Google spreadsheet link below that I have been creating in a thread (https://www.beeradvocate.com/community/threads/best-german-style-beer-food-venues-in-the-u-s.632830/) with help of BA members. It might have bars and restaurants close to you where you can have a good German experience, usually with food and beer. I'm hoping that the beer at any of these locations will be reasonably fresh, but there are no guarantees.
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1vvgzuuhF7JA9Q2TWIIM0WVK-pX2YG7LHR-uGu8NkA5U/edit?usp=sharing

    Prost!

    P.S. I agree with the comments above about being wary of Rauchbiers (Schlenkerla brewery) because the smoky character can be very divisive.
     
    #17 PapaGoose03, Apr 24, 2021
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2021
  18. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,769) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Once you figure out which brewery you want to explore the next thing is understanding the date codes. Realize that 4 month old beer is a dream that rarely comes true, so you’ll have to be happy with 6 month old beer if not older, sometimes much older. Also look for American brewed beers with classically trained brewers and the results can be amazing, and the beer much fresher.
     
    vurt, Singlefinpin, JimKal and 2 others like this.
  19. miwestcoaster

    miwestcoaster Meyvn (1,330) Jan 19, 2013 Michigan

    My honey hole for German beers in Michigan is in Frankenmuth.

    http://kernssausage.com/

    :beers:
     
  20. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,072) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    I didn't know they sell beer. I'll check them out the next time when I'm in Frankenmuth.
     
  21. BigIronH

    BigIronH Aspirant (212) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Trader

    Thanks Jack this is very helpful.
     
    Junior, Singlefinpin and JackHorzempa like this.
  22. BigIronH

    BigIronH Aspirant (212) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Trader

    I sure will. I have planned another trip to the establishment for next weekend and I will definitely update at that time in addition to sharing what I buy.
     
  23. BigIronH

    BigIronH Aspirant (212) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Trader

    I did actually pick up a Hefeweizen while I was there but it wasn’t an import. It was a local rendition. The Hef by Frankenmuth brewery if you’re familiar. I liked it but wasn’t taken aback by it and it was actually what triggered the questions regarding if there is a difference in technique or ingredients compared to what we have here and what the Germans actually do while brewing their beers, especially beers of German style.
     
    nc41, Junior, Singlefinpin and 3 others like this.
  24. BigIronH

    BigIronH Aspirant (212) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Trader

    Worst case scenario I’m back to NEIPA and milk stout. You’d push a hard bargain to get me back to bud light. :laughing:
     
  25. BigIronH

    BigIronH Aspirant (212) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Trader

    Thanks Goose, this is very helpful. FYI, the store is Ashes and Ales in Frankenmuth, which I know is a long way from you but the drive may very wel be worth it especially if you’re a cigar smoker to boot.
     
  26. BigIronH

    BigIronH Aspirant (212) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Trader

    Ashes and Ales right down the street is where I was, I’ll check out Kerns next. I’m local to the area so a trip back soon is no inconvenience. Thanks for the tip.
     
  27. miwestcoaster

    miwestcoaster Meyvn (1,330) Jan 19, 2013 Michigan

    Right back at you. AA must be a fairly new business and certainly new to me. Cheers!
     
  28. Stignacious

    Stignacious Defender (695) Aug 24, 2011 New York

    IPA's probably won't handle the trip to the USA very well, but three that I've had:
    - Down, from BRLO (A collaboration with Run the Jewels)
    And
    - Yeast is King, and Creeping Shadows by FrauGruber
    Were all solid versions of the style.

    That being said, if you're going to buy an import I highly recommend anything that's more representative of German beer culture. Ayinger, Hacker Pschorr, and Augustiner do great things.
     
  29. BigIronH

    BigIronH Aspirant (212) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Trader

    Awesome I appreciate the input. Cheers!
     
    Singlefinpin and jonphisher like this.
  30. BigIronH

    BigIronH Aspirant (212) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Trader

    Currently planning my trip to the Creek to tune up with Goose.
     
  31. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,932) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    Heh -- not trying to push you back, just advocating to move slow. :slight_smile:
     
  32. guinness77

    guinness77 Poo-Bah (1,865) Jan 6, 2014 New York
    Society

    Not to derail this thread but the Helles really isn’t smoky at all. I would say it’s one of the best, straight up, Helles’ there are.
    But I do agree that anything from Schlenkerla might be a bit jarring for a newbie.
     
  33. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,932) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    There's enough residual smoke in the Helles that I think it would turn off the uninitiated. I have friends who I got to try it and they stopped speaking to me. :wink:
     
  34. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,769) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    It’s going to be very difficult to figure dates as the German Brewers tend to be a bit liberal with their Best BY date. If it’s not clearly understandable I just pass, I’m not walking around with a notebook full of codes and Julian dates. I’ll just buy US made beers, I’ve got no patience at all there.
     
    Singlefinpin, b9d9 and BigIronH like this.
  35. BigIronH

    BigIronH Aspirant (212) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Trader

    Understandable. So at this point I’m getting to understand that it’s hard to come by a fresh German import and that is discouraging me a bit. Like you said, I’ll buy fresh American renditions of German styles before I’ll buy something knowing it’s out of date or questioning if it’s still good.
     
  36. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,978) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    FWIW that is what I do.

    I am fortunate that in my area (Philly area) there are many local breweries producing high quality German style beers. I often can buy them with less than a month from packaging.

    Cheers!
     
  37. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,932) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    But, when you find something fresh -- like an Ayinger Bavarian Pils or a Weihenstephaner Helles, the experience will be enlightening.

    There have been miles of debate over American-brewed German-style beers compared with products from the source, and some Ami breweries manage good renditions, but so many don't.

    A well-brewed German-style is sublime, elegant, and satisfyingly delicious all at once. So unless you can get to Bavaria soon, it's worth the work to understand the dating to find fresh beer -- *if* you're serious about getting into the genre.

    All that said, there are quite a few German imports that print a very clear best by date. It's up to your interpretation of fresh, of course. But Spaten, Paulaner, and Hacker Pschorr beers are clearly dated and quite good "starter" beers to sample.
     
    Junior, Squire, Singlefinpin and 16 others like this.
  38. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,769) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    That’s the thing about best by dates, it’s random, you know the end date but you don’t know when it was canned or bottles. Is it 6 months which I highly doubt, 9 months old like PU, 12 months quite likely, 15 months like Jever? Brewers discretion. It’s still a game of finding out how old I am, am I warm on the shelf or in a cooler? Unlikely here in a cooler, or am I also warm on the top shelf like for say Jever here sucking up UV light 24/7/365? Most here are over 15 months as well, I’m not completely lazy, but seriously I’ve never come across imported beers at 4 months, I don’t bother any more except for Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen, at 6 months old it’s stellar.
     
  39. jonphisher

    jonphisher Devotee (487) Aug 9, 2015 New Jersey
    Trader

    Just because a beer is fresh is does not make it better. Which I feel like is all too often stated on here when the topic of imports comes up. I’ve had expired (past best by) be the winners in blind tastings. I’ve also had 8 month old beer standout above my favorite fresh local examples.

    So yes fresh is important but it is not the end all be all, far from it in my opinion. I don’t want to change topics of this thread I just wanted to state this to keep in mind as you buy imported beers.
     
  40. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,932) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    As I mentioned, this is all very redundant debate and you have to decide just how much you want to get into something.

    I have no trouble making judgments on BB dates or brands based on experience, but German styles have been my favorites for a long time, so it's not work for me (though sometimes frustrating).

    If the niche doesn't grab you, you're free to move on -- but I'm not going to discourage someone from discovering something very good just because it may take a little study -- spoken as someone who got into this enthusiasm well before the advent of the internet.