The German Craft Beer Scene: A Growing Niche
This weekend I went to the second craft beer fair
in Mainz. This time it was held in a different location in a very atmospheric old tank factory, located in an industrial suburb. The setting was perfect for this event and really added to the ambience. The were products from 44 exhibitor breweries
, each producing different unique and innovative German craft beer from all over the country. The industry is booming at the moment as many Germans, particularly younger people, are keen to experiment with different beer types other than the ubiquitous, mass-produced pilsener
. Whilst the price of these beers is considerably higher than mass produced beer that you could buy in the supermarket such as Bitburger or Warsteiner, the quality is exponentially higher.
It is also encouraging to see some of the smaller, privately owned breweries getting in on the game in their own unique style with traditional German types of beer rather than the IPAs which tend to be the preferred tipple of the hipster crowd. In the UK and the US, the craft beer revolution has focused on IPA and other types ales which are not native to Germany. Whereas here, the German craft beer scene tends to fall into two distinct groups. On the one hand are the more traditional private German breweries who want to branch in to the booming craft scene, meaning they are experimenting with some of the rarer types of traditional German beer which were considered “out” and “old-fashioned” until a few years ago. On the other hand are the new, start-up German craft beer companies which have mushroomed over the past 2 or 3 years. Their strategy seems to be more around building a brand and a following, in many cases outsourcing their production to contract-brewers. These “upstarts” often concentrate on non-native beer varieties such as IPA
Variety Is The Spice Of Life
I can only express joy that the beer scene in Germany is expanding, experimenting and also rediscovering some long-forgotten gems. in a country with such fantastic beer, it is often difficult to find privately brewed, less common types of beer unless you go to a more specialist Getränkemarkt
(the drinks store broadly comparable to a large off-licence in the UK, which in Germany are usually located in out-of-town industrial zones, ergo, tough to reach if you don’t have a car). Bars and restaurants rarely offer more than a standard Pils and a Hefeweizen
on tap. If this also starts to change, and there are signs that it is, then this will exponentially enrich the experience of a Saturday night out on the town for the beer connoisseur living in the cradle of beer civilisation! Two examples of this trend are interesting and new types of Bock
beer and Märzen
beer, both of which are traditional, if somewhat unloved among the masses, German beer varieties.
A Tipsy Trip
Below is a brief rundown of the different types of beer I tried during my visit last night. As you can see, I am not a huge fan of IPA: Nothing against them per se, it’s just personal preference that I don’t like hoppy, fruity tasting beer. I tended to concentrate on some of the stronger and darker types of beer which they had on offer and for the first two beers, I sampled two local craft beers from the Mainz/Wiesbaden area. So, here’s to the beers:
Beer number 3
, LaBierAtorium Alte Welt Ale
(old world ale) from Brandenburg in eastern Germany. A hint of smokiness and with a bitter taste round off an all-round decent beer.
Beer number 4
, Faust Brauerei Winterfest Bier
from Miltenberg in Lower Franconia, a beautiful setting surrounded by hills along the River Main. A classic example of a traditional brewery expanding into the craft scene whilst holding on heavily to its roots.
Beer number 5
, SuperFreunde Golden Pale Ale
from Berlin’s trendy suburb of Friedrichshain. These guys are definitely part of the new start-up scene and are all about their brand. An easy-to-drink ale which would be perfect in summer.
Beer number 6
, Rheinhessen Bräu Winterbock
, a delicious dark bock beer with a whiff of roasted malt, from a brewery set in the middle of the Rheinhessen vineyards.
Beer number 7
and by far the best beer of the night was from Vulkan Brauerei Bourbon Barrel DoppelBock
. This is really something special, a light-coloured bock beer which is matured in imported bourbon barrels from the US and is cooled in the world’s deepest beer cellar.
Beer number 8
and my least favourite of the night was Sander Schockolator
. This strong, chocolatey stout was disappointing, as I usually love these types of beer. However, I probably just picked the wrong choice as they have lots of variety in their portfolio and a well-established website.
Beer number 9
, an unusual but very nice Rye beer (Roggenbier)
from Alzeyer Völker Bräu
, which from their website and stand look like almost a one-man hobby project. Impressive stuff for such a small outfit.
And finally to round off the night was beer number 10
which was a Ravenkraft Red Ale
brewery in Nuremberg, in the heart of Franconia brewing country, a red lager similar in taste to beer number 2.
Better To Have A Spoonful Of Gold…
If any of you are wondering how did I manage to drink 10 pints of strong, German craft beer, well…no, I’m not a Geordie rugby player. They gave out taster glasses upon entry and the measures typically were 0.1 litre to allow you to taste as many beers as possible. A good plan, and respect to the event organisers for laying on free water dispensers throughout the hall! We all made the S-Bahn home easily enough and even managed to resist the temptation of the kebab shop stop on the way home.