Following my stay in Munich this summer, I have written a fair bit about small, but encouranging signs of innovation. I´m happy to say that there is a growing debate about key concepts, not entirely unrelated to the discussion in the English (English as in language, not as an geographical entity) beer blogs recently. There are two separate issues, both centered around Craft Bier (Yes, the Germans aren´t shy about borrowing English words these days.). One is about hijacking the term, the other about trying to ridicule it. The first story comes from the newly established Brew Berlin. They tell about the Ratsherrn Brauerei, who have tried to register Craft Beer as a protected trade name in Germany. There have been strong protests that one of the big players in the beverage sector tries to monopolize the concept. Even more important is the issue raised by two Bavarian beer bloggers, following the publication of an article in Fine, a wine magazine. The article tries to ridicule the merging craft beer scene in Germany, using labels like technology fetichists. It states that the craft beers fail to do what the classical pils achieves, to produce elegance and intensity without any fuss. All those double and triple beers, IPAs and AIPAs, do not, with their double or even triple fermentation with high levels of alcohol, match the charm of an elegant pils. The reaction to this was started by Mareike in feinerhopfen.wordpress.com, and followed up by Daniel at usox.org. Mareike points out that the micro, craft and cuckoo brewers make beers that fit into a gourmet setting. Quality is about something else than punching a few buttons on a production computer and then getting beer out at the other end in a few hours. If one wants to look for technology fetichists, it is more linked to the Reinheitsgebot culture, though it does not have much to do with enjoyment. In a letter to the editor of the magazine, Daniel questions the use of the concept quality in the article. He points out that the macro breweries of Germany, who are recommended as having a consistent quality, often cheat by using ingredients like hop extract or malt extract. If there is one thing the craft breweries have in common, it is their committment to prime ingredients. Go ahead, read their blogs. Google translate is there to help you. And cheer them on !
Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category
From the Klosterbrauerei Weißenohe, a bottle of Bonator. The name gives it away, a Doppelbock. Brewed somewhere deep in Franconia. Brought home from Munich this summer, enjoyed after a brisk walk in the autumn air in the Norwegian mountains.
Pours a very dark red, with soft carbonation. Creamy mouth feel. Cereals, biscuits, malt, a hint of redcurrants, some burned sugar. Not too sweet, a very impressive strong Bock. As the leaves are falling, it is time to turn to beers like this.
The problem with technological innovation in the brewing industry is that it usually means better logistics for the boring industrial beers, while the quality brews are stuck with the old solutions. There are exceptions, of course. Disposable kegs have done wonders for the distribution of craft beer around the globe.
And in a Getränkemarkt on the outskirts of Augsburg i found these. Self cooling kegs for your anniversary, office party or whatever. With Ayinger Helles. I could think of other beers that I’d like in units like this.
Fuller’s London Pride or Nøgne Ø Saison are my candidates.
Roll out the barrels!
Regional belonging is a concept I struggle with as a Norwegian. The main reason is probably that we are just too small as a nation to develop much of a regional identity in the modern age, apart from speaking our own dialects. In some ways we are more of a Norwegian region in a Nordic context.
I spent a few weeks in Munich this summer as a participant observer, taking part in a work atmosphere - in an actual office, not an international conference. This also gave me the opportunity to seek out a fair number of licensed establishments in my spare time. This made me realize that there are strong similarities among Bavaria and Italy when it comes to pride in their region and its produce. It does not stop at the regional, but keeps going further - you also have a loyalty to your sub-region, etc down to your tiny village.
If you can source it locally, you don’t need to get anything from the next town.
Obviously this does not encompass capital goods, shoes, clothes and so on. But it is deeply felt in food and beer.
I get echoes from my old anthropology lessons here. There seem to be different spheres. There is the hi-tech Germany. The Germany of BMW, Siemens and what have you. This is the economic tugboat that tries to make the rest of Europe move along, grow and prosper.
At the same time you have this fascination for the local. For the village where you grew up. Where the traditional values are honored. Where they raise the maypole outside the inn as they used to do.
I looked up Heimat, which is a term that is at the core of this. Heimat has no English equivalent. It has to do with ancestry, community and tradition. It has to do with nostalgia for a life that has been lost – torn apart by war and dictatorship and later slowly eroded by economic forces or a government somewhere on the Rhine, or, more lately, the Spree.
We don’t have the word in Norwegian,, either. but it is a real factor for us, too, just beneath the surface. Our two referendums on membership in the European Union shows that Heimat and the contrast it offers to those who rule you or want to rule you trumps all other arguments when you really mobilize.
But back to the Bavarians and their regional cuisine. The menus are spelling it out. Bavarian asparagus. Bavarian beef and pork. Bavarian trout. Even vegetarian dishes turn up to be focused on Bavarian spuds and leaves. The Hofbräuhaus in Munich has a podcast that manages to find new angles every month. They often focus on where their vegetables, beef, cheese and lettuce come from, interviewing the farmers, who are not only Bavarian, but preferably live in Upper Bavaria.
Why is there a brewpub in Munich airport and not anywhere else? Look closer. Sure, they brew beer. But they also boast that 85 per cent of their supplies come from regional produce. Just what you need. It is the last and first stop of your trip to foreign lands, Prussia, or even further away.
There is a tragedy at the core of this. The attempts to build a national identity in the 19th and first half of the 20th were not successful. Even cheering for your national football team is a fairly recent event here. German patriotism has been deeply stained. So one has to look inwards, closer to home, to find identity. Living in a federal state with lots of decentralized power in regions larger than many European nations strengthens this trend, it actively encourages it. If you cannot fly your national banner, you can be proud of the Bavarian white and blue. And, in a land of agricultural plenty, let’s be proud of what we can produce. Which is a lot.
In a European market overflowing with cut-price meat and vegetables, butter and beer, the regional authorities and trade associations play on this sense of region and Heimat. Be sure to ask for Bavarian quality. Accept no substitutes. Other countries celebrate their days of liberty, of liberation or victories at land or sea. The Bavarians celebrate the Reinheitsgebot of 1516.
Sure, there are plenty of Italian restaurants. There are kebab shops on the corners, sushi conveyor belts and cheese counters in the big supermarkets where you can find Italian and French specialities. But the beer is most likely from the local area, even Getränkemarkt bottle shops will have a very limited range of beers. I managed to track down two beer shops in Munich with a broad range of beers.
A broad range means hundreds of different beers. Did I find any imports? About a dozen. BrewDog, Corona, Guinness and Pilsner Urquell. No Belgian, no English, no Italian beer.
If you look closely, you will find a few IPAs and imperial stouts, but they will be from Bavarian breweries. The innovation in the beer field is coming from small breweries in the region, which pose no danger to the big players. Speciality beers still basically mean beers from tiny family breweries, the most daring of them using smoke malt or having the rebellious streak of offering a Dobbelbock out of season. There is some hope in reports that the big supplier of malt in the region, Weyermann, actively encourages upstart breweries to look beyond the standard range and brew pale ales or other varieties. But you’re not likely to find a trace of these beers when you look at the statistics of annual consumption.
So, the important question: Will this change over time?
My guess is that the changes will come very gradually. There is some distribution of innovative bottled beers, but I don’t think they will rock the boat. What is needed is someone with financial muscle to establish something that could have an impact in Munich and create a buzz.
A Munich brewpub with a beer garden with ample seating for all seasons offering a broad range of beers with inspiration from Belgium and the US could do the trick. But someone with more knowledge about real estate in Munich than me should do the math.
I could be greatly mistaken. Things happen fast in the beer world. Maybe there will be a BrewDog bar and a Mikkeller Biergarten challenging the culinary conservatism in a year or two. But I think the odds are better for changes from within.
There is plenty more, of course.
And if you cannot be bothered to look it up, there are a few touristic options:
- Beer and breweries guided tour that starts in front of the Tourist information office at Marieplatz.
- Beer and Oktoberfest Museum in a little alley close to the Schneider Weissbräu.
- Walk around the Viktalienmarkt, while not up there with the most amazing markets in Barcelona, London or Barcelona, it has special stalls for mustard, poultry, cheese, sausages, game and what have you. They have a beer garden where the big six rotate to have their beers on. The signs say Helles, Weisse etc, so it’s more or less the same. Have a look at the organic stalls, they have a few beers that are not too common.
As for me, the next time I’m in Munich, you’ll find me on a stool at the Red Hot Bar.
It is hard to distinguish between the six big players on the Munich beer market. As you can see, they even have a marketing cooperation. Identical Maß, identical contents.
I find it more interesting to blog about the small breweries. The ones who don’t have global distribution or have their own tents during the Oktoberfest.
But don’t get me wrong.
I may be snobbish. But I absolutely see the point in drinking a mass of Hofbräu, Augustiner or Löwenbräu in good company in one of the beer gardens of central Munich.
But the marketing departments of the city of Munich and the breweries themselves makes sure that this information is easy to come by.
So relax. Have a Bretzel. Have a beer. It’s not as if it’s hard to find.
You see the same trend everywhere. The Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen. Ringnes, Schous and Frydenlund in Oslo. Young’s in London.
The old breweries might be nice, but for the stockholders they are far more valuable as real estate. Beer can be brewed everywhere. But sizeable areas in the inner cities are getting scarce.
This applies to Munich as well, and as the global giants of the beer industry has gobbled up the breweries of the city, there are sizeable areas with potential for development. Right now, the architects are sketching new housing areas at the site of the Paulaner brewery.
Paulaner as well as Hacker-Pschorr belongs to Brau Holding International, partly owned by Heineken.
More on the plans in Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Since I’m the one asking, you have probably guessed the answer.
There was no Biergarten weather in Munich that afternoon, but it was perfecly pleasant for a stroll. Avoiding the main avenues around my flat, I came across an old graveyard. The Südlicher Friedhof is a beautiful place, where nature is slowly taking over. Crumbling memorials in marble speak of families long gone, ivy and other greenery creep slowly forward. Is seems like a long time since anyone was buried here, though some of the memorials are in better shape than others.
A large gravestone stands just by the path, and the title catches my eye. Bierbrauer. It even gives the name of the brewery, Bierbrauer zum Sternecker. Johann Baptist Trappentreu. Not only a brewer, but also a Rittmeister. He died in 1873, 77 years old, but someone has made sure his memory has not faded away as his neighbours in the cementery.
The Sternecker Brewery was located in Tal, close to where the present day Schneider Weissbräu is located. According to Wikipedia, there is documentation of a brewery on the premises way back in 1557.
Long after Rittmeister Trappentreu had passed away, the brewery and its brewery tap got famous. When you google Sterndecker Brauerei, most of what you get is Nazi memorablia.
The Sternecker brewery was the venue for regular meetings in the Nazi party from 1919, and a party museum was established on the premises in 1933 by Hitler himself.
The building survived the war, but the Gasthaus was closed in 1959 and the ground floor was used for shops.
Today there is an autorized Apple dealer on the premises. But if you look down the alley on the side of the building, the Beer and Oktoberfestmuseum is down in the alley. In Sterneckerstrasse. So there is some kind of continuity after all.
This is a beer blog, and I have no ambitions to make comments on world history or grave matters concerning the future of the planet. But sometimes the beer and the breweries are interwoven with history, in particular in Germany. You cannot pretend that there are dark shadows behind the present charm. This is not so obvious in Bavaria as in Berlin. But it is there if you look a bit more closely.
Rest in peace, Johann. It is certainly not you fault that, almost 40 years after you passed away, you brewery was home to evil deeds. I have no wish to see the brewery rebuilt. But maybe someone should plant some hops by your memorial?