Tepid Tasting Traditional German Beers

15 Jun

When I first visited Germany in 1977 I took away a few lessons. First and foremost, the breads and the beer there were much, much better than anything I ever had in the USA. I loved going to the local baker every morning and buying a fresh loaf of Roggenbrot or a bagful of Brochen. Truth be told, I preferred going to a local Kneipe to sample some of the best beers in the world.

Living in Heidelberg with my friend Paul, after imbibing in a few, we would jokingly rate a given German brew as being the 14th, 22nd, or 81st “best beer in Germany, but it would be number one in America.” We were never wrong.

How things change.

My last few visits to Germany have all been fun, but the beer has been disappointing. Oh, it’s good. But it’s no longer distinctively better than what you can get here from an average microbrewery. And, yes, it’s still better than Budweiser or Miller by far, but those brands are no longer the benchmarks for American beer.

Germans are very traditional. They invented the so-called Beer Purity Law or the Reinheitsgebot back in 1516, which limits the ingredients to water, hops, and barley (yeast was permitted later once it was discovered as part of the brewer’s art). So, they don’t like to stray from their well-established Pils, Doppelbock, Dunkle, Weissbier, and other variants that have been around for centuries.

However, when you compare their great beers against the best from the USA and other nations, that strong tradition results in tepid brews. There have been many blind taste contests and sadly German beer never crack a top 10 list. In this one, only a single German contestant reached the top 100, coming in 77th. The microbrews from the USA are too numerous for me to count on this list.

I guess if Paul and I were sipping suds over here today and extolling the virtues of American beer, we might be slurring our ratings thusly: “The 33rd best beer in America, but it would be number one in Germany.” And we would be right.

At least he can still brag about the bread.

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2 Responses to “Tepid Tasting Traditional German Beers”

  1. Paulus tuus September 30, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    Sweet memories. Good old Gaby gave me your URL and I ran into this jocose observation of the change in beer quality. You might be right. But there is hope, at least in Heidelberg. Stift Neuburg, the monastery a little ways upstream, has its own brewery now and they are making a convincing brew of their own, which you must taste by all means next time you visit.
    But we can also have a couple of sessions where we will be determining the 15th best Red from France and challenge the 12th best Nappa Valley Red.

  2. Kathy Tobacco January 12, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    No, the bread isn’t better there either and I have had plenty of German bread. Artisan bread makers in America and all over the world have taken from tradition and expanded on it just like with beer making- evidentially. California wines are better than French wines too.

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