It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, I know you always say that Germany has the best beer but let's be honest about this;
there's lots of crap beer brewed in Germany. There is also a large amount of very good beer
produced, but to insist that all German beer is good is evidently ridiculous. Not all British beer
is good, not all Belgian beer is good, not even all Czech beer (you know how I love it) is good.
From the caramelly, boiled-sweet flavour of a mass-produced alt through a soapy, sweetish
helles to a one-dimensional pils that tastes like lemonade with added hop-extract, there are
plenty of uninspired or downright unpleasant beers boasting of their German heritage.
Don't blow a gasket yet. I readily acknowledge that the pub-brewed altbiers of Düsseldorf are
some of the finest examples of top-fermented beers to be found anywhere in the world. A
Franconian unfiltered kellerbier is a revelation to anyone thinking that bottom-fermented beers
could never rival ales for subtlety and complexity of flavour. A Bavarian weizen, with its
bouquet of spices - coriander, cloves, banana even - can confound the limitations of its
ingredients and achieve flavors straight from the spice mill. There is much diversity and much
to be very proud of in the German brewing world. But not everything is like that.
Now before you lecture me on Reinheitsgebot (purity laws) all I want to say is who needs it?
Sometimes I think you are hypnotised by the 'pure' beer argument and find it hard to believe
that beer with other ingredients can not only be just as pure, but also taste just as good or
better. A crap, money-grubbing commercial brewery will manage to brew bland swill in
Germany (or anywhere else for that matter) either within or without the constraints of the
Reinheitsgebot. The problem is, that concentration on this limited list of ingredients as the core
of beer quality allows compromise in many other key areas.
For me, it's all about the factors which are truly crucial to the taste of a beer: the quality of the
ingredients, lagering times, pasteurisation, filtration and carbonation. I think it has been all to
easy for many German breweries, and not only the large ones, to gloss over the introduction
of dubious techniques by insisting that they still brewed 'pure' beer.
As long as it tastes good and doesn't have anything harmful in it, the brewers should be
allowed to use whatever ingredients they choose. You only have to look a Belgium to see how
far the frontiers of what is considered beer can be pushed back.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next month.
Gina, I love good German beer and am proud to shout it out to you. The Germans have been in
the beer game for a long time. And I’m not talking about the better part of the 20th century.
Tribes in present-day Germany have been brewing beer since the ‘bronze age’, yes, the ‘bronze
age’-as in around 1000 B.C. You know what they say- practice makes perfect!
As you know, probably the most influential factor as to why German beer is so good is a little law
passed in 1516 called the ‘Reinheitsgebot‘, or ‘purity law’. Yes, the same one you just lambasted.
It was introduced by Bavarian co-rulers Duke Wilhelm IV and Duke Ludwig X in an effort to
regulate the brewing industry in Bavaria. It stated that beer could only be produced from water,
barley, and hops. Although the law would later change and yeast would introduced, this simple
brewing law would lay the foundation standard for the great German beers even until today.
German beer tastes like beer. It’s simple; and that's why they're great. Having said that, I now
have to admit that the comforting presence of the Reinheitsgebot tends to suggest that all is well
in the world of German beer but, in reality (and in agreement with you), German breweries are
just as susceptible to takeovers, amalgamations and shifting of brewing to other breweries as
those of any other nation. International brewing conglomerates such as Carlsberg and Interbrew
are beginning to take over German breweries while the German Brau und Brunnen conglomerate
swallows more and more German breweries. Big is not necessarily bad, but big companies are
more likely to skimp on quality for the sake of profits than small, independent brewers who have a
pride in their product.
Let's agree to agree that Germany makes great beer as do many other countries. Now I'm going
to sit back and have a bottle of Berliner Bürgerbräu Weissbier that our colleague Dan Hodge
brought back from his recent trip to Germany and after that a bottle of Weihenstephaner
Korbinian. Try to top those Gina.
Here's looking at you, kid! See you next month.