25 August 2010

German beer

I have to admit something a little embarrassing. It's not embarrassing for me personally. Rather, it's a little bit embarrassing for the German Nation. And also a little embarrassing for me personally. This is partially because, in my mind, I am Germany in your mind. It is also partially because, in researching this post, I realised a lot of my own personal failings.

Beer in Germany is, above everything, traditional. In 1516, some Bavarian king instated the Reinheitsgebot, or "purity law," stating that beer may contain only malt, hops, and water. Apparently, in the 16th century it wasn't uncommon to add harmful or hallucinogenic ingredients to beer. The law was admirable in that it allowed people to drink beer (probably the only available beverage) without pesky divine visions or whatever form hallucinations generally took in the 16th century. Later, scientists or brewers or brewer-scientists realised that yeast was also necessary, so the law was changed to accommodate this. Eventually, the Reinheitsgebot was adopted all over Germany, and has persisted unto the present day. And Germans are very proud of this. To wit, the website of the Brewers' Association of Germany features three prominent axioms as gateways to various areas of the site: "Beer is pure," "Beer is Enjoyment," and "Beer is Germany."

Of course, not all beers brewed according to this law are awesome. Cheap beer, too, is brewed this way. Now, admittedly, cheap German beer is excessively cheap, and not as bad as my (admittedly limited) experience with cheap American beer. It's just, an absence of arsenic doesn't always makes for a great beer. German beer just doesn't always taste good. I don't like Berliner Pilsner, for instance, even though it isn't really even all that cheap. Germany is not some magical beer heaven, and in fact the weight of tradition dictates that people drink beer even if it isn't that delicious.

On the other hand, it's not as if you can't brew a great bear beer according to the Reinheitsgebot. I'm pretty sure 90-95% of delicious American beers also follow it, because most beer aspires only to be beer. I have no problem with the Reinheitsgebot, really. It's just I think it's unnecessarily limiting. When I visited the Harpoon Brewery, I had a beer that had been brewed with a few dozen oysters. It was deliciously chocolatey and also deliciously delicious, and it would never have been possible if America were as draconian as Germany about beer ingredients. The original Reinheitsgebot seems to me to have outlived its usefulness; that is, if a brewery wanted to put hallucinogens in its beer, it would only be allowed to market the stuff in the Netherlands due to other, more modern, laws--and it would advertise this feature of the beer pretty prominently, even though the "purity" of the beer would be compromised.

My local supermarket has some delicious beers: Pilseners, light and dark Hefeweizens, a couple of Schwarzbiers (see below)...and that seems to be pretty much it. That is, Germans do lagers. They don't really seem to have ales. This is kind of a problem, because Pale Ales, Porters, Stouts, etc. are a part of my conception of a balanced beer diet.

"Kyritz Murder and Deathblow. Schwarzbier. Brewed according to the German purity law."
Anyway this beer was good, but the taste kind of overpowered my lunch.

On the other hand, I'm rethinking my conception of a balanced beer diet. I'm in Germany, not England. Different countries have their own languages, their own cuisines, and their own beers. Who am I to complain, if I come to Germany, and all I find are German styles of beer? Answer: I am no one to complain. Like, I'm being ridiculous. 

I've also found a list of breweries and brewpubs in Berlin, and there seem to be a lot of them. In perusing the lists of offerings, I have realised that small breweries are (predictably) much more adventurous than my supermarket (although they still don't do ales). So anyway I'll let you know as soon as I visit some of these places.

Now, some beer comedy:

Beck's Pilsener, according to the website, is "a beer that fits you: sovereign, self-assured, and cosmopolitan" [my own translation].

Also, a block away from my current residence:

The Beer House Sunrise. 

Because there is nothing better than enjoying a nice lager at sun-up. (The bushes in front are just the median strip of the Sonnenallee. I don't live in the woods.)


  1. You'll have to show me your favorite beers when I come to visit! =) And you'll have to have wine when you come to Paris. Unless you don't like wine. Then I'm sure we can find some good beer here.. Or, actually, I'm not so sure. So I hope you like wine. =)

  2. The only major problem I have, Reinheitsgebot excluded, with brewing a great bear: catching it in the first place. The rest is easy.