There has been quite a lot of debate recently on various blogs about the awakening of interest in Germany, in Craft Beer. Some might argue that this is long overdue, given the rather staid and solidly traditional nature of much of the country’s brewing industry. Some highly respected and knowledgeable bloggers, including Barry Masterton (The Bitten Bullet) and Barm and have waded into the debate and have provided details of their own experiences with German Craft Beer and, just recently, Boak & Bailey were asking whether anyone had come across examples of “craft” slants on classic German styles.
My experiences of German craft are rather limited, and apart from reading various posts from some of the aforementioned bloggers, and looking on the odd website, that’s about it. This changed back in March when my son and I visited Berlin for the first time.
We hadn’t visited the German capital with the purpose of looking for German craft; although I am sure we could have tracked some down with a bit of effort and some forward planning. Instead we stumbled on some quite by chance, when we called in at Galleria Kaufhof, East Berlin’s largest department store. Ostensibly we wanted a look around, along with the opportunity to pick up some goodies (biscuits and chocolates) for our respective work colleagues back home, but whilst browsing some of the items on sale in the massive food hall, I noticed a display of something close to my heart – beer!
It wasn’t just any old beer, it was craft beer; German Craft beer in fact, with an impressive display dedicated to this newcomer on the scene. The display was advertising, as well as displaying the products of a company called BraufactuM, although as well as their own beers there were a number of classic beers from other countries, in particular from the United States and Belgium.
Alongside traditional German beer styles there were Pale Ales and IPA’s, Strong Ales, Barley Wines plus Porters and Stouts. There were also fruit beers and Belgian style ales. All the BraufactuM examples were packaged in the company’s distinctive looking bottles with their informative, but minimalist style labels. Most were an unusual 355ml size, but here were several packaged in 750ml, magnum-style bottles. The latter were quite expensive, even for Germany, so I left ignored them, along with some of the more traditional local styles. Instead I picked up a couple of bottles; one a pale ale called Palor, and the other a beer called Colonia. When I got the beers home I realised the later was in fact a Kölsch, and the name a play on the old Roman name for the city where Kölsch is produced – Cologne. I also picked up an informative leaflet; some of which is reproduced here.
So who exactly are BraufactuM? Well, they are the craft beer arm of the Radeberger Gruppe, who in turn are owned by the massive Dr. Oetker Group, probably best known in this country for frozen pizzas!
„Die Internationale Brau-Manufacturen GmbH“, (BraufactuM for short), was set up in May 2010 by Marc Rauschmann and Thorsten Schreiber, both of whom already worked for Radeberger. The duo claim that before they began brewing craft beers in Germany, they went on a journey visiting brewers all over the world, looking for inspiration and for something special. Their journey took them to Belgium, Italy, the UK and, on several occasions, to the USA .
After enjoying beers brewed with the sort of dedication and technical artistry we have come to expect from Craft-brewing, the duo’s ideas about their own craft beers began to reach maturity. By the end of the trip, they were convinced that they needed to brew their own beers: Craft beers with a German twist.
BraufactuM’s aim is to combine the openness for new discoveries of American and other international craft brewers with the centuries-old German tradition and expertise in beer brewing. The company’s philosophy regarding brewing and quality does not end with the creation of exceptional beers and the use of carefully selected ingredients. They make considerable play of the claim that all their beers are packaged in very dark bottles for optimal light protection. They are then kept cool storage straight after bottling and protected from temperature peaks during transportation. Finally, the recommend an appropriately high-quality glass for the final step, namely the enjoyment of the beer!
So after all this attention to detail, sourcing of the finest ingredients etc, what did the two beers taste like?
BraufactuM Palor Pale Ale 5.2% - Now here’s a first for me, a German Pale Ale, and a very good one at that. Presented in a 355ml bottle with a simplistic, but stylish label, Palor is amber in colour, and with a dense white head.The beer has some hop aroma, but the hops come through much more in the taste. According to the label, Polaris and Cascade aroma hops are used in what is described as “an elegant version of a British Bitter”. I have to say the balance between the hop character and the sweet, juicy malt is just right, so I’m really pleased I brought this beer back from my recent visit to Berlin.
The malt base is Pale Ale Malt, Pilsner Malt and what is described as Karamellmalz (crystal malt?). The address on the label is Frankfurt am Main, although this is not necessarily where the beer is brewed. Palor is a very good beer all round, and for a German Pale Ale, pretty amazing.
BraufactuM Colonia Obergäriges Bitterbier 5.5% - Another beer presented in the same 355ml bottle as the Pale Ale. This time it’s a take on a Kölsch, the classic Top-fermented light-coloured beer from Cologne, (hence the name Colonia). Light golden in colour, with a nice lacy head, and a good hoppy nose (Citrus and pineapple, according to the label). Dry-hopped with Sapphire Hops, this is another excellent and very drinkable beer.
Of course BraufactuM aren’t the only producers of Craft beer in Germany, and as I said at the beginning of the article I am certain we could have tracked down a craft few producers, and outlets in Berlin had we been so inclined. This summer’s holiday is yet to be finalised, but a return visit to Regensburg, where SpitalBräu seem to be turning out some interesting new beers, remains a possibility, as does a visit to southern Bavaria (Oberbayern), where a stop-over in Munich would almost certainly be on the cards. An outfit called Giesinger Bräu were around on our last visit to the city, ago, but we never managed to track them down. Two years on, and I’m certain their beers will be much more widely available, so hopefully we’ll get to sample some this time around. Check out the websites for these two companies by clicking on the links above.