An independent guide to finding German Beer in Britain, in pubs, bars, restaurants or specialist off licences. We aim to list sources of all German beers: Altbiers, Berliner Weisse, Hefeweizen, Märzen, Kölsch, Oktoberfest bier, Kristallweizen, Munchner Helles, Dortmunder and more (but not the ones you find everywhere — like Becks and Holsten Pils).
Please mail me with feedback or new additions.
Now available from the CAMRA bookshop, Steve Thomas's new "Good Beer Guide: Germany" is a fantastic wealth of information on German beer, German pubs and German beer culture. it includes a comprehensive listing of 1005 German breweries with details of opening times, beers brewed, contact details and location maps. There are also descriptions of the various beer styles and a guide to the terminology used, and an alphabetical index of breweries arranged both by brewery name and by town. As if this were not enough, there are also pub guides for the cities of Augsburg, Bamberg, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Köln, Leipzig, München, Nürnberg and Stuttgart. Get it, grab a Eurostar ticket and explore!
Congratulations again to the organisers of CAMRA's Great British Beer Festival. As usual, there was a magnificent array of German beer, both in bottles and in the keg. Many of them were beers that you can't otherwise find in the UK. Added to that, there was a tutored tasting session on Friday afternoon, led by Tom Perera of Knickerbockers Beer Tours and Lorenzo Dabove, who presented a range of German beers including Hell, Bock, Weiße, Schwarzbier, Pils and a hoppy Italian version of Sticke. Make sure it's in your diary for next year and check out local CAMRA beer festivals as they often have an array of foreign beers.
Check out my Gose page for tasting notes and notes on where to find it.
As ever, the Bières Sans Frontières bar at CAMRA's Great British Beer Festival was fertile hunting ground for German beers. From the keg, we had Hummel-Bräu Märzen, Hummel-Bräu Räucherla (a smoked beer), Früh Kölsch, Neder Schwarze Anna, Mahr's Bräu Helles, Mahr's Bräu Pilsner and Augustiner Edelstoff, among others. In bottles, we had a good range of helles and weissbiers including Staffelberg-Bräu Hefe-Weißbier, Andechs Weißbier, Andechs Dunkles Weißbier, Schneider Aventinus, Schneider Weisse, Recken Edel-Pils, Reissdorf Kölsch, Huber Weisses, Schlenkerla Rauchbier-Märzen, Schlenkerla Rauchweizen and Rittmayer Hallendorfer Hefeweissbier. From Austria, we had, in bottles: Trumer Weizen, Trumer Pils, Salzburger Weissbierbrauerei's Die Weisse, Kapsreiter Landbier Hell, Kapsreiter Landbier Goldbraun and Kapsreiter Stadtbräu. That's quite a selection, by any standards and those are just the ones that I can remember. Huge thanks are due to the organisers and all the unpaid volunteers who helped to make the festival happen. Of all of the beers, my favourite has to be Schwarze Anna: dark, deep and substantial but sweet and juicy: a marvel. If you missed the festival, make a note in your diary now: next year's festival will be held at Earl's Court from August 1st-5th 2006. Don't miss it if you want to explore German beers, and don't miss the chance to try the greatest British ales, too.
Recent corporate buyouts of German brewers are casting a dark cloud over German beer and raising fears of a meltdown in the world of German beer [read more...].
Britain has a fantastic brewing tradition and should be proud of its own beers but there's nothing at all wrong with brewing German-style beers in the UK. Many US microbreweries brew American versions of Kölsch, Hefeweizen and Altbier and some of them are excellent. Meantime brewery in London is a good example of how to do this properly in the UK. Their versions of German beers (sold as Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Cologne-Style Lager [sic], Munich Style Festival Lager, Bavarian Style Wheat Beer, Organic Bavarian Style Lager and Viennese Style Amber Lager) are very good UK versions of German beers, brewed by Alastair Hook, who trained at Weihenstephaner in Bavaria. Their packaging is not dishonest and makes clear that they are British-brewed beers in German styles, expertly brewed and unpasteurised. Unfortunately, not all UK versions of German beers are so clear about their origins.
Samuel Smith's pubs serve Ayingerbrau beers, including a draught Hefeweizen. Their pumps are evocative of Bavaria, with a plump, moustache-touting, shaving-brush-hat-wearing chap in Bavarian dress on the pump, and Germanic lettering. However, despite it's name, Ayingerbrau beer is brewed by Samuel Smiths in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, not in Aying, Bavaria. Their Hefeweizen is actually a fairly reasonable stab at the style and may help to broaden the horizons of British drinkers who haven't encountered the real thing, but a more clear approach would certainly be a good thing. I'm sure Samuel Smiths don't intend to deceive, but emails I have received leave me in no doubt that at least some people mistake them for genuine German brews and I made the same mistake when I first encountered them.
Far less reputable are the antics of Hofbrauhaus München and Hall & Woodhouse / Badger Brewery. Hofbräu beers (HB Lager, HB Export and HB Premium) look at first glance as though they're from the famous Munich Hofbrauhaus and are available in Hall & Woodhouse pubs. I spotted the German-style pumps with the famous HB logo of the Munich Hofbrauhaus while passing St. Stephen's Tavern opposite the House of Commons, so I took a trip back to the pub when I had a bit of free time, hoping to sample the Hofbrauhaus beers I had tasted in Munich. It was a great disappointment. The beers are not brewed in Munich but by Hall & Woodhouse at the Badger Brewery in Dorset under license from Hofbrauhaus München. They are not at all like real Hofbrauhaus beers and don't stand a chance of fooling anyone who has tasted a genuine Munich beer. "HB Lager" is only 3.7% ABV and so belongs in the dismal tradition of weaker British imitations of continental lagers: weak, bland, and a great disappointment to anyone expecting the original. I have never encountered a German lagerbier as weak as 3.7%. The Hall & Woodhouse website doesn't hide the true origin of the beers, but it's all too easy to confuse them for genuine Hofbrauhaus beers when scanning the bar.
Other brewers are moving the other way in recognition of the growing appreciation in Britain of quality international beers and the importance of protecting their reputations. Heineken has abandoned its weak, British version and is now importing all its UK-sold beer from the Netherlands for a more authentic touch. Löwenbräu similarly used to sell an inferior British-brewed version but now sell only genuine Munich Löwenbräu beer. Their reputation is enhanced as a result and drinkers get a better taste experience. Why are Hofbrauhaus München going against the tide and cheapening their reputation by brewing an inferior product in the UK? Your guess is as good as mine. I shudder to think at the reaction of German tourists visiting Westminster who spot the HB pumps and think they are getting a Munich beer (they should really be taking the opportunity to sample British ales rather than drinking the stuff they get at home, but that's another story). It can hardly enhance the reputation of British brewing in German eyes and it does a disservice to British drinkers.
Footnote: an August 2004 article in the Publican states that Budweiser Budvar UK is teaming up with other brewers including Heineken, Charles Wells, Adnams and Ubevco to for a new organisation to promote genuine imported beer and highlight the fact that some beers are misleadingly sold as authentic but are in fact brewed under licence. I've also found another nasty impostor: Damburger Export, which has a faux-German name and is packaged to look at first glance as though it is German. A closer look shows that it's actually from Martens in Belgium. It's a cheap and nasty lager that's best avoided.
Highly recommended: "Bamberg and Franconia: Germany's Brewing Heartland" by John Conen. Published independently in May 2003 and available from the CAMRA bookshop. This 120 page guide is the only English-language guide dedicated to the brewing culture of Franconia, and includes colour photographs, a guide to how German beer is brewed, a guide to local food and menus, and a list of all Franconia's breweries. There is also plenty of general tourist information for the visitor. Even if you'll never set foot in Franconia, this book provides a wealth of useful information about German beer and much of the more general information is applicable also to other parts of Bavaria and the rest of Germany. The author has been visiting Franconia for 20 years and has built up a considerable expertise. The book conveys it well, in a readable and interesting form. It will be vastly useful even for visitors to the region who don't drink beer, as it also provides information on local areas, food, tourism and travel.
Hint: If there's an umlaut (two dots above a letter) in the word, try adding an 'e' after the letter (i.e. 'koelsch' instead of 'kölsch') or try searching only the part of the word without the umlaut -- i.e. for "Fürstliche" try "rstliche"
Thanks to: Peter Garrod, Bob Thomson, David Roberts, Martyn Wall of Beer Paradise, Dave Jones of the Real Ale Tasting Society, Sarah Draper
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