Sunday, 23 June 2013

German Lager styles in 1984 (part one)

Bored of me fiddling around in WW I's underwear? I thought so. Then you'll be happy to learn that we're moving forwards several decades to the 1980's. Ah, the 1980's - they seem like yesterday. Then again, I have been in a coma for 24 years.

The Journal of the Institute of brewing just keeps giving. I don't know how I survived without access to its wealth of facts. What makes it so special is that the articles aren't written by some time-serving hack, but genuine experts. Before WW II you have Sydney Nevile and Lloyd Hind. After the war De Clerq. One of the most difficult things to explain to part of the beer geek community is that not all sources are created equal. One Lloyd Hind or Schönfeld is worth more than 300 homebrewing texts.

My source today is Ludwig Narziss of Weihenstephan. A brewing scientist who wrote several books and numerous articles for technical journals. As he was working at Weihenstephan when this was written, I think we can trust him on German brewing practices of the time. Though the article it's taken from was entitled "The German Beer Law", there are lots of the technical details I love, most not that directly connected to the Reinheitsgebot.

The bits that most interest me are details of brewing methods and grists for different styles. It may sound odd, but I have more information about German beer 100 years ago than that of the present day. I suppose that's what you get when you spend your days with your nose inside old books, rarely venturing outside.

Here's a table of German beer types and their characteristics which is helpfully provided at the start of the article. Unlike most other countries, certain specifications are built into German national law and state laws.

Gravity of German Beers According to Beer Tax Law
Gravity % p Amount of production
'Plain beers' (Einfachbiere) 2.0-5.5% <0.l%
'Draught' beers (Schankbiere) 7-8% 0.20%
'Full' beers (Vollbiere) 11-14% 99%
Bock beers >16% 0.70%
According to other regulations
Lager beers 11-12%
Pils 11-12-5%
Export beers* for domestic consumption >12.5%
Special beers >13%
Märzen beers >13%
Bock beers >16%
Strong beers
'Saints' beers —'ators'  >18%

* Export beers to other countries has to comply with the regulations of the importing country.
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 90, Issue 6, November-December 1984, page 351.

Note how the overwhelming majority of beer produced was in the Vollbier category.

Some of the translations of German terms sound a little strange. Like the name of the first type of beer we're going to look at, "Light lagerbeer". Helles Lagerbier is what he means. Here's what he has to say about them:

"Light Beers with more Body
The traditional light Lager beer meets with different expectations throughout Bavaria. Whilst to the southern part and in Munich it has a light colour, it should be somewhat darker to the northeastern part of the country. Adding a small proportion of dark malt or of very light, light or dark caramel malt, the choice of the quality of brewing liquor, i.e. a higher residual alkalinity in combination with a more intensive mashing procedure, 2-decoction mashes of prolonged boiling time, the required wort and beer quality can be achieved. Usually, along with a more pronounced malt character, the hopping rate is reduced."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 90, Issue 6, November-December 1984, page 354.

It's not the easiest language to understand, especially as he's using "country" to mean Bavaria. I can't say that I had ever noticed that regional variation. The northeast of Bavaria - what exactly does he mean by that? Franconia is in the North but doesn't stretch very far to the East. That's where the Oberpfalz is - Zoigl country. I've not had enough beers from commercial breweries from that region to be able to comment. So darker, maltier and less hoppy. Interesting, because West of Oberpfalz in Franconia the hopping is a good bit heavier than in Munich.

Though now I think about it, Fässla in Bamberg brew something called Lagerbier which is a good bit darker than a normal Helles.

The next table gives details of Helles Lagerbier from various breweries, presumably in Bavaria:

Light lagerbeers of different character extract ca 11-5% P. = 1046*G
Brewery 1 2 3 4 5 6
Colour or beer EBC 5.5 7.5 7.5 9.0 11.0 14.0
Bitter unit EBC 18.0 22.0 28.5 26.0 23.0 20.0
Alcalinity of brewing liquor ºGH -3 +2 -2 +3 +3 +4
Colour EBC of malt 2.8 3.0 3.0 4.3 6.0 8.0
Specialmalts %
cara lightest (5 EBC) 3
light (40 EBC) 3 3 3} or
dark (130 EBC) or 1 3}
Dark malt (15 EBC) 10 40
Mashing procedure D2 1 D2 D2 D2 D2
Mashing-in temp ºC 62 45 52 52 52 37
I = Infusion mash.
D2 = Two mash decoction
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 90, Issue 6, November-December 1984, page 355.

You can see that there's considerable variation in both the colour and the bitterness levels. My guess would be that the bitterness levels have fallen since 1984. But without knowing which breweries the beers came from, that's impossible to check. I was more surpised by the variation in mashing techniques. The six breweries used four different mashing in temperatures. Even more surprisingly, one brewery used an infusion mash. I suspect this latter technique has gained in popularity over the last 30 years, mainly because it's cheaper and less time-consuming.

It's great to see some genuine modern Lager grists. All but two of the beers used some darker malt. The beers from brewery 2 and brewery 3 were the same colour despite, brewery 2 using some caramalt. This discrepancy can probably be accounted for by the different mashing schemes. A decoction mash, with it boiling of the wort, would tend to darken it.

Next time we'll be looking at special beers and methods of decoction mashing.


Rob said...

Is Colour EBC of Malt the color of the base malt?

If so, is #6 using a 57% Vienna/40% Munich grist? Seems like more of a Marzen than a Helles.

(yeah, yeah, probably too much bjcp influence on my brain)

Bryan the Beerviking said...

To northern Germans, a holiday in Bavaria is a trip abroad, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to find Bavarians using "country" to refer to Bavaria - although it could equally well be an artefact of the translation I suppose.

Barm said...

It is almost certainly a translation artefact, as you put it, since Germans use the same word Land to mean both country (as in sovereign state) and federal state (as in constituent part of the former).