Friday, 24 October 2014

Modern German beer styles

You might have noticed that Lager, especially German Lager has been very much on my mind recently. I have these occasional bouts of obsession. I'm sure I'll get over it eventually.

In the background I've been collecting as much data about German beer as I can. As much as I can collect within a reasonable time frame. The set has about 350 beers, mostly from Bavaria. Assigning styles to them has been fun. And by definition, to a certain extent arbitrary. I thought to myself "Why not check up the official German style definitions?" So I have done. No, it's not the BJCP deinitions. I've opted for those of the Deutscher Brauer-Bund, the German brewers' trade organisation. They should know what they're talking about, shouldn't they?

I'll admit that it's a pretty slimmed down set. They've lumped together plenty of things I would have split apart - the different colours of Hefeweizen, for example, and Lager Hell and Export Hell. And it's odd they've not bothered with a separate entry for Doppelbock, which is defined in German law.

What I'll be doing is to compare the specs I've harvested with the definitions of the Deutscher Brauer-Bund. I doubt there will be any huge disconnect because of the restrictions on gravity for certain types of beer. For example, any beer in a Vollbier style cannot have a gravity below 11º Plato, while a Bock must be above 16º Plato.

Here's the Deutscher Brauer-Bund's schema:

Modern German beer styles
Style category OG Plato ABV Comment
Alt Vollbier  11.5 4.8
Berliner Weisse Schankbier 7 to 8 2.8
Bockbier Starkbier min 16 7
Kölsch Vollbier 11.3 4.8
Lager dunkel Voll- or Schankbier 10 to 12 4.6-5.1 min 50% dark malt
Export dunkel Vollbier 12 to 14 5.1-5.6 min 50% dark malt
Lager hell Voll- or Schankbier 10 to 12 4.6-5.1
Export hell Vollbier 12 to 14 5.1-5.6
Pils Vollbier min 11 4.8
Schwarzbier Vollbier min 11 4.8-5
Weizenbier Vollbier 11 to 14 5.4
Leichtbier Voll- or Schankbier 7 to 12 2-3.2
Malztrunk Vollbier 11.7 0.5 top-fermenting
Kellerbier/ Kräusenbier/Zwickelbier/Zoigl Vollbier 11 to 14 4.5-5.5
Märzen Vollbier min 13 4.8-5.6
Oktoberfestbier Vollbier min 13.5 4.8-5.6
Rauchbier Vollbier 11 to 14 4.5-5.5
Roggenbier Vollbier min 11 5
Dinkelbier Vollbier min 11 5
Deutscher Brauer-Bund

The distinction between Lagerbier Hell and Export Hell seems to have been pretty much eroded. Many are just called Helles by the brewery no matter what their gravity. Overall, I've not too many arguments with their definitions.

Their list of styles I've identified in my 350 sample beers is a little bit longer:

Bock Rauch
Bock, Bernstein
Bock, Dunkel
Bock, Hell
Doppelbock Rauchweizen
Export, Bernstein
Festbier, Bernstein
Hefeweizen Dunkel
Kellerbier DunkelKellerbier, Bernstein
Lagerbier, Bernstein
Pale Ale
Spelt Beer
Vienna Lager

Though many of my extra entries are due to splitting a style like Bock into substyles and including foreign styles like Pale Ale and IPA.

This is all going to be handy background information for my slow trawl through the style numbers. I won't claim it'll be great fun, but it will be educational.

First under the microscope will be Helles. Or Lager Hell as I should really call it. Lager Hell - sounds like being in a pub that only sells Carling and Tennents


Erlangernick said...

An interesting undertaking. Nice to see Rotbier on there, with new versions having appeared in Nürnbergerland recently, some according to historic recipes, some not.

Curiosity prompts two questions: Why two identical Kellerbier entries, and is "Festbier" to be hell explicitly, or will it include dunkel?

BryanB said...

If your list is mostly Bavarian, it's not "German". (-;

Ones I can see missing include:

Winterbock (mostly northern, so missing from your sample)

Rauch Weizen (rare. eg. Schlenkerla)

Weissbier Schwarz (eg. Kapuziner, the Scneider Porter Weisse also kind of fits here)

You might also want to differentiate Munich Dunkel from some of the other Dunkels, especially some of the northern ones)

Oh, and of course Lichtenhainer, Gratzer and Gose!

Ron Pattinson said...


there's a simple reason those styles don't appear in the list is that there were no examples of them in my set of data.

Ron Pattinson said...


the two Kellerbiers was just a mistake. I'm assuming Festbier to be pale. Dark and amber versions get their own substyle.

Gordon said...

Does it strike you as odd that leichtbier is described as 12P but 3.2%? That would mean it finishes at 6P. Leicht, indeed.

Ron Pattinson said...


the ABV is for Schankbier strength It does seem odd the Leichtbier can bre brewed at Vollbier strength.

A style I've spotted, but forgot to mention is Leicht Pils. Most of the ones I've come across were just under 8º Plato and about 2.8% ABV. There's one at 9.6º Plato, which is neither Schankbier nor Vollbier.

I've a post queued up for the beginning of next month with nmore details.

Ludger said...

Well, the list from the Brauerbund is kind of a list for beginners, a simple introduction into a complex field.
Lagers are grouped by six degrees of strength, which, to make it difficult, can overlap.
And there are four basic colours (pale, amber, dark and black).
Other characteristics like Rauch, unfiltered, seasonal or special grain are totally independent from strength and colour.
To make it even more difficult, many brewers do not care about the Brauerbund's list.
And finally, a term like "Landbier" is just a marketing term that does not tell you anything about the beer in the bottle.