Saturday, 1 August 2015

The beers and breweries of Thuringia (25 years ago)

Here's another installment of possibly the most useless guide ever. To part of a country that no longer exists.This time it's an overview of some of the breweries and their beers.

Thank god for Peter Crombecq. I'd picked up a copy of his book "Biersmaken" when I moved to Amsterdam in 1988. My main reason for buying it was that it had a complete list of Belgian beers. But it also contained a section on objectively tasting beer. It got me intrigued in trying to describe beer flavour and prompted me to start making tasting notes. Which is why I have the brief descrptions in the text below.

The beers are all bottom-fermented, though the Schmitt brewery in the village of Singen produces a pale top-fermenting beer. Most are unpasteurised and the bottled beer will develop a sediment after 6 to 7 days. They fall into the following general categories:

Hell pale and fairly thin
Pils with a bit more body, often quite bitter
Pilsator a bit darker and more like a true Czech Pils
Spezial a premium Pils, the bottled equivalent of Pilsator
Bock a winter beer (available November to January) of about 16% Balling - can vary in colour from amber to black
Schwarz as the name suggests, a dark lager, similar in style to Czech Tmavé Pivo

The Reinheitsgebot has never been enforced in the DDR, originally due to raw material shortages in the 1950's. Currently, the ordinary pils and hell beers are brewed using about 70% malt and the spezial and bock beers using about 80%. Both use about 10% sugar. Despite this, some of the beers, especially the pilsators, are very characterful and compare favourably with some of the rather inoffensive pils-style beers of the Federal Republic. In fact, with their bitter emphasis, the DDR beers are often more reminiscent of the pale Czech lagers. With the availability of W. German beers in the DDR it is now possible to directly compare the products of the two nations' breweries. In Muhlhausen, for example, beer from Eschwege (about 30km away over the border) is on sale. After a couple of glasses of the excellent local Turmquell Pilsator I tried Eschweger Pils which, although as it proudly proclaimed brewed to the Reinheitsgebot, seemed thin and almost tasteless in comparison.

The specific beers, by brewery, in the towns described are as follows:

Vereinsbrauerei Apolda
Classic malty with a strong bitter finish

Eisenacher Brauerei
Hell a bit thin and watery
Wartburg Pils sweetish flavour with a bitterish aftertaste
Bock  amber coloured, pleasantly malty

Braugold Erfurt
Pils a good, clean, very bitter beer
Angerbrau well-balanced and bitter

J. Andreas Klosterbrauerei, Eschwege, Federal Republic
Eschweger Pils neutral flavour with a slight bitter aftertaste

Brauerei Gotha
Pils thin and bitter
Diabetiker malty aroma and bitter, slightly strange, taste
Spezial bitter aroma and bitter taste

Brauerei Jena
Pils light with a bitter aftertaste

Kostritzer Schwarzbierbrauerei, Bad Kostritz
Schwarzbier Black, fairly sweet and malty

Muhlhausen Turmquell (bottled)
Pils light, rounded malt aroma and bitter taste
Spezial hoppy, slightly acidic flavour, with a bitterish finish
Bock slightly sweet, malty flavour with bitter finish

Muhlhausen Turmquell (draught)
Pils pale and quite bitter
Pilsator malty/fruity aroma with strong bitter finish

Brauerei Neunspringe, Worbis
Hell thin with a slight bitter taste
Pils a bit more body and a bitter finish
Pilsator slight malty/fruity aroma with a hop finish

Sternquellbrauerei, Plauen
Pils thinish but bitter
Plaunator bitter beer with a malty aroma and bitter/buttery finish
Pilsator bitter taste with a full spicy, hoppy finish
Bock sweet and dark with a slight caramel finish

Konsum-Brauerei Weimar-Ehringsdorf
Ehringsdorfer Pils thin but pleasantly bitter

Exportbier-Brauerei Wernesgrun
Wernesgruner Pils      malty aroma and bitter aftertaste

The companies listed above are all VEB (Volkseigener Betrieb) or nationalised firms (apart from the Eschwege brewery, of course), but, especially in the south, there are still several very small private breweries operating. Examples of these are the Brauerei Göpfert in Jüchsen, Brauerei Geßner in Steinach and Brauerei Schmitt in Singen (the smallest brewery in the DDR). The best bet for finding the beers from these breweries is probably to visit their home village.

Wasn't that, er, completely useless? While most of the larger breweries have closed, I was delighted to discover that the three small private breweries mentioned in the last paragraph are all still open:

Brauerei "Zur Goldenen Henne"
Queckgasse 17,
98631 Jüchsen.
Tel: 0170/ 6018260
Fax: 036947/ 50903

Privatbrauerei Gessner
Am Lindenbach 27,
96515 Sonneberg.
Telefon: 03675/4079-0
Fax: 03675/4079-40

Brauerei Schmitt
Brauereiweg 1,
99326 Ilmtal OT Singen
Tel: 03629-802556
Email: info @

If you'd like to try the Schmitt beer, the fasmily runs a pub in the village:

Gasthaus Zum Singer Berg
Friedrich Schönheit Str. 4,
99326 Ilmtal.
Tel: 03629-802244
Fax: 03629-8379127


Peter Crombecq said...

Nice to see that my writings are still useful after all this years ;).
For old times sake:

A Brew Rat said...

Kostritzer schwarzbier is available here in Montana. A very nice schwarzbier.

Ron Pattinson said...


you had a huge influence on my thinking about beer. Bier Smaken is a seminal book for me.

Elektrolurch said...

Fascinating stuff aigan!
And the Gessner beers today are really good, their dark Bock as well aus their Dunkles are as good as their franconian cousins in my opinion.
Any idea how their beers were back in the day? Was the range as big and diverse as today? I somehow highly doubt it..
In general I'd say the range highly widened, seeing what the Apoldaer brewery for instance is offering now.

Ron Pattinson said...


by the 1980's their range was probably no more than 3 or 4 beers. Though back in the 1950's it might have been wider. With the low-alcohol Malzbier, Einfachbier and the like. They turn up a lot in the older DDR labels.