Tuesday, 5 May 2020

German Special Beers in 1984

Another table from Narziss's article on the Reinheitsgebot and German brewing in general.

It's a fascinating and informative article. But there's one big omission. Which I'll get back to in a later post.

Today's table is of what were described as "special" beers. Which is an odd way to describe Pils. Especially as when this zarticle was written it had been the largest selling style in Germany for some time. I suppose that Narziss, being based in Bavaria, saw things differently. Unlike the rest of Germany, Pils wasn't the dominant style. That role being taken by Helles.

Spezial is a style no-one in the English-speaking world seems to recognise, other than me. Augustiner Edelstoff is a good example. Most people incorrectly class it as a Helles. This seems to confirm what I had thought about the style: a bit darker and hoppier than Helles, in addition to being stronger. Note that it's almost as bitter as the Pils.

The table last time was what in German would be described as Helles Lagerbier. While the two beers in this table are Helles Export. Mostly distinguished from Lagerbier by its higher gravity.

The beer described as "Dark" looks like a Dunkles Export. I'm quite surprised by how high the gravity is. Most Dunkles nowadays is a good bit weaker.

I'm assuming that the malts described as "light" and "dark" are pale and dark Munich malts. Just a shame that the precise colour isn't mentioned, as in the last table. Bit of a surprise to see Spezial was brewed from 100% dark Munich malt.

I'm getting tempted to turn this information into recipes. Would anyone be interested?

TABLE V. Special Beers
Type Light export
Pils 1 2 Marzen Dark Special
Original wort %  12 12.8 12.8 13.6 13.6 13.3
Colour EBC  7 7.5 11 24 50 27
EBC BU  35 29 24 24 22 33
Brewing liquor Alcalinity °GH  -2 -2 2 5 10 12
Mashing procedure  D2 D2 I D2 D3 I
Mashing-in temp °C  62 62 45 37 37 37
Malt 0 colour EBC  2.7 2.7 3.5 10 32 15
Light 100% 100% 100% 40% 10%
Dark 60% 84% 100%
Caramel malt 
Light (3%)
Dark 5%
Black malt 1%
I = infusion mash
D2 = two mash decoction
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Vol. 90, 1984, page 355.


LaurensP said...

I would love a "Let's Brew" with German, and perhaps some Dutch, Lager beers.

Barm said...

As far as I am concerned Spezial and Export are the same thing. Like everything it is regional.

Export is the second major style after Pils in Baden-Württemberg (much more popular there than it is in Dortmund), on draught in every pub.

Isn’t the Dunkel in the table the Export Dunkel which has mostly disappeared these days? That would explain the higher gravity. I am sure you have noted in the past that certain colour and gravity combinations still exist in Czechia that are extinct in Germany.

Yann said...

Sure, recipes are always inspiring!

Duffbowl said...

More than happy to have more recipes :)

Johnny H said...

Dear Ron

Greetings from Austria!

It's very funny that you revive your interest in "Spezial" at this moment in time - I'm currently researching on this topic for an article as well, and one of my historical starting points has been one of your previous blogposts on the above Narziss article.

I still have a lot of gaps to fill but so far I can say the following:

- "Spezial" is still very common in the southern part of Germany
- often, "Spezial" is a kind of stronger "Helles", often but not exclusively in the range of 13°P, emphasis is on malt rather than on hops
- there are some darker examples, too (so far, I have found two in the Regensburg/Straubing area)
- the terms "Export" and "Spezial" seem to be rather interchangeable - in fact, I found a 1980s label from Dortmunder Union "Special", presumably their "Export" but not labelled as "Export"!! I need to find better sources on the history of both but the above Narziss article doesn't paint a very nice picture of "Export" beers - according to Narziss, for a long time, Export beers were brewed with seemingly whatever the brewers could get their hands on.

It gets more complicated when you leave Germany:

- in the Czech Republic, the term "special" (I also got this from your blogposts / book on decoction) refers to beers above 13°P
- in Austria, the term "Spezial" is even regulated: the beer needs to have at least 12,5°P to be called "Spezial" whilst "Export" seems to be a mere fantasy name, almost exactly the opposite to Germany and many beer style guides
There are some breweries in Austria brewing a "Spezial". I haven't found them all but quite a few are in Vorarlberg (where the style seems more common), some in Oberösterreich, and a few more.
- in Switzerland, due to a bilateral agreement from (I believe) 1974 with the (now) Czech Republic forbids the term "Pilsner" for everything but Czech Pilsners - so, they often call their Pilsner-style beers "Spezial"

I have started a little map on breweries that have "Spezial" beers but it's nowhere near completion. I hope to update it over the next few months, mostly by scouring ratebeer, untappd etc.:

Best regards


PS: By the way, I even took part in your Brewseum zoom meeting on British beer styles recently but didn't want to barge in with this topic ;-)