Tuesday 5 March 2013

Grätzer - it's official

Grätzer is now officially a style. At least according to the Brewers' Association.

Unfortunately, they seem to have let Charlie Papazian write the specs:

Grätzer is a Polish-Germanic pre-Reinheitsgebot style of golden to copper colored ale. The distinctive character comes from at least 50% oak wood smoked wheat malt with a percentage of barley malt optional. The overall balance is a balanced and sessionably low to medium assertively oak-smoky malt emphasized beer. It has a low to medium low hop bitterness; none or very low European noble hop flavor and aroma. A Kölsch-like ale fermentation and aging process lends a low degree of crisp and ester fruitiness Low to medium low body. Neither diacetyl nor sweet corn-like DMS (dimethylsulfide) should be perceived.
Original Gravity (ºPlato) 1.048-1.056 (12-14 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato) 1.008-1.016 (2-4 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 3.2-4.3% (4 -5.4%)
Bitterness (IBU) 15-25
Color SRM (EBC) 6-12 (12-24 EBC)

Let's go through what they've got wrong. Or maybe I should do it the other way around and say what they've got right. Unfortunately that's impossible, because none of it is correct.

So here's what's wrong:

Gravity. The classic Grätzer gravity is 7.8º Plato. Not 12º to fucking 14º. Who researched that? Oh, silly me. I assumed they'd have done some research.

Ingredients. It should be 100% smoked wheat malt.

Flavour. Low to medium hop bitterness? Every old description mention the hop character of Grätzer. It was nmoted for being a hoppy beer. "low to medium assertively oak-smoky malt emphasized beer". What the fuck does that even mean?

Fermentation. "A Kölsch-like ale fermentation and aging process"? They've just made that up. Absolutely no evidence that's how Grätzer was brewed. And what about the specific Grätzer yeast strain? No mention of that anywhere in these guidelines.

What does "pre-Reinheitsgebot" mean? The Reinheitsgebot only very briefly applied to the region where Grätzer was brewed: 1906 to about 1916 and maybe a few years during WW II. The style doesn't date from before the Reinheitsgebot of 1516. So what on earth does "pre-Reinheitsgebot" mean?

It would have been nice if they'd bothered to mention the Polish name for the style.

Based on this, the Grätzer/Grodziskie I helped brew at Jopen, which we went to great trouble to get as authentic as possible, isn't true to style.

Why do I get so annoyed? Because plenty of people will take this as the "official" definition of Grätzer. I'll waste days of my time arguing about what Grätzer is really like with those who take the excrement of the Brewers' Association as the gospel on beer styles.

I wish they's just carried on ignoring the style. It would have made my life much easier.


zgoda said...

Amen, Sir.

The Beer Nut said...

What did you make of the Adambier spec?

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut, I was too busy getting annoyed with the Grätzer spc to pay it much attention. Plus I don't know as much about Adambier.

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut, just taken another look. I've no idea where the stuff about smoke came from. I've not seen that mentioned in any description of Adambier.

The gravity band is too narrow - I've an analysis of an example that was 26º Plato.

The stuff about the level of sourness is pretty damn vague. Analyses I have show a level of acidity about half that of Gose of Lambiek.

The Beer Nut said...

Good stuff. I was worried you were going to let it off without a kicking.

Oblivious said...

Did they reference where they sourced the material to back up the claim of Gravity, grist etc. ?

"Beer Nut, I was too busy getting annoyed with the Grätzer spc to pay it much attention. Plus I don't know as much about Adambier."

I suspected they know even less ;)

Ron Pattinson said...


it's the Brewers' Association. Of course they don't list any sources.

localholic said...

It's hardly a surprise in the land of the imperial Berliner weisse. There isn't a style that can't be improved by making it bigger. It's worrisome because people do take this as gospel when it's just criteria for a competition. All cooking competitions interpret traditions and then make them fit a narrow and easily gradable scale weather it's brewing, barbecue, or whatever.

Gary Gillman said...

The reference to barley malt being optional seems reasonable, in view of Wahl & Henius, in their well-known 1903 Handy-book, stating that one-third barley malt is used (the rest smoked wheat malt). Wahl & Henius cite an 1898 article (see their bibliography) from American Brewers Review from which they drew their information. These authors demonstrated a mastery of German and other European beer styles in that book and are much closer to the day of normal production of the style than we are, thus it should be taken seriously IMO.

You have made some good points Ron, but insisting that the beer must be 100% wheat malt, especially in the context of a style manual such as BA's, goes too far IMO.


Stan Hieronymus said...

What I find curious is that last year the New Brewer (which goes to BA members) ran an article (in an issue unfortunately I didn't receive) that included details about the campaign homebrewers in Poland have mounted to revive Grodziskie.

Although I don't have a copy of the New Brewer article I do have the paper it was based on, which includes this information:

"Out of all these beers, the one to be considered the most famous and prominent is the beer brewed with 100% wheat malt, kilned by a oak wood fire, light 7,7 (+/- 0,4) ºBlg, with alcohol content below 2,5% m/m (3,1% vol.). It was this very beer that made Grodzisk Wielkopolski famous at the end of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century. It was also this beer that had been brewed in the largest quantities, amounting to even 100,000 hl annually at the turn of the centuries. And it is exactly this and solely this Grodziskie beer that we would like to revive."

That's based on research that comes with plenty of footnotes.

Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, all the Polish and German sources I've found say 100% smoked wheat malt. That trumps Wahl & Henius, I'm afraid.

Ron Pattinson said...

Stan, I thought information on Grätzer was pretty easy to find. I really can't understand how they could have got it so wrong, unless, of course, the commmittee writing the definition was full of idiots.

Unknown said...

Heaven forbid they tackle relevant styles like American Double / Imperial Stouts or Black IPAs.

Gary Gillman said...


I would not come to that conclusion without reviewing the 1898 article they cite, written by Theodore Schuster specifically on Gratzer beer brewing methods. His German-sounding name suggests to me he knew what he was about in Prussian beer matters but in any case, he was there in 1898 when the style was commonly brewed in Posen.

I have not read the article myself - no access - but I did find online an article by someone who did, and he stated that the beer originally used barley malt and barley was in and out of the picture until barley finally was not generally used.

So we need to see where Schuster got that about early barley use. I doubt he made anything up and Wahl & Henius had no reason to either.

At a minimum, it shows that in Posen circa-1900 many people were using barley malt in the mash and accordingly, you can't fault BA for following that. I'd point out also that Dr. Fritz Briem's (of Doemens in Germany) recreation, based on research, also uses some barley malt, so there is just too much out there to dismiss BA - who advise barley malt only optionally - on this point.


Oblivious said...

Here is an interesting search result from beeradvocate, all bar one of the "historical" Grätzer have an abv above 4%, one even at 5.4%.


Could this be a case of the BA just looking to beeradvocate to prove creditable information?

With help from such historical brewers, who appear them self to have gotten it wrong.

Gary Gillman said...


Here is the current article which references the 1898 American Brewers Review one amongst other sources including your own opinions. The barley malt discussion is in the paragraph which talks about use of that grain from the 1600's.


Two points:

Jim Hughes does not in fact claim barley malt was used from the beginning, but he does suggest it was used from the 1600's onwards until apparently stopped at some point. Yet, Wahl & Henius advise that one-third barley malt was used in Posen for this style circa-1900, citing again (I presume, reasonably I think but I haven't read it) Theodore Schuster's article.

Second, Schuster is not named as such in Hughes's article but I believe it was his piece that was consulted as it seems unlikely there were two articles in American brewing literature in 1898 on Gratzer beer.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, I repeat what I said earlier: all the German and Polish sources I've seen say 100% wheat malt. I rank them above the sources you're quoting.

Alan said...

Having worked in Kolobrzeg in the early 1990s, I am also aware it is important to be clear about what we are describing as Poland and Germany at various points in time. This is a map apparently from the 1890s. My city was then Kolberg right under Bornholm Island on the Baltic.


Gary Gillman said...

Ron, with respect, that may be your judgment, but it doesn't have to be BA's, sorry.


Anonymous said...

Gary, here's a link to the page from the American Brewers Review I took the quote from: http://pspd.org.pl/uploads/grodziskie/graetzer-schuster-1898.pdf


Alistair Reece said...


I think you'll find that 'Black IPA' is dealt with under 'American-style Black Ale' on p.8 of the guidelines, along with 'American style Imperial Stout'.

Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, Schönefled, in "Die Herstellung Obergähriger Biere" says it's from 100% wheat malt. I'd need a very good reason to disagree with him.

Just looked up another good source: "Geschichte des Grätzer Bieres" by A. Warschauer, 1893.

It seems apart from a period in the late 17th century, it's been a 100% wheat beer.

1601 - undated but appears to refer to the early 18th century
1660 5 bushels wheat malt, 2 bushels barley malt
1686 6 bushels wheat malt, 1 bushel barley malt
18th century 100% wheat malt
1843 100% wheat malt

Note that the maximum percantage of barley is 40%.

It doesn't surprise me that they sometimes used a bit of barley back then. They'd have used what they could get and if there wasn't enough wheat would have used barley instead.

However, in the last 200 years, it's been all wheat.

Ron Pattinson said...

Oblivious, the one I was involved in, Jopen's, says 4% ABV in the label, but is really 3.3%. It was brewed to the proper gravity of just under 8º Plato.

Gary Gillman said...

Jim, good of you to supply that, thanks. Clearly barley malt was used at the time in the brewing and supports Wahl & Henius's statement.

Schuster said the use was "of late years", a rather vague statement, but I have no trouble accepting that for some considerable time before that barley malt was not used. But it appears to have been used in the 1600's if I understood your researches correctly albeit not (apparently) in the 1450's when the style emerged.

I would infer that at some times, barley malt was used, and at other times, not. I agree with your statement towards the end of your paper that no hard and fast rules should be drawn.

Maybe it had to do with the kind of wheat that was available at certain times, perhaps in some periods the smoked wheat malt wouldn't self-convert, who knows..

In any case, I think this shows that BA is not being unreasonable in suggesting that barley malt can be used optionally in the mash, that's all.


Gary Gillman said...

Ron, I do not agree that for the last 200 years the mash has been all-wheat when Theodore Schuster's paper in 1898 submitted to a learned brewers' review stated that 1/3rd barley malt was being used. He said that and Wahl & Henius relied on it clearly for their statement.


JollyRodger said...

Oblivious - I don't think they're referencing BeerAdvocate so much as their own competition entries. The Brewers Association tends to add a new style to the guidelines when a significant number of similar beers are being entered into the competition. They're probably referencing more what their members are making than going off any particular website. There's probably been a small trend of smokey, sour beers being entered across the multiple categories of sour beer, smoked beer and barrel aged categories that they decided to make a pseudo historical catch all that fits them in. It's all about giving away medals for marketing more than historical accuracy...

Jeff Alworth said...

I'm willing to allow the description if there's a historical precedent. One thing I've learned from reading your blog, Ron, is that these beers tended to vary over space and time. So it's possible that the beer BA describes was once brewed. I'd just like to 1) hear where they came up with the description, and 2) understand why they went for a clearly unusual (or nonexistent, depending) example of the style.

I assume it has something to do with creating a description modern breweries can work with, but one wonders why they'd bother.

Mark Andersen said...

Ron, I think the only way to combat this atrocity is to have your friends at Pretty Things brew one and then come back to Boston as soon as possible to drink it at Deep Ellum with us.

I'll buy another book or two I promise.

Unknown said...

Oh - here's where your readers can give the BA what-for on the topic: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2013_Beer_Style_Guidelines_Update_Survey


Rob said...

JollyRodger - Im sure you have got it exactly right. The commercial breweries entering "gratzer" into competition probably look a lot like their description.

Its very similar to what the bjcp did with Scottish ales. They made categories to fit what homebrewers were making and historical accuracy be damned.

Lady Luck Brewing said...

Brilliant! I enjoy reading your rants on Brewers Association as much as getting factual information from your research.
Keep it up!

Jeff Alworth said...

A commenter on my blog pointed out that the BA's style guidelines are designed for the use of modern commercial breweries and so fidelity to history is a secondary matter. Fair enough. My question is why they gave an ahistorical description of the sensory qualities of the beer. There's no reason modern breweries couldn't make vibrantly hoppy, smoky gratzers using standard techniques. Weird.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff, they've effectively invented a new type of beer with only a vague connection to the beer once made in Grodzisk/Grätz. "Inspired by Grätzer" would be a more honest description.

Rob said...

I homebrew a version of my local indigenous beer. I call it a Kentucky Common, but honestly, it doesnt really match up with any of the historical KY Common recipes I have seen.

If anyone asked though, I would tell them its what I think KY Common would be like today if it hadnt gone extinct with prohibition and had continued to develop the last 90 years.

Does that mean its really "inspired" by KY Common? *shrug*, I dont care, as a Louisville brewer Ive got as much dibs on the name as anyone.

Duffbowl said...


Without starting a heated exchange, can I ask why you're dismissing Gary's sources out of hand?

I'm not taking one side nor other, but looking for clarity.


Ron Pattinson said...


because I don't know who the auther was and it was written in English for an American publication.

I need a very good reason to ignore Schönfeld, who was the leading expert on Germn top-fermented styles. He says 100% wheat malt. The history of Grätzer, written in the 1890's says 100% wheat. Several other German and Polish sources say the same thing.

Several sources I know to be reliable say 100% wheat. Gary's source is the only one to say something different. Therefore the weight of evidence is in favour of 100% wheat. It's as simple as that.

Ron Pattinson said...


because I don't know who the auther was and it was written in English for an American publication.

I need a very good reason to ignore Schönfeld, who was the leading expert on Germn top-fermented styles. He says 100% wheat malt. The history of Grätzer, written in the 1890's says 100% wheat. Several other German and Polish sources say the same thing.

Several sources I know to be reliable say 100% wheat. Gary's source is the only one to say something different. Therefore the weight of evidence is in favour of 100% wheat. It's as simple as that.

Radek Kliber said...

Interesting discussion. Original sources I read noted that most Polish beers till early 19c. was primarily wheat based. As we all know styles do evolve and will not always stick to one formula. As we know Grodziskie was brewed till early 1990s. During last years of production it is true that they also brewed 12 Plato beer. It was not all wheat either. So on that account 12 Plato beer from Grodzisk existed . The 7-8 Plato one is just sample from older days 1900-1920s. As mentioned above slight smoke character came from traditional method of drying malt that is all. Oldest Grodziskie beers most likely did not use hops at all. That started in Poland in mid 17c. So yes primary malt choice would be wheat but I don't think it is necessary to be all wheat. I brewed Grodziskie with House Ales( in Toronto) using arpox.3/4 wheat , 1/4 pils malt. Used clean finishing yeast and Lublin like hops (same alpha, beta etc). We brewed to get as high carbonation as possible (goal low 3s). We kept ph low. Lagered for 5 weeks. It was fairly hard to pour from tap , sparkly 4.1% brew , slight tartness with smoky walls and nice hop top end. One final note. I know that Grazter term is dominant due to popularity in Germany as well that Poland was under communism for 50 years but for sake of accuracy we should refer as Grodziskie when speaking of style. Jopen Grodziskie from description sits 100% square in traditional early 20c Grodziskie and is absolutely correct in its approach. More modern versions could be higher in alcohol and like mine be with soft golden malt as well (works together nice). That my 5 cents.

Zgroza said...

I just happen to have a reccolection of a thing I have read, by why oak-smoked? Should it not state "beech"?

Anonymous said...

Now THAT's a well delivered rant (and well deserved). Based on the "official" guidelines I can't say I'll be rushing out this afternoon in search of a few examples to ponder later tonight.


Unknown said...

Check it out:


Thank you for taking the time to provide thoughtful feedback about the 2013 BA Beer Style Guidelines.

We received a number of constructive comments (including yours) in particular about Grätzer, which showed up for the first time ever in the 2013 guidelines. Normally, those comments would have been included in review during October thru December of 2013, with an eye towards inclusion in 2014.

However, because the constructive comments you submitted were credible and differed considerably from the guidelines, and because the 2013 guidelines will be used as the basis for both the 2013 GABF and 2014 World Beer Cup competitions, we undertook a process to update the 2013 Grätzer guideline now.

The updated version can be found here: http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/business-tools/publications/beer-style-guidelines

We also noted that Grätzer and Adambier did not show up in the Table of Contents, which has been remedied.

Again, thank you very much for providing your insights and knowledge of styles. Please consider sending future input to our style feedback collection tool at survey monkey (link also on the same page).

Very best wishes,

Chris Swersey
Technical Brewing Projects Coordinator
GABF and WBC Competition Manager"

And the revised entry (such as it is):
Grätzer (also Grodziskie) is a Polish-Germanic pre-Reinheitsgebot style of straw to golden colored ale. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures. The distinctive character comes from 100% oak wood smoked wheat malt. The overall balance is a sessionably medium to medium-high assertively oak-smoky malt emphasized beer. Aroma is dominated by oak smoke notes. They have a medium low to medium perceived clean hop bitterness. European noble hop flavor notes are very low to low, and low ester may also be present. Body is low to medium low. A Kölsch-like ale fermentation and aging process lends a crisp overall flavor impression and low degree of ester fruitiness. Sourness, diacetyl, and sweet corn-like DMS (dimethylsulfide) should not be perceived. Historic versions were most often bottle conditioned to relatively high carbonation levels.
Original Gravity (ºPlato) 1.028-36 (7-9 ºPlato) ● Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato) 1.006-1.010 (1.5-2.5 ºPlato) ● Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 2.1-2.9% (2.6-3.6%) ● Bitterness (IBU) 15-25 ● Color SRM (EBC) 3-6 (6-12 EBC)

Maciej Wojtkowiak said...

I strongly object to this widespread use of Greatzer as the name of Grodziskie beer. Grodzisk was from the very beginning part of Poland and name Grätz was used only during German occupation in 19th century and of course during Nazi time. Additionally is totally inappropriate to include this traditional Polish beer as a German style. In the next few days I'm going to write more detailed letter to ABA about why this is an incendiary issue and oversight that needs to by rectified.