Friday, 28 June 2013

Traditional North German Beers

We're still with Narziss's article on the Reinheitsgebot, but this time looking at top-fermenting beers rather than Lagers.

I'll let Narziss speak first:

"3.1.2. Sugar is permitted in North Germany for the traditional top fermented 'Malt Beers'. Today these beers are brewed with 100% malt to a gravity of 8% and fortified after a limited fermentation and filtration by sugar to 12% gravity. The dark colour is adjusted or corrected by sugar caramel (roasted sugar without ammonia). They are not allowed to be sold in Bavaria as 'Beers', only as 'malt-beverages with sugar". Originally they had to be filled into bottles which could be clearly distinguished from beer bottles. After the Eurobottle was used for softdnnks and even wine (the Vichy bottle as well), this issue has been weakened, it is quite obvious, that even in Germany, there are different regulations, varying from country to country, according to tradition. The addition of sugar to the 'Malt-Beers' (Sucrose, Invertsugar, Sugar Caramel) has to be declared on the label. The sales figures are in ihe region of 1.5%. but they decrease each year. Sugar and saccharine are used in certain areas of North West Germany to fortify the taste of the 'plain beers' (Einfachbiere). They are called 'Sweet' or 'Caramel'; the colour is dark and the gravity in the range of 2.0-5.5% P. They follow an old tradition in this part of the country and are not allowed to be distributed to other areas. The content of sugar and of saccharine must be displayed on the labels. The production of 'beers' containing sugar is supervised by excise officers and controlled by government laboratories as well. The same regulations apply to weak beers which are sweetened with sugar and saccharine. The demand for these beverages is also declining (below 0.03%).

Table II gives a survey on Traditional North German beers which had been on sale before 1914. between the wars and which are available in some areas still today."

TABLE II. Traditional North German Beers
Name Strength Alcohol Notes
l. Malt 12% Plato 1.5% w/w 30% sugar plus caramel limited fermentation
2 Fresh or young Various _ 'Green' beer finished in the household
3 Spontaneous fermentation beers Strong Various Contained some unboiled worts acidic stored like wine before consumption
4 Plain beers (dark) 2-0-5-5% plato Limited fermentation Sugar and saccharine added
5 Berliner Weissbier 7-0-8-0% plato Lactic acid and yeast fermentation +-2% w/w 50% Malted barley 50% Malted Wheat
Today only 5 have survived the sales of 1 are approximately 1.5% of total volume and Ihe others have practically vanished.

Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 90, Issue 6, November-December 1984, page 353.

I'd best re-translate the names back to German before we go any further.

Malt Beer = Malzbier
Plain Beer = Einfachbier

You may notice a similarity between the beer styles mentioned above and those in Dörfel's 1947 manuscript:

Groterjan top-fermenting beer types
beer type real extract ABV OG special features
Malzvollbier 7-10 1.2-1.8 11-11.5 Includes sugar colouring and sugar
Caramel Einnfachbier 1-2.4 0.7-0.9 4 Includes sugar colouring and Dulcin sweetener
Jung Braunbier 1.8-2.3 0.7-1.2 2-3 Includes sugar colouring and sweetener
Berliner Weissbier 2.7-3.4 2-3.5 7-8 Barley malt and wheat malt, 0.25-0.4% acidity
Feinbitter Starkbier 12 1.2-1.4 16 Includes sugar colouring, heavily hopped, low degree of attenuation
Porterbier 7-9 5-7 18-22 Includes sugar colouring, heavily hopped, more alcohol
Die Herstellung obergäriger Biere und die Malzbierbrauerei Groterjan A.G. in Berlin, by Braumeister A. Dörfel, 1948, page 20.

I'd always known that Bavaria had a tighter form of the Reinheitsgebot, but not that some products which could be sold as beer in northern States had to be relabelled for Bavaria. I wonder if that's still the case?

I keep having new surprises in relation to old German top-fermenting styles. Today's is the inclusion of spontaneously fermented beers. I'm trying to think what the hell it could be. I know that Gose was spontaneously fermented in the 18th century, but by the 19th century they'd worked out how to brew it by pitching both yeast and lactobacillus, much in the manner of Berliner Weisse.

These styles have been in decline for a century at least. The biggest surprise is that they have hung around at all. But they have. Here are the figures of sales by type in 2009 - 2010:

Off sales by beer type 2009 - 2010
market share  quantity in hl

2009 2010 Change in % 2009 2010 Change in %
PILS 55.2 55.1 -0.2 30,566,810 29,860,950 -2.3
EXPORT 10.1 9.8 -3.3 5,586,580 5,288,690 -5.3
WEIZEN 7.9 7.9 0.5 4,371,480 4,300,890 -1.6
BIERMIX 6.5 6.5 0.7 3,589,820 3,538,490 -1.4
HELL 4.5 4.5 0.2 2,507,100 2,459,470 -1.9
ALKOHOLFREI 3.3 3.7 12.9 1,814,090 2,005,330 10.5
KÖLSCH 1.7 1.7 0.3 929,040 912,740 -1.8
SCHWARZ/DUNKEL 1.6 1.6 -2.3 905,230 865,730 -4.4
MALZ 1.2 1.2 1.7 671,010 668,170 -0.4
ALT 1.3 1.2 -3.9 696,750 655,680 -5.9
LAGER 0.9 1 1.2 522,480 517,950 -0.9
LIGHT 0.6 0.6 -0.7 356,380 346,500 -2.8
BOCK 0.5 0.5 -0.7 286,580 278,550 -2.8
MÄRZEN 0.5 0.5 -1.4 280,790 271,050 -3.5
DIÄT 0.3 0.3 -7.2 157,310 142,900 -9.2
BERLINER WEISSE 0 0 14.8 9,060 10,180 12.4
ALLE ANDEREN 3.7 3.8 1.5 2,054,760 2,042,280 0
Deutscher Brauer Bund

Off sales of top- and bottom-fermenting beer
market share  quantity in hl
2009 2010 Change in % 2009 2010 Change in %
bottom 74.44% 73.91% -0.72% 41,169,260 40,031,790 -2.76%
top 12.07% 12.09% 0.12% 6,677,340 6,547,660 -1.94%
total 55,305,270 54,165,550 -2.06%
Deutscher Brauer Bund (derived from the other figures)

While I'm going table crazy, I may as well include another table from Dörfel's 1947 manuscript. This one shows production of top-fermenting beer by tax class.

German top-fermenting beer production by tax class 1932 - 1937 in hl
year Einfachbier 3-6.5º Plato Schankbier 7-8% Plato Vollbier 11 - 14% Plato Starkbier 16º Plato total output of top-fermenting beer % of total beer output total output of bottom-fermenting beer total output of beer
1932 860,000 123,000 920,000 3,000 1,906,000 5.7 31,532,596 33,438,596
1933 680,000 129,000 955,000 2,000 1,764,000 5.2 32,159,077 33,923,077
1934 752,000 110,000 1,193,000 3,000 2,058,000 5.6 34,692,000 36,750,000
1935 797,000 117,000 1,351,000 3,000 2,268,000 5.7 37,521,474 39,789,474
1936 747,000 101,000 1,490,000 4,000 2,342,000 5.9 37,352,915 39,694,915
1937 919,000 117,000 1,814,000 5,000 2,835,000 6.5 40,780,385 43,615,385
Die Herstellung obergäriger Biere und die Malzbierbrauerei Groterjan A.G. in Berlin, by Braumeister A. Dörfel, 1948, page 3.

I bet not many of you would have expected that the proportion of top-fermenting beer would have doubled between the 1930's and 2010. It's just one type that's been responsible for that growth: Weissbier. Pre-WW II, it was a rarity, hanging on its finger tips. Now it's the third most popular style in Germany.


Rob said...

What is "Lager" in that beer style table?

And I know what DIÄT is, so what is "Light"? Is that abv based? Too much to fit in alcohol-free, but not enough to fit other categories?

I think I know what everything else is, including "alle anderen".

Ron Pattinson said...


Lager I guess is Lagerbier.

The Deutscher Brauer Bund, the source of that table, define it as something between 2 and 3.2% ABV. They don't define Lager.

Anonymous said...

The dark einfachbier sweetened with sugar and saccarine sounds very similar to Swedish svagdricka, which was a dark low-abv top fermented beer of a lower original gravity (nowadays it is probably bottom fermented, seeing as how even Carnegie porter became bottom fermented). From what I've read the added saccarine was used to stop the fermentation of the wort, but whether that was the case, or even possible I can't say as I have no real knowledge about brewing. Svagdricka seems to emerge in the written sources during the 1800s in Sweden, whereas the lower abv beers in the past were simply lower-gravity and lower-hopped versions of the same basic beer (with smoked malts and top fermented). Saccarine seems to have been invented in 1879 which I guess helps date the use of it somewhat, and I have yet to come across a mentioning of plain sugar being used to brew beer in Sweden from the 18th century. I thus wonder whether svagdricka was in fact modelled after north German beers being brewed in the 19th century (but for how long by then?).

TimT said...

Strong, spontaneous fermented German beers? I would give my pinky finger for the whole story on that. The "unboiled wort" part makes it even more interesting.

Barm said...

Diät is not light beer. It is a speciality made for diabetics, with very low residual sugar. Older UK readers may remember the word on Holsten Pils labels.

Rod said...

In an earlier quotation of Narziss' work, it was noted that he referred to Bavaria as a "country". Here he is clearly using the word "country" as a translation of the German word "Land", which is more usually translated into English as "state"

Anonymous said...

"Strong, spontaneously fermented German Beers ... "

I think Ron covered that here

Ron Pattinson said...


from what I've read Adambier wasn't spontaneously fermented. It only acquired its sourness during a long secondary conditioning. Primary fermentation was just with normal yeast.

I realise now what they mean by strong and sponatneously fermented beer: Danziger Joppenbier.

How could I have forgotten about that? One my favourite weird old German styles. My mind must be going.