Wednesday, 22 October 2014

German brewing in 1966 - top-fermenting styles

There's some fascinating information this time about German top-fermenting styles. A topic very dear to my heart as an enthusiastic drinker of  both Kölsch and Alt.

But first a recap of the crazy rules on gravity in force until the 1990's:

"According to existing regulations, beers with original gravity from 5.5 to 7%, from 8 to 11% or from 14 to 16% may not be sold. The weaker "Einfach Bier" (below 5.5% O.G.) and "Schank Bier" (7-8% O.G.) have no importance at present, but they may become important as beers suitable for drivers, owing to their low alcohol contents. Since the last war, top-fermentation beers have also become more popular."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 72, Issue 1, January-February 1966, page 14.

There are still very few beers brewed to the old forbidden zone gravities. For a long time almost all the beer sold in Germany has been in the Vollbier band: 11º to 14º Plato. About the only Schankbier used to be Berliner Weisse, though in recent years low-gravity versions of Pils and Hefeweizen have appeared.

Which top-fermenting styles were gaining popularity? Was it Kölsch and Alt? I'm pretty sure the Weissbier revival came later.

"The Bavarian wheat beer with its in-bottle fermentation is being replaced by filtered beer of high CO2 content which is bottled under high pressure and has a content of 7-9 g. CO2 per litre."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 72, Issue 1, January-February 1966, page 14.

This reads so odd now. I've just been trailing through current Bavarian breweries beer ranges. And while pretty much all brew at least one Hefeweizen, I can't recall more than a couple of Kristallweizen. The style has clearly lost a great deal of popularity at the expense of the unfiltered version.

Now some stuff about other top-fermenters:

""Kolsch" is produced mainly in the Cologne area. It has a very pale colour, is heavily hopped (400 g. per hl.) and until recently has only been available on draught. It is now being sold in bottles with a considerable advertising campaign behind it. The so-called "Alt bier" from the Dusseldorf area is now being produced in the lower Rhine area; it is nearly as dark as the Munich beer but not as malty: the colour of the beer comes from coloured malt. It also is strongly hopped (approx. 400 g. per hl.).

Generally speaking, the 11.5-13% top-fermentation beers require a shortened fermentation and storage time and they are therefore popular with the brewery technician, although the very necessary separation between top and bottom fermentation results in certain complications to the brewing process."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 72, Issue 1, January-February 1966, page 14.

Two interesting points there: the high hopping rate of Kölsch and Alt; and that their hopping rate is quoted as being the same at 400 gm per hl. Both at the top end of the Pilsner range. My guess would be that for Alt the hopping rate has remained similar, while for most examples of Kölsch it has been considerably reduced.

Is it true that beers like Kölsch and Alt require a shorter storage time? Surely if they are lagered the way they should be there's no great difference?

Finally, one of those weird almost beer German styles:

"To this already considerable number of beer types there must be added the so-called "Nähr-Biere," which may be roughly translated as food beer, and the so-called sweet beer, which is Nahr-Biere enriched with sugar. Despite a normal original wort they have very low alcohol contents (0.5-1.5%). In order to achieve this, the fermentation is either interrupted or slowed down; alternatively, the beer is originally brewed with a weak wort, and only after filtration is its gravity increased by the addition of first worts or sugars. It is easily understandable that these types of beers have to be pasteurized in the bottle."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 72, Issue 1, January-February 1966, page 14.

As you've probably noticed, the usual restrictions of the Reinheitsgebot did not apply to Nähr-Bier. There used to be lots of types of weak, top-fermenting beer in North Germany which gradually died away after WW I. There are still odd examples, but the quantities produced are tiny. They're also sometimes sweetened with artificial sweetener. How exactly that is considered acceptable under the Reinheitsgebot is a mystery to me.

Next time it's malting.


Anonymous said...

What was the rationale for the forbidden zone laws?

I knew that german beers tended to fall into specific bands, but didnt realize there was a law forbidding the others? When did that start and end? Im guessing started after WW2?

Ron Pattinson said...


I've no idea why they had dead zones. Maybe they wanbted to keep the different classifications very distinct and that's why they had buffers between them.

I think it started after WW II, it ended in 1990.