I mentioned this topic several months ago, but a recent article reinforces my view that the Reinheitsgebot and craft beer can work together.
It’s funny to me how many people in this country will say “I don’t like German beer,” as they equate the style with lighter lager beers, or worse, North American macro brands. Many of these people, of course, have never set foot in Germany or sampled anything aside from the German mega-brands.
As in the U.S., I’ve long maintained that the best brews are regional and produced by the small places. We’ve reviewed a few of them on this site (HERE, HERE), but there are many more (nearly all of which are not available in the U.S.), including wide varieties of Altbier, Starkbier, Rauchbier, Bock, Kölsch, Weissbier, Dunkles, Schwarzbier, Helles, Pils, Alster, Berliner Weisse, Dampf, Dinkel, Keller, Zwickel, Dunnbier, Einfachbier, Gose, Märzen, Shankbier, Eisbock and other styles. There’s actually tremendous variety if one knows where to look. If your “experience” with German beer is taken from the likes of Beck’s, Weihenstephan, Paulaner, Spaten, Früh, Bitburger, Erdinger, Hofbrau, Jever and the like, you’re missing out entirely.
Of course, most of these are not providing a full frontal assault on the senses, like some U.S. microbrews, but the subtle differences and nuanced styles are there nonetheless and typically delivered with the highest quality and consistency. In short, there’s a world of fermented delight to be had, despite the conservative modern reputation, but there’s also room for more experimentation. My belief is that the quality – and more conservative attitute toward style – is a result of the educational system required for European brewers. In Germany or England, one needs a degree (schooling and apprenticeship) before becoming a brewer, much less brewmaster. In the U.S., anyone can slap on a T-Shirt and move from behind the bar or the basement homebrew kit to “brewmaster status.” The result is sometimes less consistency – and some awful misses – but also tremendous innovation in styles, techniques, flavors and profiles. As with most things, the future lies in ultimately blending both worlds.