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In the coming weeks, I’ll be doing some arduous research as part of an in-depth look into a renowned German brewery.  By “arduous research”, I mean drinking a lot of  beer.  It’s a tough assignment, I know.  So, I probably won’t be able to publish my next major post for another week or so.  In the meantime, I figured this would be a good opportunity to put together another Mash Tun.  This edition will include a look inside the ingredients end of the brewing process as well as a lament for the German beer industry.

Tettnang
For our vacation last summer, my wife and I spent a week relaxing along Lake Constance in southern Germany.  While we were out and about one afternoon, we drove past a whole bunch of farms that had these strange vines on massive wooden trellises. For the life of us, we just couldn’t figure out what they were growing on these things.  Our best guess was that it was some sort of grape-vine, but it was unlike any grape cultivation we had seen before.  For months, it remained a mystery.

Well, the mystery was solved this past week.  While browsing around on the internet, I came across this picture.  It turns out that these farms were growing hops!  The Lake Constance area is a major producer of the Tettnang variety of Noble hops.  The region exports this valuable commodity to breweries all over the world.  Because of its rich floral aromas and low bitterness, this hop is most commonly found in German Pilsners, wheat beers, and many American lagers.  These puppies are the ultimate aroma hops producing a refined, flowery aromatic.

In retrospect, I’m a little bummed that we didn’t realize what we were looking at.  It would have been cool to explore a little more while we were in the area.  I found out later that there’s even a hop museum near the town of Tettnang that’s supposed to be pretty amazing.  As I grow more interested in the subtlties of the beer world, it’s seeing stuff like this that really fascinates me.

Poor German Pilsner
In recent years, the German beer scene has been in decline.  Sure, there are still amazing breweries in Germany that are making some of the world’s best beers.  But, for the most part, the trend in Germany since the 1990s has been consolidation with an accompanying decrease in quality.  Most major German brewers have abandoned brewing starkbier in favor of flavored products such as lemon beer (Radler) or the awful Cola-beer mix.  You can’t blame them though.  They are simply following their market research which says that their most important consumer – young people – are moving away from traditional beers to sweetened varieties.

No other style has taken more of a beating than the Classic German Pilsner.  This once proud tradition was the unquestioned conqueror of the entire beer world.  However, the unfortunate consequence of this dominance has been a gradual decline in the overall quality of Pilsners that are produced.  Most German Pilsners barely fit the traditional characteristics of the style being mostly generic, pale lagers.

A few months back, I set out to find  brewers in Germany who were still brewing quality German Pilsners.  I sampled most of the national brands like Warsteiner, Bitburger, Radeberger, and Krombacher as well as some regional varieties.  Most of the national producers – beers we normally associate with German imports in the States – were rather disappointing.  However, among all of the weak, watered-down Pilsners, a few national brands stood out as brews that were upholding the Pilsner tradition.  I specifically enjoyed the offerings from Jever and Flensburger both of which had a really nice malt character balanced by a light but fine herbal hoppiness.  Despite these two decent showings, the real German Pilsner is nowadays found among the local and regional companies – breweries like Rothaus, Schwelmer, and Waldhaus.  It has given me impetus to continue my search for authentic examples of this much-maligned style.

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