Old German Beer Styles
fruit beers - Broyhan - Grätzer Bier

This page will attempt to catalogue some of the many German beer styles which disaappeared during the lager revolution. In the 50 years between 1870 and 1920 almost the whole of the top-fermenting tradition of the northern half of Germany was wiped out.

The Bavarians were so successful in their colonisation that few today realise how recently lager first appeared. Their main tool was the Reinheitsgebot - an alien set of rules which could have been designed to eliminate the North German brewing tradition.

This is some of what was lost when bottom-fermenting took over.

Fruit Beers
Regional Styles
North German Styles

Extinct German Styles
The following quotes are taken from Der Vollkommene Bierbrauer oder kurzer Unterricht all Arten Bier zu brauen (1784) (Reprint Verlag Leipzig, ISBN 3-8262-0201-5). I've even included the page numbers so the more sceptical amongst you can easily check whether I'm making all this up.

Herb and fruit beers (p100-104)
It seems that all sorts of different herb beers were made in the North and East of Germany. There were also fruit beers, which seem very similar to those still made in Belgium today. None of these could now legally be sold as beer in Germany.
Cherry beer (p113) Kirschenbier. Dieses ist in Sommer ein nuzliches Bier, dann dem warmen Magen ist es lieblich und angenehm, und hat eine schöne Farbe, und einen lieblichen Geschmack, wann die Kerne mit sammt den Kirschen zerquetschet, und also in das Bier gethan werden, so wird es ein durchdringendes Bier, das den Harn fortreibet. Dieß ist gesunder, als wann man die Kirschen ganz in das bier thut.
Sloe beer (p114) Schlehenbier. Hat eben diese Würkung, allein daß es ein Kuhltrunk mit ist, und kann in der Hitze des Sommers wohl gebrauchet werden, allein nicht zu viel, etwann einen Drunk nach der Mittagsmahlzeit.
Raspberry beer (p114) Himbeerbier. Dieses Bier mögen die brauchen, die einen hitzigen Magen haben, und bey denen das Essen nicht bleiben will, es stillet auch allerley Flüsse des Haupts.
Lemon beer (p109) Citronenbier. Dieses ist ein fürtrefliches gesundes und delicates Bier, wird bereitet von Weizen- oder Waizenbier, oder sogenannten Breyhan, und hanger dann in einem Säcklein, dunn ausgeschnittene Citronenschaalen, mit etwas Zimmer vermischet, in den Spundloch hinein. Dieses ist ein gar edles und gesundes Bier, erquicket den Menschen, und alle innerlicvhen Lebensgeister, erfreut das Herz, vertreibt Melancholen, und ist gut gegenalle Brustbeschwernißen.
Eben so kann man auch Pommeranzenbier machen.

Another practice with parallels in modern Belgium was that of flavouring beer with lemon. Note that wheat beer, and more specifically Breyhan is specified. Elsewhere in the book, Breyhan and Gose are treated as variations of a single style. This would imply that Breyhan, too, was a sour beer, related to Belgian witbier. This is often served up with a slice of lemon (if you forget to make clear that you want your beer unadulterated when ordering).

Extinct German Styles
Regional Styles
In much the same way as almost every brewery in Belgium makes a beer in a style all of its own, every German town once had its own unique way of brewing. How the world has changed since then (except in Flanders and Wallonia).
Breyhan (Broyhan) (P128) Breyhan or Broyhan, originally from Hannover, was the most widely distributed style in north Germany for a couple of centuries. It's supposedly a distant relative of modern alt, but what I have reas from contemporary sources, it seems to belong to the Berliner Weisse, Gose and Belgian witbier family . The 1784 book in some places talks about Gose and Broyhan as variations of the same basic style.

Das ist ein sonderlich gutes Bier von Waizen; solche Bier werden sonderlich zu Hannoever, Quedlinburg, Hildesheim, Göttingen und in anderen Orten, wie auch in Thüringen, mehr gebrauen .

. .
(This is a exceptionally good wheat beer which is being brewed more and more, in particular in Hannover. Quedlinburg, Hildesheim, Göttingrn, but also elsewhere, for example in Thuringia . . .)
Hamburger Bier (P125)
Not beer from Mc Donalds, but a highly-valued import that spawned many imitations in its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries. The hanseatic connection helped it to become one of the first internationally famous beers. It's been several decades since it was last brewed in its home city, where pils has become synonymous with beer. Jopen Bier, which the first hopped beer in the Low Countries, was a originally Hamburg beer.

Solches Bier wird, wie bekannt, aus Waizwn gebräuet, und wegen seiner Tugenden, und angenehm lieblichen Geschmacks, ûberall hoch gehalten . . . . . .Wenn dies Bier gar zu alt wird, verliehret es seine Kraft, wie es insgemein alle Waizenbier zu thun pflegen.

(This beer , as is well known, is made from wheat and highly regarded everywhere because of its purity and delightfully pleasant taste . . . When this beer gets too old it loses its strength, as all wheat beers do.)
Preusishce Bier (p131) Im Preußen hat man auch viele gute Bier, sonderlich aber das Danziger Bier, welches man, was seine Güte, Hiz und Stärke anlanget, nicht unbillig einem Wein vergleichem möchte; Dann eine Unze dieses Danziger Doppelbiers, ist stärker und Kräftiger, dann zwey Maas anderes gemeines Gerstenbier . .

(There are also many good beers in Prussia, particularly Danziger beer, which, in its amiability, passion and strength can, not unjustly, be compared with a wine; since one ounce of Danziger Doppelbier is stronger and more powerful than two mass of any other common barley beer..)
Rostocker Bier (p126) The local name for this style is given as Oel - the word for beer in the Scandinavian languages. Unfortunately nothing much more is said about it, other than that it's a good summer beer.
Braunschweiger Mumme Braunschweiger Mumme was an thick, near-black , highly-alcoholic, sweet beer, probably brewed since at least the 14th century in Brunswick. Very bitter, it was first imported into Britain in the 17th century, where it was called Mum or Mumm.

During the 16th and 17th centuries it was one of the best-known and loved beers in Europe. Key to its popularity was the ability to survive long periods of hot weather without going off, presumably because of the combination of alcohol, hops and unfermented sugars. It was often taken on sea voyages to the tropic, when it was used to combat dietary complaints such as scurvy amongst the sailors.

It came in two variations: Stadt-Mumme, meant to be drunk immediately and the more heavily hopped Schiff-Mumme intended for export of for use on long sea voyages. The former used 4 Himpten of hops, the latter 15. Both were brewed from 2 Winspel of barley malt. The thick consistency came from a long boil, first of the whole mash for 1.25 hours then of the wort and hops for another 3 hours.

Read more here and here.

An Overview of North German beer styles ca. 1900
In 1904 Professor Franz Schönfeld from Berlin classified North German top-fermenting beers in four groups:
Sußbier or Einfachbier. Very dark brown, lightly hopped and not very highly attenuated beers. These could be subdivided into two groups:
  • The commonest of all the top-fermenting beers was a partially fermented Einfachbier of 5-7º Plato. Beers in this style continued to be made in the DDR, sometimes even still by top-fermentation. Today there are still many breweries in the East producing a Doppelmalz: a sweet dark beer of only 1.5% alcohol, though they are now bottom-fermented. An example is Braustolz Doppel Caramel

  • Stronger beers (10-12º Plato) made from a combination of barley and wheat malt. I suspect that the Braunbier of Saxony fell into this category.
Säuerliche Bier. Pale, lightly hopped beers containing lactic acid of 9-12º Plato. They were brewed from a mixture of barley and wheat malt in the ratio of 3 or 4 to 1. Berliner Weiße is a beer of this type. Today, only a Schankbier (9º Plato) version of Berliner Weiße is brewed. Before the last war, there was also a Vollbier (12º Plato) version made. The best example is Schultheiss Berliner Weisse . Pinkus Müller Alt is the only other beer of this type to survive.
Grätzer Bier. A pale, heavily-hopped smoked wheat beer of 7-8º Plato. The name derives from Grätz, the German name for the Polish town of Grodzisk. The last beer of this style was Grodziskie, brewed in Poland. The brewery was closed in the mid 1990's, leaving Grätzer extinct. If I was the owner of a brewpub in Germany (or Poland), this is a beer I would definitely brew.
Rheinländische Bitterbier. A golden, clear, heavily hopped beer of 12º Plato. The beer was cleared by putting beeach chips in the lagering barrels. Kölsch is obviously a beer of this type. Presumably Düsseldorf Alt is a variation of the style.

It is tragic how little of this brewing tradition survives. Only two or three breweries still make sour wheat beers, so their future is not particularly secure. Alt is in a slow decline, though there are a reasonable number of breweries dedicated to it. Only Kölsch and Alt are in a really healthy state, with sales holding up well in a contracting market.

Questions? Suggestions? Click to email me.

More German Beer Pages
German pub guides
German Brewery Pages
Augsburg Pub Guide
The breweries of Bamberg
Bamberg Pub Guide
The breweries of Berlin
Berlin Pub Guide
The breweries of Baden-Württemberg
Duisburg Pub Guide
The breweries of the Former DDR
Düsseldorf Pub Guide
The breweries of Düsseldorf
Eisenach Pub Guide
The breweries of Munich
Hamburg Pub Guide
Cologne (Köln) Pub Guide
German Beer Articles
Leipzig Pub Guide
The Trouble with German Beer
Munich Pub Guide
Old German Beer Styles
Nürnberg (Nuremberg) Pub Guide
German Beer Statistics
Stuttgart Pub Guide
Why the Reinheitsgebot is old bollocks
Buying German Beer in the USA
More Beer Pages
Main index page

© Ron Pattinson 2000 - 2004