SouthWest Germany: Land of 1,000 beers
When it comes to food and drink, here is the nation’s gourmet capital.
But it’s not just the 67 Michelin stars, the renowned chefs and award-winning winemakers that draw visitors around the world to eat, drink and be merry. It is also the beer! The region boasts an astonishing 185 breweries, each producing its own distinctive brews.
That’s why this really is the “Land of a 1,000 Beers”! And this is nothing new. Dating back to 1516, Germany’s “purity laws” specify that beer can only be made from water, hops, barley and yeast. No additives, no artificial flavours! With 40 percent of the market, Pils is the most popular beer for quenching your thirst in SouthWest Germany. Light and golden, with an alcohol content of 4.8 percent by volume, Pils is perfect for any occasion and, with its delicate flavour, goes down well with gourmet meals.
About 15 percent of the beer drunk in SouthWest Germany is called Export. Originally brewed for distribution to nearby towns, this strong, light golden beer has a longer shelf-life. You’ll often hear a local order a “Helles” (light) or a “Halbe” (half-litre). It’s the perfect partner for a snack, sitting in a beer garden.
Typical of southern Germany is Weizenbier (wheat beer), made with half malted wheat and half malted barley. Always served in a special tall, narrow glass, wheat beer has a bright, fresh taste, thanks to its high carbon dioxide content – perfect on a hot summer’s day! But there are more choices to be made: light or dark wheat? Clear or unfiltered? Light or even non-alcoholic?
Increasingly popular is the full-flavoured, almost spicy Zwickel, a naturally cloudy, unfiltered beer. Originally, Zwickel was the beer drawn off by brew masters straight from the barrel, to taste during the brewing process. But, this unpasteurised beer, rich with vitamins and minerals, gained a cult following and is now sold by more and more breweries.
A truly SouthWest Germany speciality is Bockbier. Strong in taste and alcohol (6 per cent), Bock has a characteristic smooth malty flavour, often quite sweet or caramelly – great to sip with sweeter dishes, such as dessert.
This wide range of varieties and styles means that SouthWest Germany’s beers are not only drunk in taverns, beer gardens and pubs, but also in restaurants, with a different beer paired with each course – just like a fine wine. So, wherever you travel in SouthWest Germany, you are never far from an authentic local brew, made with care and pride, as it has been for centuries. For a special treat, visit one of the region’s breweries for a tour and a tasting session. Brewers love to talk about their beers. All you have to do is listen – and sip!
Alpirsbach: Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu, Brewing is a tradition dating back 900 years at this Benedictine monastery in the Black Forest. Rules and recipes set down 500 years ago are still followed at the Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu. Take a tour to learn about the 17 different brews; visit the beer museum; join a beer seminar; buy beer-bottle shaped chocolates in the shop! Finish in the brewery restaurant over an excellent meal – with a glass or two of the local brew! www.alpirsbacher.de/brauwelt.html
Heidelberg: Two great beer tours, Heidelberg Marketing offers attractive packages for groups to tour and taste at the city’s two breweries. On the outskirts of town, overlooking the Neckar River, Neuburg Abbey is known for its organic beers. A visit to the monastery includes a guided tour of the Zum Klosterhof brewery, followed by a snack and a beer, fresh from the barrel. Back in Heidelberg, combine a one-hour guided tour of the Old Town with a visit to the Heidelberg Culture Brewery, where beer-making dates back to 1235. They also own the famous Zum Seppl student tavern: quench your thirst and enjoy the atmosphere. www.heidelberg-marketing.de
Karlsruhe: Hoepfner Privatbrauerei, Hoepfner is a traditional company, founded in 1798, the brewery is one of the oldest active companies in Karlsruhe. Since 1896 it is brewed and bottled in the Hoepfner castle. Tradition and innovation: this expresses the will to combine tried and tested with new ideas. Within the historic walls there is a highly modern and innovative company that is managed according to company guidelines "quality, continuity and partnership". www.hoepfner.de
Karlsruhe: Der Vogelbräu, Compared to breweries with centuries of history, the Vogelbräu is new. Rudi Vogel created his brew in 1985 and named it after himself: Der Vogel. His fans think he is a bit of a rock star, but he is serious about making unfiltered and flavoursome beers. His strong, unfiltered Weizen-Doppelbock won the European Beer Star award in 2013. No wonder his beer tours that include a beer tasting and hearty snack are hugely popular. www.vogelbraeu.de
St Blasien: Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus, One of Germany’s best-known breweries, the state-owned Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus dates back to 1791, when it was part of a Benedictine monastery. In the Black Forest, 3,300 feet above sea level, this is Germany's highest brewery! Among its beers, Tannenzäpfle has become a favorite among connoisseurs; brewed from local spring water, it is rated amongst the top 100 beers in the world. Take a tour to find out more. www.rothaus.de