Geman Beer

Showing someone the inside of your fridge is an act of intimacy because so many secrets are revealed. It shows not just your tastes and preferences but your history. When it comes to the beer in my fridge, all of these are true.

I learned to drink beer at the age of 17 & 18 and I learned it in Germany, where I was a foreign exchange student in the late seventies. At the time German beer had a bitter tang to an American, to whom the only beers widely available were bland, fizzy pilsners like Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

But since then things have changed.

Now we live in the age of craft brew, with the object to be making a beer strong and hoppy, which I think refers to that bitter taste we got drinking Deutsche Bier in 1978. But American craft brews have taken it to a higher level than seen in traditional European beer making.

I remember being in them UK maybe five years ago and tasting, at a pub, an IPA. That’s what they called it, India Pale Ale, but the strong taste you get in an American IPA was not there. It was very mild in comparison,  and had a much smaller alcoholic kick. In fact I noticed this with lots of English beer.

My theory is that the Brits (men, at least) like to spend an entire Sunday afternoon drinking and socializing at a public house. If you’re there for the duration, drinking up to eight pints of beer, you’ve got to make sure the brew is pretty weak so the patrons can stay sober up enough to make it home.

By contrast, consider your average American IPA. It’s strong and very hoppy and probably has an alcohol content of seven to eight percent. Drink two and you’re very tipsy. Drink four and you’re hammered.

Now let’s get back to the subject of my fridge.

After exploring the breadth of the craft beer movement, starting with Pale Ale in the ’90s and IPA after that, I found myself turning back to Germany beer. Two beers I often buy are Beck’s and Bitburger Pils, both of which were popular beers when I was a teenager in Hamburg, Germany.

Beck’s was brewed in Bremen, a little ways south of Hamburg on the Autobahn. Today, thanks to the acquisition by beer conglomerate Inbev, Beck’s beer that’s sold in the U.S. is brewed in St. Louis, but it still taste like a German beer. I buy cans of Bitburger at Trader Joe’s and I’m pleased to see their advertising slogan “Bitte ein Bit” has endured. And, apparently,  it’s still brewed in Bitburg, Germany.

German pilsner today tastes brisk and light, compared to many American craft beers, but it still has the terrific flavor I learned to like many years ago. The alcohol content of the German beers I drink is about 5 percent. That I can deal with for a daily brew.

So God bless the American craft brew business because they’ve made American beer worth drinking. But German pilsner is a rocket from my past that tastes just as good as it did when I first put my young innocent mouth to a bottle.

P.S. Some of you probably spotted a Guinness stout, hiding behind the German beers in my fridge. It’s my wife’s not mine. Though I tried for years to appreciate the taste of stout, it was wasted time. I think it’s terrible stuff. In fact, that beer has been in the fridge for six months. I don’t think my wife really likes it either.




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