Friday, September 5, 2008

The Session #19 - Deutsches Bier

The 19th edition of The Session is hosted by Lootcorp 3.0 - A Brewing Bog and is introduced thusly:
I’ve decided to make September’s topic Deutsches Bier - German beer. I want you all to focus on the wonderful contributions our German neighbors have made to the beer world. You can write about a particular German style you really enjoy, a facet of German beer culture which tickles your fancy, or any other way in which Germany and beer have become intertwined in your life.

Although I do enjoy German and other imports, I'm an unabashed fan of American craft beers. American craft brewers are adept at taking a classic style and making it their own, often giving it that extra "oomph". Sometimes the change is brash, sometimes subtle. Some folks might cry out about a beer being "not to style", but for me it's not about strict adherence to style guidelines, which are changeable, but whether or not the beer is enjoyable to drink.

For this Session we'll take a look at some American versions of classic German styes, focusing mainly on beers brewed or available locally. We'll get a glance at a few of the many American craft brewers who have adopted these styles to create some of our favorite beers. Some of the beers stay close to "style", others less so. This isn't necessarily a discussion about German beers, but rather a survey of some American beers influenced by German styles.


These dark beers have high malt content, with little hop flavor. A common bock that most Americans are familiar with is Shiner Bock from the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Sam Adams Winter Lager is another popular example. Abita Brewing Mardi Gras Bock and New Glarus Uff-da are other examples I've tried.

Doppelbocks take bock beers "up a notch". First brewed by the monks of St. Francis of Paula, they're typically darker, with a higher alcohol content. Brooklyn Brewery Brooklynator Dopplebock and Tröegs Troegenator Doublebock are two that I've enjoyed recently. Boston Beer Company also produces their Double Bock annually. Flying Dog Wild Dog Collaborator Doppelbock is an adaptation I wrote about for a previous session post. New Glarus Unplugged Bourbon Barrel Bock and Tommyknocker Butthead Doppelbock, though not local, have also made appearances at our table.

Dortmunder / Export Lager
Originating in Dortmunder, Germany, these crisp lagers are similar to Pilsner beers. Locally, two favorites are Hard Times Select Lager, brewed by Clipper City in Baltimore, and Old Dominion Lager. The Boston Beer Company brewed Dortmunder Style Export as a Longshot contest winner in 2007.

German Pilsener
The German answer to Bohemian Pilsners, these light, crisp lagers often exhibit strong hop bitterness. Victory Prima Pils is one that I often enjoy. Other local examples are St. George Pilsner and Tröegs Sunshine Pils. New Belgium Blue Paddle Pilsner from Colorado is an example that seems to be popular in the western part of the Country. Left Hand Brewing Polestar Pilsner from also Colorado is available the east.

Maibock / Helles Bock
Maibocks are lighter in color and alcohol than standard bocks. Though traditionally served in the Spring, maibocks seem to available year round here. Dead Guy Ale from Rogue Brewery in California is widely distributed. Locally, St. George Brewery produces Fall Bock maibock. Weeping Radish Maibock is another east coast Maibock.

Munich Dunkel
These are rich, complex beers from Bavaria. I can only think of two American beers that I've had in this style. Saranac Chocolate Amber Lager from Matt Brewing in New York and Weeping Radish Black Radish Dark Lager from North Carolina.

Munich Helles
The Munich Helles style was originated by the Spaten brewery in answer to the German people's new-found fascination with "lighter" Pilsner beers. I've had only a few American examples of the style. St. George Lager and Weeping Radish Corolla Gold are two east coast examples that come to mind.

Märzen / Oktoberfest
Traditionally brewed in the Spring and kept in cold storage until it was time to celebrate the harvest, this would be my favorite German-style of beer. Numerous breweries release Oktoberfest-style beers in the late Summer. Blue and Gray Baron von Stueben Oktoberfest is available in limited quantities in September and was the subject of a post earlier this week. Samuel Adams Octoberfest is another that I look forward to appearing on draft at local restaurants each fall. Other examples available locally include Brooklyn Oktoberfest Beer, Clipper City BaltoMärzHon, Old Dominion Octoberfest, and Victory Festbier. Gordon Biersch Märzen is another favorite from one of the Country's best lager beer brewers.

The style name is German for "black beer." These dark beers buck the stereotype by being lighter in body, though dark in appearance. Boston Beer Samuel Adams Black Lager is usually available late Summer in the brewery's "brewmaster collection."

Vienna Lager
This is a "mainstream" lager originally developed in the city for which it gets its name. Samuel Adams Boston Lager is the Vienna Lager that's probably most familiar to Americans. Starr Hill Jomo Lager from Charlottesville is an excellent example of the style, and one that only recently began getting wider distribution. Pennsylvania Brewing Company's Penn Pilsner is another fine example. Weeping Radish brews a Vienna lager called simply Fest. Interestingly, the Vienna Lager style today is most commonly found in beers from the U.S. and Mexico.


These somewhat bitter, brown beers could be considered the German answer to Engish Pale Ales. I only recall a couple of these from American breweries. Weeping Radish Farm Brew Altbier was enjoyed on a trip to North Carolina couple of years ago, and Alaskan Amber I had just recently in Denver.

Berliner Weissbier
Berliner Weissbiers are sour wheat beers typically served mixed with sweet fruit syrup. I've not had the opportunity to try any authentic Berliner Weissebier, but do frequently enjoy Festina Pêche, Dogfish Head Brewery's interpretation of the style.

These traditional German wheat beers are generally made available during the Summer months. They typically have moderate to strong clove or banana aromas and flavors. Locally, Blue and Gray Brewing releases Virginia Hefeweizen each Summer. This year's release from Blue & Gray was a bit more hoppy than usual, a flavor variation I enjoyed. Brooklyn Brooklyner Weisse, Outer Banks Buddha Bubba Hefeweizen, Victory Sunrise Weiss, and Weeping Radish Weizen are other local examples.

Somewhat similar to blonde ales, the style was originally developed in Köln, Germany, I've had only a few American examples of the style. Flying Dog Brewery Tire Bite Golden Ale and Weeping Radish Kolsch are two that come to mind.

Strong, dark wheat beers, Weizenbocks typically have a noticeable alcohol flavor. Clipper City Brewery Hang Ten is one I look forward to each year. the brewery releases each July, bucking the stereotype for "summer beer". Boston Brewing Longshot Weizenbock made it's appearance earlier this year. Victory Moonglow Weizenbock is another very popular Weizenbock.

The list above is by no means exhaustive or all-inclusive. The beers mentioned are ones that I've had recently, and are generally available locally. After completing this exercise it becomes apparent that some American brewers are specialists in German ales and lagers. Victory, St. George, and Weeping Radish are east coast brewers that produce a range of German-style lagers. Other breweries offer them along with other styles. I'd never given much thought to the number of beers I've enjoyed that have German style influences. It's plain to see from this limited list that the German brewing traditional has had a significant influence on American craft brewers.

Update, September 9: The Session roundup has been posted at Lootcorp.


  1. While American brewers are indeed often very good at adding oomph to European styles, they are also (in my experience) at least as likely to make a complete balls of them as well.

    I'd class Samuel Adams Octoberfest as one of these. Though the Black Lager is streets ahead of any schwarzbier I've had.

  2. Just had Legend O'fest...favorite so far of the many many O'fests I have tried.

  3. Nicely done...David.

    Not sure I can complete this assignment between now and the end of October.

    Zu viele Biere. Zu wenig Zeit.

  4. I'm with ya on Gordon Biersch. Their Schwartzbier is pretty stellar, too.

    Mmmmm... fresh lager... (drools)


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