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Where does German beer actually come from?

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Right then,

 

Just where the hell does it all come from?

 

I have this wonderful hop growing in my garden. Latin Humulus lupulus meaning sort of "Earth bound wolf", it explodes in spring up to my balcony and takes over till autumn when the wonderful beery hops start to appear. Now its long been a dream of mine to use them to ferment up some liquid to get trounced in winter (I already harvest ten litres of red Muscat off my grapes). Now we all know that beer is just supposed to be malt, hops and yeast, the yeast might be relatively easy to obtain in a health food shop, but the malt?

 

As I understand on the web, malt is produced by sprouting grains of gerste or Barley, then lightly roasting in an oven (in Kent they have oast houses for this). Is this too much of a faff to do locally at home? is there anything else I might substitute for it?

 

Another question about German beer - is any of it organically made? When hundreds of years ago the beers were made by small breweries I am sure all the ingredients were derived locally. For all these huge beers like Paulaner, Franziskaner these days, how much of it is coming from inside Germany? and how do we know what they are spraying on the crops if its out of Germany?

 

If the crops are sprayed say if the grain comes from Eastern Europe, how much use is it having a "Reinheitsgebot" if the produce is full of chemical?

 

Such things I wonder about.

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One of the many nonsensical aspects of the Reinheitsgebot is that there is no requirement for the ingredients to be organic, regardless of which country they come from. There are a handful of organic breweries, such as Lammsbräu, but most use non-organic ingredients.

 

Ingredients you get from a home-brewers store. It's very easy to make bad beer and very difficult to make good beer (much more complicated than making wine), so my advice would be to leave it to the professionals; if you're bored of Munich beer then there's loads of great beer available online. But if you really want to make your own then there's a homebrewers club right here on Toytown.

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One of the many nonsensical aspects of the Reinheitsgebot is that there is no requirement for the ingredients to be organic

 

And just why would a 500-year-old rule accomodate a rather recent fad?

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Right Jeremy, hops started being cultivated in the mid eleventh century and was one of many spices used to add flavour and longevity to beer. Problems arising from brewers using cheaper, toxic spices led to restrictions on what spices were allowed to be added to beer. Of course hops, which contains alpha acids, and essential oils are anti microbial as in they inhibit many of the bacteria that cause off flavours in beer. As well as providing us with a bitter flavour to balance out the sweet malt and lovely floral aromas. Other spices can and are used to make beer, however hops are hard to beat when it comes to beer production.

 

Malt as you have correctly stated is barely (or other grains) which are allowed to germinate to a point that the starch sacks in the grain are modified enough that they will go into solution when milled and combined with warm water (usually around 62 deg C). This allows the enzymes which are present in the malt to process the starch into simpler sugars, which can be achieved by bring the malt solution (mash) to various temperature optima of enzymes and allowing them to work. Some enzymes develop during the germination others are present already in the unmodified grain.

 

Malting is a lot of work. I've heard of people doing it at home, with varying degrees of success, however you are much better off buying it from a maltster or a homebrew shop where they will premill it for you if you need that. The basic process of malting includes allowing the grain to get through its dormant stage, forcing the grain to take in a lot of water mass through soaking, draining, showering and repeating ad naseum. allowing the grain to germinate while controlling the speed at which it germinates by controlling temperature, CO2/O2 balance and humidity. Stopping the germination phase before the grain starts utilizing the starch to start growing through kilning (ie removing so much water that the 'keimling' dies) This is a process that usually takes about 18 hours and is normally done through temperature controlled air being pushed through a bed of grain. It is a very fine tuned process that controls the type of malt you get and how you can use it.

 

Most breweries would have their own malt house back in the day, although there was usually a local maltster who would provide malt to breweries without a malt house or for breweries who couldn't produce enough. This used to be back breaking work in wet, cold environments. Using little more than wooden shovels and some other rudimentary tools to turn and move tons of green malt daily.

 

The big question of why barely as the defacto grain. Beer of course is suspected to have developed with bread. The baker would bake the bread the first day and the left over bread would be turned into a slurry with water the next day and left to ferment. However when you make the transition to beer being brewed on it's on you have to find a way bring sugars into solution and getting rid of all the solids. Barely not only has all the enzymes necessary to process its starch, as well as having a pleasant flavour, but it also has a hull, which forms the basis for a natural filter bed. So you can allow the milled grains to form a natural filter bed and then run water through it to wash the sugars from the grains into solution (wort). Wheat which loses it's hull simply forms an impermeable bed and proves to be rather unsuited for beer making (although you can use it with barely to make beer.)

 

Most munich breweries still use local malt, from local barely. However when buying malt from sources outside of the germany the malt/barely has to conform to the same restrictions put on german grain producers. So if you really feel strongly about it you can start buying organic beer, however the quality of bio malt is still kinda questionable.

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And just why would a 500-year-old rule accomodate a rather recent fad?

 

Well 500 years ago all the ingredients were by default organic; it's the spraying of chemicals onto foodstuffs that is the recent fad. I'm not saying that all beer should be organic, but that I'm tired of all this "purity" crap.

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oh just to let Jeremy relax, a list of barely production by nation (wiki):

 

 

Die größten Gersteproduzenten weltweit (2009)[3]

Rang Land Menge

(in t) Rang Land Menge

(in t)

1 Russland 17.880.760 13 Dänemark 3.421.000

2 Frankreich 12.879.600 14 China 3.400.000*

3 Deutschland 12.288.100 15 Kasachstan 2.519.000

4 Ukraine 11.833.100 16 Algerien 2.203.359

5 Kanada 9.517.200 17 Finnland 2.171.000

6 Australien 8.098.000 18 Weißrussland 2.123.424

7 Spanien 7.399.700 19 Tschechien 2.003.032

8 Türkei 7.300.000 20 Indien 1.690.000

9 Vereinigtes Königreich 6.969.000 ...

10 Vereinigte Staaten 4.949.370 31 Österreich 835.107

11 Polen 3.983.900 53 Schweiz 198.091

12 Iran 3.446.227 Welt 150.271.573

 

 

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Strict constructionists would have it that the Framers of the Reinheitsgebot intended all the ingredients to be organically grown. :ph34r:

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Edit: Thank you Jeremy.

 

strict constructionists? The purity laws were intended to keep bread prices down, and keep poisonous spices out of beer. Strict constructionists would say the addition of yeast is an abomination. All beer should be spontaneously fermented I say. Down with progress, not because it is bad, but just because.

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Most of what is said about the "Deutsches Reinheitsgebot" is a mix of myth and marketing. For obvious reasons, there was no "law" on beer making valid for the whole of Germany before the 20th century but only various local rules. These older text did not mention yeast as an ingredient because its role and nature was simply not understood before the 19th century. In any case, there are perfectly good beers being brewed in Belgium or England with all sorts of extra ingredients and even in Germany it was never totally forbidden to use something else than water, barley malt, hops and yeasts (think Weizenbier, which is obviously made from wheat, or other top-fermented beers, which can include sugar and coloring agents).

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(think Weizenbier, which is obviously made from wheat

 

Weizenbier conforms to the Reinheitsgebot (sadly), since it also uses malt - just made from wheat instead of barley (similarly there's also beer using avena malt).

 

 

other top-fermented beers, which can include sugar and coloring agents

 

And at least the latter are not allowed to call themselves Bier...

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Weizenbier conforms to the Reinheitsgebot (sadly), since it also uses malt - just made from wheat instead of barley (similarly there's also beer using avena malt).

 

And at least the latter are not allowed to call themselves Bier...

 

Beside the fact that there is absolutely no reason to be happy about these restrictions or deny the name "beer" to all other beers in the world using other ingredients, this simply isn't true, see e.g. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinheitsgebot. Top-fermented beers with added sugar and colorings have been brewed and sold as beer in Germany for a long time.

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Top-fermented beers are allowed to have extra sugar added to them, but bottom-fermented beers not. Try explaining the logic of that one. (I should point out that there's nothing wrong with adding extra sugar; it's for the yeast to feed on, not to make the beer sweet.)

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I've also got an insane hop plant which started as a twig, and now takes over half the bloody garden every year. If you need more hops, you're welcome to them.

 

Screw doing the malting malarky yourself though. Massive hassle.

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a mate of ours went to all the trouble of brewing his own beer didn't taste too bad. the best bit though was the wind we all had the next morning.

proper brass-band trumps, but not that smelly. the perfect farts, comedy value without the ming afterwards.

 

subsequent home-brews just never matched :(

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Top-fermented beers are allowed to have extra sugar added to them, but bottom-fermented beers not. Try explaining the logic of that one. (I should point out that there's nothing wrong with adding extra sugar; it's for the yeast to feed on, not to make the beer sweet.)

 

I don't know if that was actually the case but it could have been a way to accommodate different brewing traditions. Both bottom-fermented beer and the Reinheitsgebot originate from Bavaria, whereas well-known top-fermented beers (apart from Weizen) typically come from other regions.

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I thought everybody knew that German beer comes from the Semperoper where it is brewed...

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I have another question regarding the hops...whenever I am driving up towards Nuremburg where you can see all the hops growing I think of all the cars/trucks that are driving past on the autobahn...would the fumes etc from those vehicles have any sort of effect on the hops growing right next to the autobahn?

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Another question about German beer - is any of it organically made?

Yeah, very much so. I buy wonderful white organic beer in my local organic stores. Absolutely delicious.

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I have another question regarding the hops...whenever I am driving up towards Nuremburg where you can see all the hops growing I think of all the cars/trucks that are driving past on the autobahn...would the fumes etc from those vehicles have any sort of effect on the hops growing right next to the autobahn?

 

I doubt it, modern vehicles emissions are extremely low. Despite what the green party like to tell people air pollution isn't caused by vehicles anymore, industrial pollution is what needs reducing.

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