Bavaria is often associated with the most popular beer festival Oktober Fest . Some would first think about all the clichés around this festival: abusive consumption of beers and meat, leather shorts and funny hats…
But Bavaria is a German region with the most important concentration of breweries per inhabitants! Close to half of the around 1500 in the country are in Bavaria.-In Germany depending on the studies people drink on average 103 litres per year- vs. 33 in France. So was Bavaria the cliché we were told about?
To be honest we don’t know but there is a lot more to discover. We went to Bavaria for a few days this Winter and we got to think about what would be a possible way forward to consume beer responsibly and in a sustainable way.
Tradition and quality
When we explained we wanted to explore the beer scene of Bavaria, some good friends and alleged craft beer experts in Paris told us this was rather an old fashion destination with boring and traditional beers.
Well after almost a week we can tell them now that we totally disagree. In Munich you can start your beer tasting with a fresh and slightly hoppy beer. Try first with the local and old brands Augustiner Hofbräu München or Paulaner Helles. Honestly even though they are industrial, those beers are produced with local fresh hops, barley or wheat and water from the Alps.
Since 1516 in Bavaria, a law, which has been today substantially adapted- Reinheitsgebot– or purity law, requires beer ingredients to be only water hops and cereals.
This long-lasting law explained today why most of the beers you drink are almost 100% local and fresh. Even though some critics would say Bavarian beers taste all the same, We really enjoy the freshness of those beers and the subtle and slight differences in taste depending on the volume of hops and yeast used.
After wandering a couple of hours in the city, we rested in a wonderful park- the English garden- where even in Winter you can get beers, food and hot wine.
We had great traditional wheat beers – Heffe Weiss- tasty dark wheat beers- Dunkel Weiss but also smoked beers- Rauchbeer, Red ales-Rotbier– and cellar beer- Kellerbier- which are not pasteurised and whose recipe traces back to the Middle Age.
Yes the beers are often the same but you have a variety of breweries in every Bavarian village and the opening of some beer gardens in spring and the harvest of hops and cereals at the end of summer are opportunities to celebrate.
Having said that you have several new local craft beers inspired by UK and US craft brewers.
The great care Bavarian producers put in their traditional beers can now also be found in the local craft beer scene. At consumers tables local beers industrial or craft are of high standard when it comes to the ingredients and the way they are served.
After all those beers in Munich, we had finally only one conclusion. Local production with local ingredients is key to respect consumers and the environment. To be sustainable, craft beers have to be local. Importing foreign ingredients can be interesting to experiment at times but local ingredients should be favored as much as possible at least for ethical and ecological reasons.
Comparison with France
Over the last five years, the craft beer revolution in France brought for customers a wider choice, new flavors, explosion of breweries creation- from around 400 in 2010 to 1000 today- and some new specialized bars and pubs.
Compared to traditional beer countries such as Germany, it seems France is caching up. However, are French breweries really creative? Or are they just revisiting innovative beverages of American and UK– based craft brewers?
One of the positive side effects of such revolution is at least the development of local breweries like La Montreuilloise in Paris region which strives to put forward local products and a sustainable and eco-friendly production methods.