Category Archives: Beer Styles

Alcohol-Free Augustiner: The Tasting

A few weeks ago, I wrote about alcohol-free Augustiner and why it’s a big deal. At the time, I hadn’t tasted it and was purely relying on other people’s verdicts and information.

Well, yesterday was the day. I’m currently in Munich for my job (it’s a hard life, eh), and so I tried to get some bottles of it. My wife had sent me to a bottle shop that may have it, but alas, no chance (“nobody has it right now”, as the guy behind the counter said).

So after dinner, I went to Augustinerkeller with a work colleague (a second one joined us later), to have some fresh Helles from wooden cask and to try the alcohol-free Helles because if one place just has to have it, it’s one of Augustiner’s top spots in Munich, right?

So, yes, they did have it.

A glass of Augustiner Alkoholfrei Hell on a beer coaster on a bar counter, with a second glass of it in the background, and a number of waiters further in the background

So let’s just get to the point: it’s very good, but it still tastes like an alcohol-free beer. I would happily order it again, and I would also happily use it to blend it with regular bottled Augustiner at home.

Last time I wrote about it, I said that with the traditional methods of brewing alcohol-free beer, you either end up with a full-bodied but sweet beer, or a very thin and slightly sour tasting beer. This beer balances this out: it’s full-bodied with a very mouthfeel compared to virtually all other alcohol-free beers I’ve had, it’s not sweet, and that sour taste is a lot less than in other beers. It’s more bitter than their regular Helles. It does not have that Augustiner house flavour (that bit of pleasant sulphur), though, but still all the other properties of a good Bavarian Helles.

My work colleagues also both liked it, one of them compared it favourably to Jever Fun. All of us ultimately still preferred Helles from wooden cask, which is understandable because at Augustinerkeller, it’s about the best Augustiner beer you can possibly get.

After that very unscientific sensory evaluation of this new alcohol-free beer, I stand by my prediction that this could be a game-changer. I think the fact alone that it’s impossible to get even in Munich and that Augustiner seemed to be slightly overwhelmed by the success of this new beer shows that they’ve created a bit of a hype.

Fun fact: while we were at Augustinerkeller, we witnessed 3 big wooden casks getting tapped, in a very consistent 40 minute interval. I asked what size they were. One-hundred litres, they waiter said. 100 litres, in just 40 minutes, at least 3 times over. Absolutely massive. But then, football was on, with Bayern playing Arsenal, and Augustinerkeller were showing it on big screens.

Two empty glasses of Augustiner Alkoholfrei Hell

How Pilsner Lost Its Geographic Indication Status in Germany

In the 19th and early 20th century, it was common to call beers in Germany and Austria by the place where they came from, a geographic indication if you will, such as Pilsner, Budweiser, or Münchner. Nowadays, this concept is applied to all other kinds of food and drink, and even has its own categories of protection on the EU level.

The success of specific beers of course often came with imitators. Some American breweries were good at marketing their locally brewed beers as all kinds of European beer types. One of my favourite examples is this Schlitz ad from 1891 that mentions Schlitz-brewed Budweiser, Pilsener, Wiener, Erlanger and Culmbacher, all referring to places in either Bohemia, Austria or Bavaria, all of them well-known for their beer at the time.

An ad for Schlitz Brewery Milwaukee from 1891, advertising Budweiser, Pilsener, Wiener, Erlanger and Culmbacher, among others.
An ad for Schlitz Brewery Milwaukee from 1891, advertising Budweiser, Pilsener, Wiener, Erlanger and Culmbacher, among others.

The case of Budweiser, which meant a century-long legal struggle between the breweries of Budweis/České Budějovice and Anheuser-Busch, is probably the best known one, but in the early 20th century, also some of the breweries of Pilsen/Plzeň weren’t super happy about the proliferation of the “Pilsner” resp. “Pilsener” name used for beers not from the Bohemian city of Pilsen/Plzeň.

(Ironically, nobody ever seemed to care about Anheuser-Busch stealing coopting another Bohemian place name well-known for its beer as a brand name, Michelob/Měcholupy)

In 1910, the breweries of Pilsen seem to have sued a number of German breweries, such as Pankow-based Engelhardt brewery, which were then initially banned from calling their beer “Engelhardt Pilsener” resp. “Engelhardt Export Pilsener”. The German court then found them to abuse the designation of origin of a foreign beer without clearly specifying that their beer wasn’t from Pilsen, but rather from Pankow just outside Berlin. This initial verdict is quite interesting, as it even specifically points out that a “light [i.e. pale], highly hopped, bottom-fermented bitter beer” didn’t necessarily need to be called a “Pilsner”, and specifically mentions Schultheiss Märzen as a counter-example of a beer with similar properties that makes no reference to the Bohemian city.

In December 1913 though, the Reichsgericht (Supreme court of the German Empire) in Leipzig passed a verdict that the term “Pilsener” had simply changed in meaning and couldn’t be seen as a pure geographic indication anymore, but rather as a statement of quality about the product, and that enforcing it as a geographic indication would be an interference into the “free development of business” by the court. The court also rejected any possible confusion of customers because of the price difference between “German Pilsener” and “real Pilsener”, and referred the case back to a lower court (this basically means that the Supreme court told the lower court what the correct legal opinion was meant to be). The complaining parties, namely Bürgerliches Brauhaus Pilsen, 1. Pilsener Aktienbrauerei and Pilsener Genossenschaftsbrauerei, were presumably not happy about it.

Just earlier that year, they had also sued Geraer Aktienbrauerei in Timm near Gera, Radeberger Exportbierbrauerei and Böhmisches Brauhaus in Berlin to stop calling their beers Timmser Pilsner, Radeberg Pilsner, resp. Pilsator (a brand that Böhmisches Brauhaus had started using only in 1909). The courts in these cases argued slightly differently, namely that while “Pilsner” hadn’t entirely lost its geographic indication, the prefixes of respective place names “Timmser” resp. “Radeberger” made the origin clearer and demoted “Pilsner” to a generic product name. In the case of “Pilsator”, it also noted that the beer had always been used in connection with Böhmisches Brauhaus Berlin, thus always making clear where it had come from.

This was hardly surprising, because even the Austrian administrative court had ruled in 1910 that “Pilsator” was merely a fantasy name that obviously did not indicate a provenance from Pilsen.

Little fun fact: the brand name “Pilsator” was the outcome of a competition in 1909 by Böhmisches Brauhaus Berlin that had been advertised with the slogan “Thousand Mark for One Word”. Among many thousand submissions, the jury selected the brand “Pilsator”. As this brand had been submitted by 26 competitors, the winner had to be chosen through a lottery, in which Josef Seestaller from Munich was drawn as the official winner. The Pilsner Tagblatt reported on this with the sarcastic comment that now the Berlin-based brewery just needs to do one more thing: brew a real Pilsner. The Pilsator name continued as a beer type in East Germany’s TGL 7764 regulation, and is still used as a brand name, namely Pilsator Pilsner brewed by Frankfurter Brauhaus in Frankfurt/Oder.

Pilsner beer wasn’t the only concern of the Pilsen breweries, though. In 1911, they petitioned the Prague commodity exchange (Produktenbörse) to stop using the terms “Pilsner malt”, “Vienna malt” and “Munich malt” because German and American breweries using “Pilsner malt” could claim that they were making “Pilsner beer” and that they had to defend their geographic indication in German courts. At the time, the question was referred to the Viennese commodity exchange.

Trade publication Der Böhmische Bierbrauer discussed in April 1912 how the term “Bohemian malt” was really more appropriate as it had been in use in scientific and trade publications, while “Pilsner malt” was more of a marketing term by maltings at the time. They suggested to change the official terminology at the Prague commodity exchange from “Pilsner malt” to “malt of wort colour up to 0.25 cm2 ⅒ n iodine solution”, “Vienna malt” to “malt of wort colour up to 0.40 cm2 ⅒ n iodine solution” and “Munich malt” to “malt of wort colour over 0.40 cm2 ⅒ n iodine solution”.

The article relents that this won’t get the term “Pilsner malt” banned but it will simply not get used anymore in official commodity exchange documents. They still asked readers to use the term “Bohemian malt”, not “Pilsner malt”, “as nobody will gain anything from it.”

Just a few days later, Der Böhmische Bierbrauer published another update about this matter. A report of the commodity exchange came to the conclusion that the proposal was practically a failure as it would only be limited to official documents at the exchange. At the exchange itself, it would also affect the interests of trading maltings that have used that term in their trade for a while now. Abuses of geographic indication should be pursued in other ways, according to the exchange.

Assuming from the lack of further reports on the matter, that seems to have been the end of it with regards to malt, and since the terms “Pilsner malt”, “Vienna malt” and “Munich malt” are still common trade names in the 21st century, the maltings have definitely prevailed.

Why Augustiner’s new alcohol-free Helles is a big deal

Augustiner brewery of Munich, known to be very conservative, secretive and loaded, recently announced their latest addition to their portfolio, an alcohol-free Helles, aptly named “Augustiner Alkoholfrei Hell”. Augustiner hadn’t released a new beer in 38 years, and in fact was the last of the “big six” Munich brands without an alcohol-free beer.

They first teased the release of a new beer type on Instagram without getting specific, which of course came with lots of outcry, “oh no, not an alcohol-free one! Please anything but an alcohol-free beer!” and such, but my first thought that this could be a game changer. Augustiner obviously cares a lot of about the quality and presentation of their own beers (for example, they still run their own cooperage on the outskirts of Munich to ensure that they can serve all their Oktoberfestbier from massive 200 liter “Hirsch” wooden casks, and will typically serve at least one beer from wooden casks in their prime locations), and a poorly-received alcohol-free beer (or any new beer type, really) could have really tarnished their reputation.

On Monday, 18th March 2024, the rumours of an alcohol-free beer turned out to be true, when Augustiner officially presented their new beer. I was of course very curious, and checked out early reports about it. Süddeutsche Zeitung was probably the first one to report on it (link to a paywall-free archived version of the article), and one thing that caught my eye was how openly Augustiner spoke about their method of production.

Basically, there are two ways of producing an alcohol-free beer: one is to brew a low-gravity wort and ferment either with a poorly attenuating yeast (essentially, one that cannot ferment maltose sugar) or to stop fermentation shortly after it’s started by chilling down the beer very quickly to prevent the yeast from metabolizing any further sugar. This approach is called arrested or restricted fermentation. The other method is to brew a regular beer and then dealcoholize it, i.e. remove the alcohol after fermentation through some method of cold distillation. This is generally called physical dealcoholisation. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, leading to either worty-sweet beer with the former method, or very thin, watery and slightly sour with the latter method. And as the Süddeutsche Zeitung says, “Augustiner decided on a mix of both methods.”

Through my very good friend Ben who works as a brewing scientist at VLB, I’ve learned about the paper Effect of Production Technique on Pilsner-Style Non-Alcoholic Beer (NAB) Chemistry and Flavor by Nils Rettberg, Scott Lafontaine, et al., published in early 2022 (Ben himself wrote about his experience with non-alcoholic beers after completing Dry January 2022). One of its conclusions was that blending non-alcoholic beers from restricted fermentation and from vacuum dealcoholisation produced a more harmonious beer that generally fared better in blind tasting than beers solely produced using either method. Another conclusion was that more hop compounds, such as through late kettle-hopping or dry-hopping, can mask the less pleasant flavours of non-alcoholic beers. This a very interesting paper, though of course rather technical, but if you’re interested in all the nitty-gritty details, definitely worth checking out.

While the paper is about Pilsner-type beers, and Helles is certainly not a beer type that has a particularly large amount of hop aroma or flavour, it still shows that for more lightly hopped beers, it still seems to be a practical approach for Augustiner, and they seem to have either drawn the same conclusions as the paper above or got convinced by the methods through it.

The tasting notes from Mareike Hasenbeck describe the beer as having a fresh, spicy and malty aroma with a hint of sulfur, while the flavour is malty-bready with a touch of lemon and sulfur and ample carbon dioxide on the tongue, finishing with a noticeable hop bitterness. Especially that last bit made me wonder whether the hopping rate was slightly increased compared to Augustiner’s regular Helles to create an overall nicer and rounder beer. Even though Augustiner’s approach was not to create a 1:1 copy of their flag-ship Augustiner Lagerbier Hell but rather a really good alcohol-free beer that meets their exacting, Mareike Hasenbeck notes that straight from the fridge, the fact that the beer is alcohol-free could be easily missed by laypeople (i.e. the non-nerdy, less discerning drinkers).

And I think that’s a big deal. If a regular beer drinker can have the non-alcoholic beer served under optimal conditions and not notice that it doesn’t contain alcohol (or at least, less than 0.5% by volume), you’re at a point where it is satisfying enough for consumers. At least for me personally, unless I specifically want to get inebriated, it would then make no difference whether I drink the regular version or the alcohol-free version. In fact, I would sometimes even want to specifically have the alcohol-free version, for example to avoid getting tipsy too quickly.

Previously, only one beer got close enough for me to this ideal, and that’s Guinness with the 0.0 version of their draught stout. When I first had it from nitro can, this was quite the revelation. To this day, I would still call it the most convincing alcohol-free beer, and don’t mind having a can or pint (or two) whenever I have the chance. Unfortunately, Guinness 0.0 has not made it to Germany yet, but I’m still hopeful. The only other beer that got close to it for me was Riedenburger Dolden Null, a German alcohol-free IPA, but their trick is basically to hide the worty flavour under loads of hops.

Everything I’ve read about the Augustiner Alkoholfrei Hell sounds to me as if Augustiner may have pulled off the same as Guinness, to release a convincing alcohol-free Helles that may be pleasing even to consumers and Augustiner fans that otherwise would not choose an alcohol-free beer. That’s a big deal, and could change the landscape and expected quality of alcohol-free beer in Bavaria and the rest of Germany.

As for myself, I have yet to try the new beer, and it doesn’t seem to have arrived in Berlin yet. One drinks wholesaler with a dedicated beer shop in Charlottenburg estimated it 3 to 4 weeks until they get it, while a restaurant/beer garden near the government district that is known for its Augustiner from wooden cask estimated it to take more like 4 to 8 weeks.

Ben on the other hand has already had a chance to try the beer at Augustinerkeller in Munich, and called it “unsurprisingly excellent”. With everything he also told me about it in private conversations, I am very hopeful that Augustiner Alkoholfrei Hell will indeed be a game changer.

Since the release, Tegernseer also started talking about how they’re currently working on their own alcohol-free Helles. The game is definitely on.

P.S.: in case you wondered what the last beer was Augustiner launched 38 years ago: it was their Hefeweizen.

How To Brew Mönchsambacher Weihnachts-Bock, according to the brewmaster

At HBCon 2024 (more about the event here), one of the sessions I attended was a seminar about how to brew easy-drinking Bockbier. Basically, brewmaster Stefan Zehendner told us all the details about the beer, the idea an concept behind, everything about the ingredients and the brewing process, and of course lots of little details and anecdotes.

A lot of information about that particular beer can already be found in this article in Craft Beer & Brewing, and if you’re a subscriber to that magazine, there’s even a home-brew recipe available.

Mönchsambacher produces a total of about 6000 hl of beer per year, with no intention of further growing the business. Of this, about 1,500 crates (i.e. 150 hl) is Weihnachts-Bock, which is usually sold out within a week.

The Weihnachts-Bock has about 17.5 to 18 °P original gravity. To achieve consistency, all the lager tanks are blended into one beer during packaging. It has about 3.3 to 3.5 °P residual extract, and is hopped to 48 IBU. Compared to the brewery’s other beers, this CO2 content is slightly higher, making this whole beer a hop-forward, not too sweet, well-integrated beer.

The brewmaster considers his brewing water to be one of the keys to his beer. The water is very hard: 28 °dH (German degrees of hardness), where 1° equals 0.1783 mmol/l. About 13 to 14 °dH are magnesium, and about the same amount is calcium, much of it bound to sulfate. This hardness results in a higher mash pH for the Bock, around 5.6 to 5.7.

The grist is simple: 100% Pilsner malt. As many other local breweries, Mönchsambacher gets their malt from local maltings Bamberger Malz. The grist is also used for all the other bottom-fermented beers, except for the Festbier, which is brewed from a 50/50 blend of Pilsner and Vienna malt. The Pilsner malt from Bamberger Malz is slightly less modified.

This is what the mash schedule looks like:

The grist is mashed in at 45°C, then rested for 10 minutes.

Then the mash is heated up to 52°C, for another 10 minute rest.

After this rest, the mash is heated up to 62°C, and the first (and only) decoction is pulled: about one third of the mash volume (relatively thin mash) is pumped into the kettle, brought up to 72°C and rested for 15 minutes for saccharification. It is then brought to a boil and boiled for 5 minutes before it is mixed back.

Stefan called this decoction to be important for the bright golden colour of the beer and a more robust (he used the word kernig which is impossible for me to translate) body.

After mixing the decoction back, the mash should have reached 72°C. It is then left to saccharify for another 20 minutes, after which it is heated up to 78°C, which is when lautering starts.

The wort is boiled for a total of 75 minutes. The only hop variety used in the brewery is Perle. In the case of the Weihnachts-Bock, the hops are added at 3 points: at the beginning of the boil, 25 minutes before the end of the boil, and in the whirlpool. The hops in the whirlpool are added beforehand, so it has 10 minutes of contact while the wort is pumped into the whirlpool, and then left for a trub cone to form for another 15 minutes until the wort is pumped out of the whirlpool.

The wort is then chilled to 7.5°C, yeast is pitched, and fermentation happens at 9.2°C. The brewmaster said the yeast strain they use is W-34/72 which they get delivered from Speckner yeast lab in Augsburg. I’ve not been able to find that particular strain in Speckner’s list of available strain, so this is probably a matter of miscommunication (Speckner has W-34/70 and W-34/78 in their portfolio). In any case, Zehendner finds the water much more important than the yeast, so for home-brewers, W-34/70 is probably totally sufficient.

What is important though is that the yeast must have gotten used to the brewery before it is used for fermenting the Weihnachts-Bock. So any yeast going into Weihnachts-Bock has been pitched once or twice before.

Fermentation takes 13 days in tanks which are left open, so it is effectively open fermentation. Before moving the beer into lagering tanks, Kräusen (freshly fermenting beer) from another tank is added at about 10% before it is lagered to ensure a very clean secondary fermentation/lagering. Lagering itself happens at 2°C for a total of 12 weeks, with fermentation slowly progressing for 10 weeks.

The last time this recipe has changed was when the brewery upgraded their brew system in 2000. As part of the adjustments, the number of decoctions was reduced from 2 to 1, and because they had sold the coolship, the hop addition had to be removed. Because there was no more coolship, the whirlpool was instead chosen to have a similar geometry so that the wort can “stink out” in the same way, so basically that DMS and other unwanted chemical compounds can evaporate in the same way and at the same rate.

When the beer is bottled, it is always unfiltered. Zehendner considers a bit of yeast to be absolutely vital to have a beer that can age well. Apparently, the beer will ferment a little bit more after bottling, so practically, the Weihnachts-Bock is a bottle-conditioned beer. The best before date is 3 months for the Weihnachts-Bock and just 5 weeks for the regular Lager. The main reason for the short date is that the beer changes in the bottle, and slowly loses its sulphur notes, making it taste different from what regular drinkers expect. Mönchsambacher also keeps their bottled beers chilled at all times, and are selling it chilled directly from the brewery.

Something that I had never heard before was the anecdote of a pediococcus infection they struggled with for about a year. Pediococcus is a bacteria that makes beer go “ropey”, it gives it a slimey texture and leaves behind plenty of diacetyl. They struggled with such an infection on and off for about a year, until they finally discovered the unlikely source of the infection: the water source! After spending about €80,000 on a membrane filter, this has finally been cleaned up and now the brewery is infection-free again. The brewmaster pointed out that the water treatment with chlorine dioxide would have been another option, but he decided against it specifically because he thinks that it could also negatively affect yeast health in the long run.

Still, this is the only time where I’ve heard that the infection vector of a brewery was the water. It is quite insidious: after disinfecting the whole brewery, all it needs is some water to rinse off disinfectants, and you got the infection back on your equipment.

Stefan Zehendner is not just a traditional Franconian brewer, he also likes to experiment: recently, they filled a batch of Weihnachts-Bock into a wine cask that was previously filled with spontaneously fermented Silvaner wine. In the future, he’s also thinking about producing Weihnachts-Bock wort and getting it fermented somewhere else as a sour beer, which also sounds absolutely intriguing. And apparently if you visit the brewery taproom at the right times, there’s a chance that a keg of Cantillon might be on, about the last beer you’d expect in Franconia.

The process I described here does not just apply to the Weihnachts-Bock, but their other Bock, the Maibock, is also brewed essentially the same way. The only differences are a slightly reduced original gravity of 16.5°P and a reduced bitterness of about 40 IBU.

And that’s how you brew Mönchsambacher Weihnachts-Bock, based on all my notes from the session at Heimbrau Convention 2024. I think this description is complete enough to brew a pretty faithful clone at home.

The Diversity of Beer, 200 Years Ago And Now

You’ve probably heard the complaint before: craft beer is becoming monotonous, it’s all about IPA, most breweries just brew hazy bois with a few fruited sours and pastry stouts sprinkled in between, and if they feel extra special, a West Coast IPA. This is usually refuted with the argument that brewers just brew what pays the bills, it’s what people want to drink, etc., which is again countered with lamentation that other beer styles are dying out (ok, a bit hyperbolic) because nobody brews them anymore.

This is not a new phenomenon.

150 to 200 years, German beer and brewing experienced a massive shift. Small breweries were previously mostly brewing relatively small amounts of beer solely for the local market using little to no automation, brewers were organized in guilds, not interested in scaling out their businesses, and sometimes even bound by local law to brew and sell their beer on a rota (Reihebrauen). Then the industrial revolution came and destroyed a lot of these structures.

In some cases it was young brewers with an entrepreneurial spirit taking over from their fathers and looking to expand and grow it using modern technologies, in others it was simply trained brewers backed by money to start entirely new brewing companies with all the latest equipment and scientific knowledge to brew excellent beer.

Bottom-fermented beer became fashionable, and due to how it was produced and stored (at cold temperatures with a yeast that increased the sulphur content of the beer, two factors contributing to a more stable beer) the beer became more suitable for export. Export in this context simply meant shipping it further than what was the common “local” area, but innovations like the railroad made it possible to ship beer quite a bit further, and with the invention of ice waggons, some breweries were even able to establish proper cool chains (a famous example for that is the Dreher brewery in Kleinschwechat near Vienna which shipped ice-chilled lager beer from their brewery to the Paris Expo 1867, one delivery took just 5 days and was kept at a constant 4°C). The beer tasted clean, fresh and properly quenched the thirst of beer drinkers.

People started craving this fashionable beer, so naturally, the market adjusted to it, beer legislation was liberalized, and more brewers had the opportunity to enter the market and brew bottom-fermented beers. At the same time, the old-time breweries where “local beer for local people” had been brewed for hundreds of years, didn’t have the money to upgrade their equipment to brew these new-fangled beer styles, or even to make smoke-free malt like the new lager breweries were doing it.

Within just a few decades, a lot of small, local breweries simply shut down because they couldn’t compete, and local beer styles (German brewing literature at the often spoke of Lokalbiere) simply went extinct because nobody wanted to drink them anymore. A lot of these beers we only know by name these days, a few have been preserved in the form of recipes, though a lot of details like how specific malts were prepared are not so well documented, leaving more questions than answers.

When we look at Germany, which beer styles are prevalent (because craft beer is really just a teeny tiny 1% segment of the whole market) and which of these beer styles are from before the industrial revolution, it becomes apparent how bleak it really is.

To the best of my knowledge, the list is really short: Berliner Weisse, Bavarian Weißbier, Altbier and Kölsch (I like to group them as Rhenish Bitter Beers or Top-Fermented Lager Beers because they are more similar than different though people from Düsseldorf and Cologne may hate me for that), Leipziger Gose, and Bamberger smoked beer, and some of them did not fare too well in the last 70, 80 years and were only just rescued from dying out.

Berliner Weisse was still brewed by a few breweries in both East and West Berlin after World War 2. The biggest shock was probably when Schultheiss stopped brewing their traditional unboiled mixed-fermented version. Berliner Kindl Weisse, a very industrial beer brewed by fermenting a low-alcohol beer normally and blending it with another batch that was just fermented with lactic acid bacteria and then sterile-filtrated, thus became the only available brand on the market. In Berlin, the style was really only rescued by a few craft brewers, such as Andreas Bogk, BrewBaker, Lemke, Schneeeule, Berliner Berg, Vagabund, and others, who specifically intended not to let this piece of beer history die out.

Bavarian Weißbier was already a niche product when it again became permitted for private Bavarian brewers to brew with wheat again, and it only survived because of a relatively small group of connoisseurs, until the 1960s when it suddenly somehow became more fashionable again and thus had its revival.

Altbier and Kölsch were not particularly popular during the interwar period, and really only regained popularity after World War 2: Kölsch as it was marketed as a genuinely local beer, appealing to the hyperlocal patriotism in Cologne, while Düsseldorfer Altbier apparently only regained popularity in the 1960s. Münstersches Altbier, another Altbier style, really only exists in the form of one brewery, Pinkus Müller.

Leipziger Gose was actually functionally extinct from the early 1960s when the last Gose brewery shut its doors until the mid-1980s, and it could only be rebrewed and revived to its original taste because the East German brewers producing it could have it taste-tested by beer drinkers who still remembered it from before the 1960s.

And finally smoked beer. Even in Bamberg, this is kind of a niche product. Of the more than 10 breweries that are still around, only two still make their own smoked malt to brew their very own smoked beer, Brauerei Heller (Schlenkerla) and Brauerei Spezial. Greifenklau stopped their own kilning operation in the early 1970s, but fortunately is still around. Nowadays, they brew some smoked beer as a seasonal product, but their owning malting and kilning operation is long gone. And Polarbär brewery, which I like to call the fourth Bamberg smoked beer brewery isn’t operational since the 1950s or so.

And yet, none of these beer styles are truly extinct or even remotely in danger of going extinct. Why? Simply put, thanks to craft beer. Starting in the US, but now really all over the world, there are countless beer nerds who truly care about these old beer types, some rebrew them at home, others brew them commercially, making these beers that were definitely at the brink of extinction better known to beer drinkers all around the world.

Yes, there is some truth that IPAs and hazies are taking over, and yes, some breweries certainly struggle with that problem, because it’s what pays the bills. “The customer is king”, and it would not make sense economically to brew a beer that would not be as popular and thus not sell as well. In the end, IPAs keep the other styles afloat, as the money earned through them gives brewers some freedom to also try out other styles. Styles that used to extremely local to just small regions of Germany have now gained worldwide fame. Even 50 years ago, this probably would have been mostly unthinkable.

Danish Temperance Beer in 1905

While browsing Gambrinus (an old Austrian brewing industry newspaper), I came across an article discussing Danish temperance beers. At the time, Denmark had a significant amount of distilled spirit consumption (14.57 liters per capita per annum, allegedly the highest in the world at the time, compared to 9.8 liters in Austria-Hungary) as well as a significant beer consumption (91.39 liters, compared to 41.2 liters in Austria-Hungary) that was allegedly only topped by Belgium, the UK and Germany at the time.

In this environment, lower alcohol beers, so called temperance beers, were made tax-free: if a beer had less than 2.25% (the article isn’t clear whether this is by weight or by volume), no duty had to be paid on the beer itself.

Interestingly, these beers were brewed top-fermented, using different methods. The first method was to use a low-gravity wort that was then fully fermented, while the second method involved a regular-gravity wort that was fermented but fermentation was stopped early to only achieve a low attenuation. The article then compares the analytical data of five of these Danish temperance beers with the same data of a Viennese Abzugbier and a Bohemian Schankbier (výčepní).

Mörk Carlsberg Skattefri (Dark)
  • OG 7.47° Balling
  • Residual Extract 2.73°
  • Alcohol 1.92%
  • Apparent Attenuation 63.46%
Lys Carlsberg Skattefri (Pale)
  • OG 6.40° Balling
  • Residual Extract 1.71°
  • Alcohol 1.90%
  • Apparent Attenuation 73.28%
Aegte Kroneoel
  • OG 11.36° Balling
  • Residual Extract 7.51°
  • Alcohol 1.56%
  • Apparent Attenuation 33.89%
Export Dobbeltoel
  • OG 14.68° Balling
  • Residual Extract 10.90°
  • Alcohol 1.53%
  • Apparent Attenuation 25.75%
Krone Pilsener
  • OG 9.48° Balling
  • Residual Extract 5.76°
  • Alcohol 1.51%
  • Apparent Attenuation 39.24%
Wiener Abzugbier
  • OG 10.04° Balling
  • Residual Extract 3.46°
  • Alcohol 2.42%
  • Apparent Attenuation 65.54%
Böhmisches Schankbier
  • OG 10.09° Balling
  • Residual Extract 2.66°
  • Alcohol 3.02%
  • Apparent Attenuation 73.63%

In another article in Der Böhmische Bierbrauer from 1906, Krone-Oel-Bryggeriet is discussed in greater detail. They started brewing tax-free beers with the Kroneoel in 1895. Because of the product’s great success with just 1.5% alcohol by weight, a second product, Krone Pilsener was added in 1899, which was designed to be paler and lighter in original gravity, with a fine, mild hop bouquet. Just a year later, the portfolio was extended with Export Dobbeltoel, a dark beer very high in extract.

The popularity of these tax-free beers (this article is clearer, they must have less than 2.25% alcohol content by weight in order to be tax-free) shows in the sales figures:

  • 1895/1896: 2,918,508 half liter bottles
  • 1896/1897: 5,702,032 -“-
  • 1897/1898: 7,750,032 -“-
  • 1898/1899: 9,281,958 -“-
  • 1899/1900: 10,018,905 -“-
  • 1900/1901: 10,939,750 -“-
  • 1901/1902: 11,430,867 -“-
  • 1902/1903: 13,638,806 -“-
  • 1903/1904: 13,665,237 -“-
  • 1904/1905: 14,704,359 -“-

That is an astonishing increase of the sales volume by 503% over the course of just 10 years, from 29,185 hl to 147,043 hl per year. For comparison, Kleinschwechater Brewery from Austria, one of the largest European breweries at the time, produced 441,490 hl of beer in 1905. Producing a third of that volume just in bottled low-alcohol temperance beer seems quite a feat.

After reading about Danish tax-free beer, naturally I wanted to know more about. After some searching I found this Facebook post that gives a brief overview over it. According to the article, in 1891 the first beer tax law was introduced in Denmark (please note that this was not actually the first beer tax law in Denmark, as the situation is a lot more complicated; in Beer and Brewing in Pre-Industrial Denmark by Kristof Glamann, taxation of beer in Denmark is attested at least since the 1620s). It divided beer between tax-free beers (under 2.25% ABW) and taxable beers. In 1917, this was further revised and only top-fermented beers remained tax free, while other types of beer under 2.25% ABW were put into tax class 2. Previously taxable beers were put into tax class 1.

During World War 1, breweries were restricted how strong beers could be. These restrictions were lifted in 1923 and taxation was again revised. In particular, tax class 1 was divided into 3 sub-categories: the new tax class 1 consisted of all beers with no more than 10.75 °Balling original gravity, tax class A more than 10.75° Balling and up to 13° Balling original gravity, and tax class B consisted applied to all beers with more than 13° Balling original gravity. The new classes 1, A and B again only applied to beers with more than 2.25% ABW, so low alcohol beers could have a higher OG without getting taxed. This was again only revised in 1993 to have different brackets of OG (<2.25% ABW/2.8% ABV beers still remained tax-free), and again in 2004 when it was changed to a sliding scale system (<2.8% ABV beers still tax-free).

Even though the “skattefri” category of beers doesn’t seem to be as obviously prominent in the Danish beer market, it still exists in tax law.

A Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century California Steam Beer

Somebody recently asked on Reddit about whether historic recipes of California Common from the late 19th or early 20th century exist, like something that Jack London would have drank when he lived in San Francisco, so here is an extended version of my initial reply on Reddit.

Historically, California Common has been more commonly known as Californian Steam Beer, but since “Steam Beer” is nowadays a brand of Anchor Brewery in San Francisco, the term “California Common” has found its way into the beer style guidelines.

A large majority of homebrew recipes for that style that float around nowadays are straight up clone recipes of Anchor Steam Beer, or at the very least heavily inspired by it as many style guidelines have based the style essentially upon Anchor’s beer.

But in reality, this beer goes back much further and has been more varied. This is very well documented in a brewing book from 1901, the American Handy Book of Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades, edited and published by Robert Wahl and Max Henius, two Chicago-based brewing scientists.

In this book, California Steam Beer is described as a beer that at the time was consumed throughout the state of California. The name, according to that source, goes back to the high effervescence of the beer and the high pressure (“steam”) in the serving cask, ranging between 40 to 70 psi.

It has an original gravity of 11 to 12.5 Balling (Plato), which is equivalent to a specific gravity of 1.044 to 1.050. The ingredients used varied: some brewers made this beer from 100% malt, others from a combination of malt and grits or really any other raw cereal, as well as sugar like glucose syrup. The malt used is described as “malted as for lager beers”. The colour of the beer was apparently similar as Munich beer (dark lager), and was achieved through the use of roasted malt or sugar colouring.

The approach of mashing also greatly varied: some brewers simply used an English-style single infusion mash, while others have turned towards a multi-step infusion mash with rests at 60-62 °C, 65 to 66°C and finally 70 °C where the mash is held until all sugars have been converted. If raw cereals were used in the mash, they were cooked first and added in some way as if lager beer was being brewed (which I interpret as a cereal mash). Lautering and sparging commenced after a final 45 minute rest, with the sparge water at 75 °C.

The collected wort is then boiled for 1 to 2 hours, hops are added (presumably at the beginning). The amount depends on the quality of the hops, so with high-quality hops, 3/4 of a pound per barrel of finished beer were described as sufficient. Then the wort was cooled to about 15°C to 16°C. In the fermenters, a “special type of bottom-fermenting yeast” is pitched. After about 14 hours, a thick head should have formed. The fermenting beer in this state was added to other beer that was just racked into casks (more on this later).

The fermenting beer is then transferred to shallow “clarifiers” where it finishes fermentation. When the beer was finished fermenting and is clear, it is racked into trade packages, where a substantial amount of Kräusen are added, typically 33 to 40% of the overall volume. The casks are then closed with special iron screw bungs, and left for a few days so they can build up the necessary pressure. In the saloon, the cask was then left to settle for 2 days, and the bung was opened over night so that some of the CO2 could escape. This was called “steaming” and was only necessary when the beer was poured directly from the cask so that it wouldn’t foam too much.

The beer itself was very clear and refreshing. It could keep 2 to 6 months in (unopened) casks, but was typically consumed with 3 weeks to a month.

Based on this description, we can develop our own recipe, but there is actually a lot of variation possible. The grist could be something as simple as Pilsner malt and either a small amount of roasted malt or an addition of caramel colouring to get the beer to Munich dark lager colours (about 33 to 56 EBC), or something more complex like Pilsner malt, corn grits, and glucose syrup, again with caramel colouring for to set the right colour.

As for the mashing, a malt-only grist could do with a single infusion mash, while using corn grits would warrant a more complex cereal mash where most of the malt is mashed in and undergoing a step mash. The corn grits are then mashed in with a small amount of malt, with a single rest, then boiled and finally mixed into the main mash for the final increase of mash temperature.

As for the hops, California-grown Cluster hops would probably be the most appropriate, or any Cluster hops really if California-grown ones aren’t available to you. 3/4 pounds per barrel translates to a hopping rate of 2.9 grams per liter, bittering addition only.

The “special type of bottom-fermenting yeast” is California Common yeast, a bottom-fermenting yeast that has adapted to warmer fermentation temperatures. Such strains are readily available to home brewers by a multitude of yeast manufacturers, e.g. Wyeast 2112, White Labs WLP810, Imperial Yeast L05, Mangrove Jack’s M54, etc.

When fermentation is finished, the final beer should be highly carbonated (be careful about the maximum pressure your kegs or bottles can withstand!).

This is what I came up with to brew 22 liters of it, but you do you:


  • OG: 11.7 °P
  • Bitterness: 50 IBU
  • Colour: 41 EBC
  • ABV: 5.0%


  • 3.4 kg Pilsner malt
  • 0.9 kg corn grits
  • 0.25 kg glucose
  • 63g Cluster hops (7% alpha acid)
  • Wyeast 2112 California Lager yeast

Please note that this recipe does not conform to the BJCP Style Guidelines for the California Common beer style, so don’t use this to brew beer and get bad marks for it at home-brewing competitions.

(featured image: Picardin, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Story of East-German “Motorist’s Beer”

Alcohol-free beers are a hot topic these days, both because of consumer demand and improvements in quality of this beer achieved through research.

When recently talking about the subject with my friend Ben, I brought up Aubi, the East-German “Autofahrerbier” (lit. “motorist’s beer”). When looking into the topic of Aubi more closely, I found out more about its history that I’d like to share here.

First the plain facts: in the GDR, beer brewing was guided by TGL 7764, an industry standard that defined which beer types could be brewed, how they could be brewed, which ingredients could be used for them, and under which parameters each of these types had to fall. In short, it was an early form of a beer style guideline, but specifically for the East-German brewing industry.

In the 1980 revision of TGL 7764, Aubi was listed as the only alcohol-free type of beer. In its production, at most 11 kg of brewing malt per hectolitre of sellable beer could be used, and at most 9 g of hop bittering compounds (i.e. alpha acid) per hectolitre. At most 70% of hop bittering compounds could be from hop extracts. It had to be matured for at least 3 days, with a recommended time of 6 days. Its original gravity was between 6.9 and 7.4 °P, its apparent attenuation 30 to 40%, its CO2 content at least 0.38% (i.e. 3.8g/l), and its bitterness 22 to 34 IBU. In terms of colour, it had to be about as pale as pale lager beer (I can’t translate the GDR colour scales to modern ones like SRM or EBC). In bottles, it had to last at least 90 days, the longest best-before dating of all beer types (together with the Pilsner Spezial type). And unlike most other GDR beer types, it had no specific beer label colour prescribed.

The development of the beer itself was a relatively surprising one: at the time, brewmaster Ulrich Wappler at VEB Engelhardt brewery in Berlin had an unexpected surplus capacity, as the Schultheiss brewery on Schönhauser Allee in Berlin was shut down and Wappler’s technicians managed to transfer tanks to his own brewery. In East Germany, the blood alcohol limit was at 0.0 since 1956, much stricter than other Western countries at the time. Truck drivers coming in from West Germany would bring their own, specifically Birell, a Swiss brand developed and brewed at Hürlimann, and at the time (as far as I could find out) the only alcohol-free beer on the German market (Clausthaler, the later dominant alcohol-free beer brand in West Germany, only launched in 1979). Birell was even specifically advertised near the border on the West-German side with the fact of the strict alcohol ban for drivers in East Germany.

The brewmasters in East Berlin were approached whether they would be able to develop a GDR-brewed alcohol-free beer. With the free capacity, Wappler would have been able to do it and agreed to it. His problem was rather finding a way how to brew an alcohol-free beer. In the GDR, he unfortunately had no access to Western brewing literature, nor any of the Western patents, and he wasn’t allowed to get in touch with West-German brewers either as he wasn’t a party member and his brothers had left the GDR for the West. He eventually managed to get access to Western patents through a source, and studied them for 6 months. Of the two methods of producing alcohol-free beer (biological, i.e. restricted fermentation, and mechanical, i.e. physical dealcoholisation), they decided that they could build the equipment to brew using restricted fermentation.

This was still not without problems: they did not have any special yeast, so a special apparatus to quickly chill down the beer that had only just started fermenting had to be built. Then higher-ups had heard about the efforts and the supposed progress, and basically forced them to send out unfinished beer that had not fully matured, which was actually well-received.

An area where this new beer was particularly successful were the heavy industries, in particular glass blowers and steel mills. In these jobs, workers were of the opinion that they needed to drink beer to help with salivating. They refused to just drink water, while at the same time, the union had strictly banned alcohol. So they tested the alcohol-free beer (at less than 0.5% ABV) in some of these factories, and the workers liked it. Also price-wise, at 75 Pfennig per bottle it was cheaper to buy than imported Birell, and also cheaper than other domestic beers. So their alcohol-free beer filled a gap, even more so in the heavy industries than for motorists. It took some tweaking of the recipe, including hop oils, to make it a really good beer, and in the end, the product also piqued the interest of other countries of the Eastern Bloc like Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia, who also tried to brew similar beer but all had over 1% ABV and none of them tasted nice.

The cheap domestic price of just 75 Pfennig also became a problem in terms of economics: while it required fewer ingredients, brewing Aubi was much more energy-intense, because mashing involved a special mashing schedule (more on that later) and restricted fermentation required more energy on top of that for chilling down the beer. Because of this, production volumes were lowered.

The beer itself was brewing like this: the grist contained 20 to 50% (sic!) unmalted adjuncts and was mashed using a special type of decoction mashing that specifically skipped the optimal temperatures of beta amylase and rather inactivated them to then have alpha amylase saccharify the starches, resulting in a much less fermentable wort. After only briefly starting fermentation, the wort was chilled down quickly to restrict fermentation.

Internationally, the East German alcohol-free beer was also a success, and was exported from 1986 to the United States under the brand name “Foxy light”. If we can believe a tasting and ranking of alcohol-free beers in the Chicago Tribune from 1988, Foxy light couldn’t exactly compete in terms of flavour with other European imported alcohol-free beers at the time, but fared well compared to domestic alcohol-free beers, while also being one of the cheapest ones. In England, the same beer was sold under the brand “Berolina”.

With the end of the GDR, production of Aubi also ceased. Most East-German breweries were shut down as they were completely outdated compared to their West German counterparts. Brewmaster Wappler managed to get work in West Berlin breweries for his workers. Until his retirement, he helped conceptualising brew systems for other breweries and training people on them.


The best beer I ever brewed?

OK, this is probably the clickbaitiest title of a blog post that I’ve ever come up with, but bear with me.

For the June/July 2022 issue of Craft Beer & Brewing magazine, Evan Rail wrote an article about Czech Dark Lager, aka tmavé pivo. I’ve always quite enjoyed this particular style, especially whenever we were visiting Prague, as it is (in my opinion) a very balanced beer type that combines the complexity of flavours of dark kilned and roasted malts with a great drinkability, the kind of balance that other dark beer styles don’t quite achieve. But it is not always hard to find.

Inspired by this article, I noted all the tips and tricks on formulating a recipe and brewing the beer, then developed a preliminary recipe, and got together with my friend and neighbour Ben to actually brew this.

What we brewed in the end had the following grist:

  • 2.5 kg Bohemian Pilsner malt (49.0%)
  • 1.9 kg Munich II malt (37.2%)
  • 0.6 kg CaraBohemian (11.8%)
  • 0.1 kg Carafa Special II (2.0%)

One important technique that was emphasized in Evan’s article was to add the roasted malt (Carafa Special II) only in the lauter/sparge stage. If this hadn’t been mentioned, I would have simply added it to the main mash, intensely boiled it in the first decoction, and probably ended up with a beer with too much roasty bitterness.

In Czech tradition, we chose a double decoction as our mashing regime. We mashed in relatively cold, then pulled a very large decoction which we step-mashed with a rest at 73°C, and then boiled it for 15 minutes until we mixed it back to get to our conversion temperature of 66°C. After a while, we pulled a thin decoction, boiled it for 6 minutes, then mixed it back to get to 73°C. After 15 minutes, we then heated the mash up to 78°C for mash out.

After transferring to the lauter tun, we added the roasted malt to the top of the mash, and started collecting the wort. The impact of the roasted wort is subtle at the start, but will develop over time until we ended up with a dark but still slightly translucent wort.

As for the hops, we went for something really simple: just Czech Sladek hops (8% alpha acid), with two additions at 60 min (1 g/l to contribute about 17 IBU) and 20 min (1.7 g/l to contribute about 17 IBU) before the end of the boil, for a total of 34 IBU. That was another tip from the article, namely that the beer style can do with more bitterness that you’d think.

(As a side note, I find the name Sladek for that hop variety just great; Sladek was developed as a cross of Czech Saaz hops and Northern Brewer hops; Sladek means brewer in Czech, so crossing Northern Brewer with the classic Czech hop variety made it a Czech Brewer – a Sladek; this is my personal theory of why this name was chosen)

After 60 minutes of boiling, we chilled down the wort which had a OG of 13.6°P, even better than the 13.3°P I had planned the recipe for. When the wort had reached a temperature of 10°C, we finally pitched a healthy dose of bottom-fermenting yeast. That was actually a point where we deviated from the tips in the article. Ben had gotten his hands on fresh pitching yeast from a large industrial lager brewery here in Berlin, so of course we just had to use this very fresh, vital yeast instead of using a genuinely Czech strain (which was actually a bit hard to find at the time).

Fermentation went a bit slow, but after 4 weeks, we finally reached our FG of 3.8°P. This may seem high, but a point of the mash schedule was to produce a larger quantity of unfermentable sugars which would keep the FG high and the beer’s body full. After an excruciating 6 weeks of lagering at low temperatures, we finally bottled the beer last weekend, adding just half a liter of wort we had held back as a source of sugar for bottle conditioning. During lagering, the beer had already attained quite a bit of carbonation where CO2 simply naturally went into solution due to the lower temperatures, so not much Speise was necessary.

The final beer probably has about 5.3% ABV, at least that’s what our calculations said. And now look at this beauty:

The beer is dark, but not black. The foam is dense and off-white. And the taste? Just sublime. Better than any of the samples I had taken from the fermenter or even during bottling. If I had been served this in a pub in Czechia, I would have been very happy. There is some roasted bitterness, but it melds nicely with the hop bitterness. There’s a lot of chocolate and coffee going on in there, the body is full but not too full, making you want to drink another one at the end of it (I restrained myself and only had one, as I want to keep more of the beer for Christmas). There are notes of dark malts and caramel malt, but no cloying sweetness whatsoever.

Ben and I then went through the BJCP style guideline’s description of Czech Dark Lager, and the beer seemed to tick all the boxes. The bitterness is certainly on the high side, but I think it only makes it more interesting and adds some complexity.

All in all, we’re both very happy with the result. For me, it is probably the best beer I’ve brewed myself. I’m rather self-critical, and I could not find a single flaw. And I think what got me there were the quality ingredients, sticking to all the traditional methods that I had learned about, and most importantly, not cutting any corners in the brewing process.

The PGI Beer Style Guidelines

In 1992, the EU introduced the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) framework to preserve the designations of origin of food- and drink-related products. In particular, three different systems exist: PDO, Protected Geographic Indication (PGI), and Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG). Each of these are easily recognizable through their logos which you may have seen on food packaging.

And of course, a number of these are registered for specific beers. Out of curiosity, I looked into some of these and realized that some of them are rather specific. So I wondered… how many types of beer are registered as any of these geographic indications in a specific enough way to turn them into beer style guidelines akin to the BJCP or the Brewers Association’s Beer Style Guidelines. Turns out: quite a few. So here are my PGI Beer Style Guidelines (see at the end for a brief discussion):

Munich Beer



OG °P: 11.4 – 11.9
% ABV: 4.7 – 5.4
EBC: 5.0 – 8.5
IBU: 14.0 – 25.0

Light yellow, pale, palateful, pure, smooth, mildly to pleasantly hopped, delicately spicy to spicily fresh with a pleasant bitterness depending on the brewing process.

Export Hell

OG °P: 12.5 – 12.8
% ABV: 5.5 – 6.0
EBC: 5.5 – 7.5
IBU: 15.0 – 26.0

Light yellow, highly attenuated (until bright), palateful, ranging from mild, mellow-smooth through to strongly spicy, delicately hopped and delicate bitterness.

Export Dunkel

OG °P: 12.5 – 13.7
% ABV: 5.0 – 5.9
EBC: 42.0 – 59.9
IBU: 15.0 – 24.0

Mellow, smooth, malty aroma to strong, Munich malt sometimes dominant.


OG °P: 11.5 – 12.5
% ABV: 4.9 – 5.8
EBC: 5.5 – 7.0
IBU: 30 – 38

Slightly sharp, delicate, fine, hoppy bitterness, hoppy accents through to hoppy aroma, light, elegant, sparkling.

Leichtes Weißbier

OG °P: 7.7 – 8.4
% ABV: 2.8 – 3.2
EBC: 11.0 – 13.0
IBU: 13.0 – 15.0

Refreshing, effervescent, tangy, cloudy with yeast, typical top-fermented Weißbier taste.

Kristall Weizen

OG °P: 11.5 – 12.4
% ABV: 4.9 – 5.5
EBC: 7.5 – 12.5
IBU: 12.0 – 16.0

Effervescent, very tangy, filtered bright, clear, sparkling, top-fermented note, typically top-fermented.

Hefeweizen Hell

OG °P: 11.4 – 12.6
% ABV: 4.5 – 5.5
EBC: 11.0 – 20.0
IBU: 12.0 – 20.0

Highly attenuated, naturally cloudy, typical top-fermented character, tangy, refreshing, effervescent, sparkling, sometimes yeasty, Weißbier aroma.

Hefeweizen Dunkel

OG °P: 11.6 – 12.4
% ABV: 4.5 – 5.3
EBC: 29.0 – 45.0
IBU: 13.0 – 16.0

Naturally cloudy, mellow, malty taste/character, top-fermented note/character.


OG °P: 13.2 – 14.0
% ABV: 5.3 – 6.2
EBC: 8.0 – 32.5
IBU: 21.0 – 25.0

Very mellow, palatable, mild, altbayerisch aroma to malty aroma, very mild bitterness.


OG °P: 16.2 – 17.3
% ABV: 6.2 – 8.1
EBC: 7.5 – 40.0
IBU: 18.0 – 32.5

Highly attenuated, ranging from mellow, palateful, smooth, aromatic, via delicately hopped, slightly sharp to well hopped, sometimes spicy in character.


OG °P: 18.2 – 18.7
% ABV: 7.2 – 7.7
EBC: 44.0 – 75.0
IBU: 18.0 – 28.0

Strong, powerful, spicy, full-bodied, malty taste.


OG °P: 7.5 – 7.7
% ABV: 2.7 – 3.2
EBC: 5.5 – 7.0
IBU: 24.0 – 26.5

Slightly sharp fine taste.

Diät Pils

OG °P: 8.5 – 9.3
% ABV: 4.3 – 4.9
EBC: 5.0 – 6.5
IBU: 26.0 – 30.0

Low in carbohydrates, slightly sharp, dry taste.


OG °P: 11.3
% ABV: 4.8
EBC: 70.0
IBU: 17.0

Slightly spicy malty aroma.


OG °P: 11.2
% ABV: 4.9
EBC: 6.5
IBU: 20.0

Harmonious, mellow, palateful.


OG °P: 12.3 – 12.7
% ABV: 0.0 – 1.2
EBC: 65.0 – 90.0
IBU: 8.0 – 15.0

Low in alcohol, very mildly attenuated, malty, spicy, very weakly hopped.


OG °P: 13.6 – 14.0
% ABV: 5.3 – 6.6
EBC: 6.0 – 28.0
IBU: 16.0 – 28.0

Light, golden, amber colours or dark, ranging from palateful, very mellow, smooth or malty aroma through to slightly hopped with a very mild bitterness or a powerful, slightly sweet taste.

Czech Beer


Pale Lager

OG °P: 11.00 – 12.99
% ABV: 3.8 – 6.0
EBC: 8.0 – 16.0
IBU: 20 – 45

Dark Lager

OG °P: 11.00 – 12.99
% ABV: 3.6 – 5.7
EBC: 50 – 120
IBU: 20 – 45

Pale Draught

OG °P: 8.00 – 10.99
% ABV: 2.8 – 5.0
EBC: 7.0 – 16.0
IBU: 16 – 28

Dark Draught

OG °P: 8.00 – 10.99
% ABV: 2.6 – 4.8
EBC: 50 – 120
IBU: 16 – 28

Light Beer

OG °P: 7.99% max
% ABV: 2.6 – 3.6
EBC: 6.0 – 14.0
IBU: 14 – 26

Bavarian Beer



OG °P: 7.0 – 9.0
% ABV: 2.5 – 3.5
EBC: 5 – 20
IBU: 10 – 30

bottom-fermented; a full-bodied, soft, fizzy beer with fewer calories and less alcohol by volume than Vollbier (full-strength beer).


OG °P: 11.0 – 12.5
% ABV: 4.5 – 5.5
EBC: 5 – 20
IBU: 10 – 25

bottom-fermented; a slightly aromatic, light, full-bodied, mild beer.


OG °P: 11.0 – 12.5
% ABV: 4.5 – 6.0
EBC: 5 – 15
IBU: 30 – 40

bottom-fermented; a distinctive, slightly sharp beer with a bitter edge lent by the hops.


OG °P: 12.0 – 13.5
% ABV: 4.5 – 6.0
EBC: 5 – 65 (hell – dunkel)
IBU: 15 – 35

bottom-fermented; a full-bodied, well-rounded bitter taste.


OG °P: 11.0 – 14.0
% ABV: 4.5 – 6.0
EBC: 40 – 65
IBU: 15 – 35

bottom-fermented; a full-bodied beer with a malty aroma.


OG °P: 11.0 – 13.0
% ABV: 4.5 – 6.0
EBC: 65 – 150
IBU: 15 – 40

bottom-fermented; a beer with a roasted aroma, a slight malty aroma and a bitter edge lent by the hops.


OG °P: 13.0 – 14.5
% ABV: 5.0 – 6.5
EBC: 7 – 40
IBU: 12 – 45

bottom-fermented; a malty-flavoured beer with a slightly bitter edge lent by the hops.


OG °P: 16.0 – 18.0
% ABV: 6.0 – 8.5
EBC: 7 – 120 (hell – dunkel)
IBU: 15 – 40

bottom-fermented; a full-bodied, malty-flavoured beer with a delicate aroma of hops.


OG °P: 18.0 – 21.0
% ABV: 7.0 – 9.5
EBC: 10 – 150 (hell – dunkel)
IBU: 15 – 35

bottom-fermented; a distinctly full-bodied, malty-flavoured beer with a hint of caramel.


OG °P: 7.0 – 9.0
% ABV: 2.5 – 3.5
EBC: 7 – 30
IBU: 5 – 20

top-fermented; a fizzy beer with the aroma of yeast.


OG °P: 11.0 – 13.5
% ABV: 4.5 – 5.5
EBC: 5 – 65 (hell – dunkel)
IBU: 10 – 30

top-fermented; a fruity beer with an aroma of wheat and a slightly malty flavour.


OG °P: 11.0 – 13.5
% ABV: 4.5 – 5.5
EBC: 5 – 18
IBU: 5 – 20

top-fermented; a carbonated beer with the aroma of wheat.


OG °P: 11.0 – 14.5
% ABV: 4.5 – 6.0
EBC: 30 – 60
IBU: 20 – 30

bottom-fermented; a full-bodied beer with a smoky flavour.


OG °P: 11.0 – 13.5
% ABV: 4.5 – 6.0
EBC: 5 – 60
IBU: 10 – 35

bottom-fermented; a beer with a slightly bitter edge lent by the hops, unfiltered, tapped from the lower part of the barrel, with a low carbon dioxide content.


OG °P: 11.0 – 13.0
% ABV: 4.5 – 5.0
EBC: 5 – 20
IBU: 10 – 25

bottom-fermented; very mild and soft.

Kulmbacher Beer



OG °P: 7.3 – 7.9
% ABV: 2.8 – 3.2
EBC: 5.0 – 7.0
IBU: 25 – 30

A mellow, slightly sharp-tasting beer with the trademark flavour of Kulmbacher Pils.


OG °P: 11.1 – 11.8
% ABV: 4.7 – 5.2
EBC: 5.0 – 11.0
IBU: 23 – 38

A mellow, lightly hopped beer with a fresh, delicately bitter character.

Lager hell

OG °P: 11.0 – 13.0
% ABV: 4.8 – 5.2
EBC: 6.5 – 12
IBU: 18 – 26

A balanced, mellow, mild-flavoured beer.

Lager dunkel

OG °P: 11.5 – 13.0
% ABV: 4.8 – 5.2
EBC: 30 – 40
IBU: 18 – 22

A mellow, malty-aromatic beer.

Export hell

OG °P: 12.1 – 13.0
% ABV: 4.7 – 5.9
EBC: 6.5 – 15
IBU: 22 – 30

A smooth, mildly aromatic-flavoured beer.

Export dunkel

OG °P: 12.1 – 13.0
% ABV: 4.7 – 5.6
EBC: 35 – 100
IBU: 22 – 32

This beer has a distinctively smooth and lightly hopped flavour.


OG °P: 13.0 – 13.7
% ABV: 5.4 – 5.9
EBC: 10 – 13
IBU: 23 – 25

This is a strong, aromatic, slightly sweet beer with a robust colour.

Bock dunkel

OG °P: 16.0 – 16.8
% ABV: 6.4 – 6.8
EBC: 25 – 40
IBU: 21 – 27

This is lightly hopped, medium-coloured strong beer.

Starkbier hell

OG °P: 24.0 – 30.0
% ABV: 9.0 – 11.2
EBC: 30 – 38
IBU: 15 – 26

This is a lightly hopped, mediumcoloured strong beer.

Starkbier dunkel

OG °P: 24 – 30
% ABV: 9.0 – 11.2
EBC: 60 – 100
IBU: 15 – 26

This malty aromatic, dark, robust strong beer is the strongest beer in the world: EKU (Erste Kulmbacher Actienbrauerei) 28.

Hefeweizen alkoholreduziert

OG °P: 7.3 – 8.0
% ABV: 2.8 – 3.4
EBC: 7.0 – 15.0
IBU: 13 – 17

This is a light-flavoured, typical Weizenbier (literally “wheat beer”).

Hefeweizen hell

OG °P: 12.2 – 12.9
% ABV: 5.0 – 5.6
EBC: 10.0 – 15.0
IBU: 13 – 17

This is a slightly sweet, robust typical top-fermented beer.

Hefeweizen dunkel

OG °P: 12.2 – 12.9
% ABV: 4.9 – 5.4
EBC: 60 – 80
IBU: 13 – 17

This is a malty-aromatic, dark beer with the typical characteristics of a top-fermented beer.

Lower Francian (“Mainfranken”) Beer



OG °P: 7 – 9
% ABV: 2.4 – 2.9
EBC: 6 – 12
IBU: 15 – 30


OG °P: 11 – 12.5
% ABV: 4.5 – 5
EBC: 7 – 15, 40+
IBU: 12 – 30


OG °P: 11 – 13
% ABV: 4.8 – 5.2
EBC: 6 – 12
IBU: 25 – 35


OG °P: 11 – 13
% ABV: 4.8 – 5.3
EBC: 40 – 80
IBU: 25 – 35


OG °P: 12 – 13.5
% ABV: 4.9 – 5.5
EBC: 6 – 15, 40 – 80
IBU: 16 – 25


OG °P: 13 – 14
% ABV: 5.0 – 5.7
EBC: 10 – 20
IBU: 16 – 30


OG °P: 11 – 13.5
% ABV: 4.8 – 5.5
EBC: 7 – 20, 40+
IBU: 12 – 20


OG °P: 16 – 18
% ABV: 5.5 – 7.2
EBC: 7 – 20, 40+
IBU: 12 – 20


OG °P: 16 – 19
% ABV: 5.5 – 7.2
EBC: 10 – 20, – 80
IBU: 20 – 30

Českobudějovické (Budweiser) Beer


Pale Lager

OG °P: 11.4 – 12.3
% ABV: 4.6 – 5.3
EBC: 9 – 13
IBU: 20 – 24

Aroma: medium to strong intensity, pronounced aroma of fine aromatic Žatec hops.

Taste: bitterness of slight to medium intensity, mild to slightly harsh character, medium to full-bodied taste with a sweetish aftertaste, pronounced sharpness.

Kräusened Pale Lager

OG °P: 11.4 – 12.3
% ABV: 4.6 – 5.3
EBC: 9 – 13
IBU: 20 – 24

Aroma: medium to strong intensity, pronounced aroma of fine aromatic Žatec hops.

Taste: bitterness of slight to medium intensity, mild to slightly harsh character, full- to very full-bodied taste with a sweetish aftertaste, pronounced sharpness.

Pale draught beer

OG °P: 9.5 – 10.1
% ABV: 3.5 – 4.5
EBC: 8 – 12
IBU: 18 – 21

Aroma: medium to strong intensity, pronounced aroma of fine aromatic Žatec hops.

Taste: bitterness of slight to medium intensity, slightly harsh character, medium-bodied taste with a sweetish aftertaste, pronounced sharpness.

Special beer

OG °P: 16.0 – 17.0
% ABV: 7.4 – 8.2
EBC: 11 – 17
IBU: 24 – 28

Aroma: medium to strong intensity, pronounced aroma of fine aromatic Žatec hops.

Taste: bitterness of medium to strong intensity, mild to slightly harsh character, full- to very full-bodied taste with a sweetish aftertaste, pronounced sharpness.

Non-alcoholic beer

OG °P: 3 – 4
% ABV: 0.2 – 0.5
EBC: 5 – 7
IBU: 22 – 26

Aroma: medium intensity, pronounced aroma of fine aromatic Žatec hops, slightly reminiscent of hopped wort.

Taste: bitterness of medium intensity, slightly harsh character, light-bodied taste, pronounced sharpness, with a hint of hopped wort.

Dark lager

OG °P: 10.5 – 12.0
% ABV: 4.0 – 5.3
EBC: 60 – 120
IBU: 20 – 35

Aroma: medium to strong intensity, pronounced aroma of fine aromatic Žatec hops and roasted malt.

Taste: bitterness of medium to strong intensity, mild to moderately harsh character, full- to very full-bodied taste with a dry, roasted aftertaste, pronounced sharpness.

Lithuanian Beer

Kaimiškas Jovarų alus


OG °P: 12.0 – 15.0
% ABV: 5.6 ± 1.0
EBC: 15 – 38
IBU: 10 – 30

Colour: the colour ranges from golden yellow to golden brown (amber).

Appearance: the beer froths when poured into a jug or glass, usually creating a tall head of thick, white foam. Characteristic turbidity as a result of the yeast sediment.

Nose: a notable aroma of yeast, bread, caramel and fruit.

Taste: an intense, malty beer taste. Characteristic bitter taste of hops with a hint of yeast, berries, caramel, hazelnuts, herbs and citrus fruit. If natural honey is added, there is a hint of honey.


What is very noticeable is that all these guidelines are awfully specific. In particular the Bavarian groups of beer styles (Munich, Mainfranken, Kulmbach, Bavaria) have a significant amount of overlap in terms of styles, and of course, they mostly contradict each other in terms of what’s an outlier but still “within style” for original gravity, ABV, bitterness and colour. Some styles even seem very restricted, like the maximum bitterness of a Munich Pils would be 38 IBU, 40 for a Bavarian Pils, 38 for Kulmbacher Pils (which in turn could be as low as 23 IBU), or even only 35 for Lower Franconian Pils.

The next question is of course: how would any of this be enforced? Several of the official documents list contact addresses for fraudulent usage of the PGI term, but what would be fraudulent here? If a Bavarian brewed a 45 IBU Pils and put a Bavarian Beer PGI logo on their bottles, would that constitute fraud and a misuse of the PGI logo? Or are these style descriptions just vague suggestions? That’s been entirely unclear to me.

A funny detail to be found in the list of styles is a former fad in German brewing that has died off since the original filing of these documents: one of them is Diät Pils, a term that has actually been discontinued in Germany about a decade ago when it was prohibited to produce and advertise food products specifically for diabetics. Another one is Eisbier or “ice beer” (not to be confused with Eisbock, a freeze-distilled strong beer), where beer is lagered at colder temperatures than normal and ice crystals are filtered out which allegedly also removes some of the bitterness compounds and thus produces a very mild-tasting beer. In fact, both fads have fallen so much out of fashion that amendments have been filed to remove both from the PGI documents.

One thing I also need to note is that I only included some of the beer-related PGI filings. Some were not specific enough (like Kölsch, which just seems to be a translation of the Kölsch-Konvention), others were a bit ridiculous because they are so hyper-regional that at the time of filing, only 2 breweries existed there (like in the case of Hofer Bier from Hof/Saale in Bavaria). No PDO filings for beer seem to exist. There exist several TSG filings for various beers, though, but I chose to not include them because they were not quite specific enough.