Thursday 14 August 2008

Eine kurze Einführung

I suppose an introduction is in order. A native of Dublin, Ireland, I moved to Muenster, Germany in March 2008 for a variety of reasons, but mainly because a change was needed, and an opportunity had knocked. I've been mailing people a bit about my experience, and posting occasional observations on the German beer culture on Irish Craft Brewer, but thought a blog might be a more appropriate outlet. ICB is a Website which I co-founded, so it's a bit ironic that I help found a community site that promotes Irish craft brewing, both professional and amateur, and then leave the bloody country a year later, just as things seem to be getting interesting! Still, I can't complain, as I still work on the site, and with projects like the Lost Breweries of Ireland, I'm probably even more interested in my brewing heritage than I would have been had I stayed in Dublin!

Although I have moved to a country which many people consider the spiritual home of beer, I don't fully subscribe to that idea. My wife is German, and having been a regular visitor to Germany for about 13 years before moving, I was all too aware of, how shall I say it, the limited choice that I knew would face me. That's not to say that there isn't a vast choice of beers in Germany, but it's a vast choice of German beers. I suppose coming from a small island that imports a lot of everything, I have been a little bit spoilt for choice (only a little mind!), while the Germans with such a huge brewing industry really consider themselves self sufficient so tend not to look to far outside their borders. But having a preference for the darker ales and the extreme hoppiness of an IPA, I found that amidst the sea of Pilsners and Helles, you have to look for the gems. As for finding non-German beer, so far it also seems hard to find bottled ales from the UK, impossible to find the likes of US microbrews, and surprisingly considering the location of Muenster, I have seen little choice in Belgian beers in the local drink markets. Offsetting this “problem” however is the fact that beer is so ridiculously cheap here compared to Ireland, and there's a lot of local specialties that I have yet to try!

Having read and agreed with Ron Pattinson's thoughts on the Rheinheitsgebot, and knowing how some of my extended German family think, I came to the conclusion that most, certainly not all, Germans are fairly conservative when it comes to their beers. One of my new personal challenges is to try and expose as many of my new colleagues and friends as I can to new tastes , while searching out excellent local and not-so-local beers to educate myself in the process.

This particular experiment has started well enough actually, and I found Ron's page on extinct German styles a great catalyst. In my first month in the new job I was chatting with some chaps about beer and mentioned Belgian fruit beers I was summarily told that these were not beers. Even one of the more open minded chaps who was interested in brewing his own beer said he was of the same opinion. However, after I showed him what was lost in northern Germany after the unification imposed the “gebot”, he simply said “there's so much I didn't know about German beer”, and he then suggested we should make a cherry beer using the cherries from his garden. I thought it was a great response! Of course, there's so much I don't know about German beer, I can't afford to preach!

So, this blog is not going to be charting the course of some experiment which is probably doomed to fail. This blog is intended to be an outlet for me to chart my experiences of life and beer in a new country, my own brewing, and my observations of the new (or is it old?) world in which I have chosen to live.



The Beer Nut said...

So not content with spearheading a revolution in Irish beer, you're having a go at Germany as well?

Away you go there, Che...

Barry M said...

Well, I can only try! I'm hoping to experience a few revelations myself, never mind revolutions. :)

Boak said...

Sounds like it'll be interesting!

There does seem to be a splendid contradiction between the German love and pride of their beer, and their total lack of interest in experimentation beyond their local brews.

I'm generalising enormously, obviously.

Barry M said...

I hope it'll be interesting enough to entertain some readers!

The attitude is kind of odd. I'm torn between wanting to defend them to a degree and to throttle them on the other hand. There's something impressive about the total confidence and belief that German beer is the best in the world, but it gets spoilt when the odd person says it is the best because of the "gebot", when clearly there's more than a fair share of dross out there.

I feel I have to curb my enthusiasm the odd time, as they probably think I am either just a mad Irishman or a lecturing asshole (or possibly both!) :D