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Fall Beer Tour: Craft Beer Comes to Germany

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Scouting Out

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Craft Brewers in

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Bavaria

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Smoked Spelt Bock… Meinel Absolvinator… IPA… Imperial Pumpkin Ginger Ale… Small-Batch Doppelbock… Binkert Porter… Weissenohe Green Monkey. A few short years ago brews like these would have been unthinkable in Germany. They’re imaginative, edgy and outside the mainstream. That’s why we’ve included them in our fall beer tour. 

 

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Germany’s small and mid-size regional breweries produce 40% of the total volume of beer.

Nearly half the breweries in Germany are in Bavaria — 622 total.

The main centers of craft brewing are in the Munich area, Franconia (northern Bavaria), Berlin and Hamburg.

Germany has 5000 types of beer, according to industry officials. 

The explosion of craft brewing and home brewing in the U.S., Canada and other countries has whetted the public appetite for artisanal brews beyond anything that could have been imaginable a few years ago.

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But since a lot of the love is focused on new domestic beers and breweries, new brews from other countries are sometimes overlooked. Our fall Beer Tour spotlights new players in Bavaria. Join us in October — You’ll have a chance to meet them and find out what makes them tick.
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Craft Beer in Hallerndorf: Gänstaller Brewery
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Andreas (Andy) Gänstaller is a revisionist brewer with a long list of craft beer credits. Together with partner Manuela Gänstaller, he is breathing new life into a defunct brewery in Hallerndorf-Schnaid and turning out one-of-a-kind beers that are putting German craft brewing on the map.

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Andy’s brew list includes a Triple Bock (Affumicator), Quator, which is made with Spelt, a rare Baltic Porter (unheard of in Germany!).

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He has also fielded a new Green Gold Double IPA, which topped the RateBeer chart in 2013 as the best beer from Germany. For his IPA (“GER meets USA”), Andy uses hops from Germany and the U.S. It’s “dangerously good,” according to one critic.
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Franconia’s Pioneering Microbrewery: Hertl Braumanufaktur
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At 24, David Hertl is living the dream many beer lovers-turned-brewers don’t start pursuing until they get downsized or mid-life crisis hits and they need an outlet for their beer fantasies.
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David heads up Franken’s smallest nanobrewery, the Braumanufaktur Hertl, where he specializes in high-octane brews that are loaded with character.
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He has built an impressive foundation for the new brewery based on practical experience. After an internship that took him to seven breweries, he did an apprenticeship and coursework, finishing as a master brewer. His enthusiasm knows no bounds.
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In May 2014, David unveiled a trio of Bocks — a Belgian-style Wheat Bock, Imperial Black IPA and a strong Abbey Cellar Beer (Klosterkellerbier). He also does a Whisky Bock, IPA, Strawberry Ale and a fall Pumpkin Bock.

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Living La Vida Local: The Kundmüller Brewery
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Brothers Roland and Oswald Kundmüller charted a new course for the family brewery they took over from their parents, keeping the best of the traditions they inherited and branching out with new craft offerings that have been internationally recognized.

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Their take on the classic Rauchbier brought a silver medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup in Denver. The Kundmüllers’ Kellerbier took gold at the European Beer Star Awards.
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The Kundmüller brothers also do a craft IPA and “Urstöffla,” an organic hops-forward dark beer. “It’s not that we just make beer. We love making our beer,” they say.
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Nearly everything on the menu at the brewery tap is from local production. Mother Anna bakes a passel of bread every week — her to-die-for farm rye loaf has its own following. The Wurst on the menu is also handcrafted. The Kundmüllers butcher and cure meat from animals they raise themelves.

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Reserve Detailed Itinerary   
Backstory
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Craft brewing has come to the world of Bavarian beer. It’s a trend that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
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Some critics view it as a peculiar and unnecessary development. After all, in the U.S. craft beer and home brewing arose as a backlash against mass-market brews. The new movement embraced everything that corporate beer didn’t have: diversity, small-scale, authenticity, regionalism, and traditional methods.
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Things are different in Germany. The country has 1349 breweries. There are around 120 large corporate breweries and chains at the top of the industry.
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But most of the remaining 1220 or so are mid-size to small regional breweries — their beer is pretty darn good as it is and a huge array of styles and types is already available.

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So some German beer lovers wonder if there is anything to rebel against. They contend that most of the beer made in Bavaria — particularly Franconia — actually already is craft beer.
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The main locus of the craft brew debate is Germany’s Purity Law, or Reinheitsgebot (RHG), which stipulates that only four ingredients may be used to brew beer: water, malt, hops and yeast. 

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The RHG is a sacred cow. Industry and consumers alike have long upheld it as a guarantee of quality and purity. 
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But revisionist brewers tend to see it more as a straitjacket and say it tends to stifle experimentation with different and unusual ingredients, including different grains, spices and fruit.
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For the time being, German craft brewers can use a work-around. As long as they don’t advertise their Pumpkin Ales, IPAs or Whiskey Bocks as Bier, everybody is reasonably happy.
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While craft brewing has established a firm beachhead, the last word hasn’t been spoken. The German beer industry is trying to persuade UNESCO to put the RHG on the world heritage list — in itself an entirely laudable goal. But whether this could be used against craft brewers to enforce orthodoxy some time in the future is anybody’s guess. 
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For now, it’s a win-win situation and beer lovers can enjoy the best of both worlds — remarkable traditional regional beers that are distinctive in their own right AND inventive new craft brews made with passion and devotion by a new generation of creative brewers.

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