Why Is My Pilsner So Boring?

I like most people in the western world read articles on the internet and then get pretty angry or at least some degree of miffed, annoyed, or self righteous. This happened to me this morning when I was sent a link to this BBC article about German brewers making foreign style beer. While I'm all for British style ales with the American twist that has captivated the palates of beer drinkers I find it so disheartening that it appears German brewers generally gravitate to this style to be innovative. Sure you'll find some pale ales and stouts made by German craft brewers but their flagship always seems to be the IPA. I understand that the IPA is the style most in demand for craft beer drinkers and thus an excellent choice to head a product line, but when you merely react to the herd and follow it, you will always be lagging behind. "But we have to follow the Reinheitsgebot!", they cry with some misplaced trust that their beer is pure and therefore better. Thus there is no chance for the wide open world of additions that many brewers from the United States and Belgium so gleefully add to their brewing pots and fermentors. Well then why aren't German brewers leading the way with innovation on their traditional styles?

I willingly admit that I am fairly ignorant when it comes to brewing practices and beer history. I heard on and off throughout my life that German beer is good beer. I'd only had a few imports in the US besides the classic Oktoberfest beers and overall most of it was somewhere above mass market American swill but well below what I expect from a good beer. I figured I'd arrive in Hamburg and it would be different. I thought I would be greeted by a world of beers to sample. I quickly realized that especially here in the north Pilsner is king and apparently everyone is brewing the exact same recipe. Sure there is slight variation from one brand to another but for the most part it is one boring yellow sea of mediocrity. I can't understand why there is no variation or imagination being poured into the creation of their beer.

Know what sets this beer apart from the hundreds of other German Pilsners? That was a trick question I have no clue.

The main problem is a false belief that the Reinheitsgebot protects German beer and keeps it pure. Despite not knowing that much about brewing I do know that most breweries are not lagering their beer long enough to allow the beer to clarify. Agents such as PVPP are used to clarify the beer and get it to the shelf quicker. As long as it is filtered out PVPP is considered acceptable and the beer is still brewed within the rules of the Reinheitsgebot. How can a brewer even ensure it is all filtered out? I can't speak for other people but if it is alright to put Polyvinylpolypyrrolidone in my beer I don't see what the hell is wrong with some fruits and spices. This doesn't even give consideration to all the different chemicals sprayed on crops that are then used to make beer. Don't get me wrong I know breweries around the world utilize PVPP and other chemicals but for German brewers to attempt to stake some moral high ground based on filtering is just absurd. How a law that was meant to keep bread affordable and eventually lead to the eradication of North German brewing traditions is revered is beyond me.

You know what happens when you drink boring beer? You turn to Whiskey for excitement!

Despite pale lagers being the most consumed in the world I have never met a craft beer fan who says that any incantation of a pale lager is their favorite. I'm sure this person exists; I just don't know them (in the interest of full disclosure I don't know that many people). Although most craft brewers focus more on ale there are exceptions like Jack's Abby which only brews lagers but does so with unique US style. They have done so with great proficiency and are rapidly gaining notoriety. I'm surprised that German brewers haven't followed suit. Since beer sales are at a twenty year low in Germany I would imagine there is plenty of discussion at these breweries in how to increase sales. I just hope that brewers don't attempt to be craft brewers in the sense that Braufactum or Ratsherrn seems to think a fancy label and the word pale ale makes the beer suddenly craft beer. One local example which gives me hope is Prototyp from Kreativbrauerei Kehrwieder which is a tasty cold hopped lager. An influx of Imperial Pilsner or Schwarzbier or a hop forward Helles or Hefeweizen could do wonders to revitalize the German beer market and make my trip to the grocery store more enjoyable. 

People have stuck to the since 'it isn't broke don't fix it mantra' with German beer for generations. Only recently with the buzz of craft beer has the thought even been brought up. Sales will continue to decline and the same uninspired Pilsners will continue to line the beer isles of German grocery stores until brewers start offering customers a product to be excited about. I know one guy furiously typing away at his keyboard basking in the pale glow of his monitor will do little to change that, but I can have hop. Until then I will be frustrated with the German brewing scene. 
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About Colin Smith

Hi, I'm Colin, I love a good hoppy IPA, but I can find immense enjoyment in a solid session beer, imperial stout, quadrupel or a nostalgic beer from my past.

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