At a time when masses lift their maßes of Märzen, Helles, or Dunkel at Oktoberfest, it may come as a surprise to hear that brewing traditions in Germany are far more diverse than the revellers auf den Wiesen (on the Octoberfest field) might care to realise. German brewing isn’t exclusively all about the lager. Many regions specialise in local styles and, while ‘big beer’ is indeed all over the shop, it’s still possible to enjoy a variety of styles in some pretty special places around the country. Today, many of the smaller regional styles are seeing a renaissance driven by the curiosity of craft beer drinkers.
Originally from the town of Goslar but now made in Leipzig, Bayerischer Bahnhof Gose is a slightly tart ale with additions of coriander and salt. The gose style of beer almost became extinct until in the 1980s brewers poured over old recipe books and queried elderly drinkers on the beer’s character in order to resurrect the style. Using this information, gose has been brought back to life and you’ll now see examples brewed all over the world.
Arguably the finest part of Germany to appreciate quality beers is around the town of Bamberg in Franconia, northern Bavaria. Not only is Bamberg a beautiful UNESCO world heritage city, it nurtures 11 independent breweries with Schlenkerla Rauchbier being the most famous. The style of Rauchbier (German for smoked beer) brewed at Schlenkerla is remarkable for having preserved the smoky character that many beers would have had prior to modern malt drying techniques.
Today Schlenkerla is the benchmark for any brewery wishing to experiment with smoked malts, while Bamberg still exports huge quantities of beech-smoked malts for use by breweries around the world. The Schlenkerla Marzen (a March brewed smoked lager served at Oktoberfest) today offers a glimpse of what Oktoberfest beers may have tasted like back in the day.