Article by Alexander Eeckhout
The archetypical German is a heavy set, affable man with a full beard enjoying a good helping of fresh, glistering beer. Germany holds a reputation for being a beer country. Unfortunately, many German beers that one finds in Thailand are quite bland. I’m not saying they’re on par with Tiger or Leo but considering their origin, they’re always a little disappointing to me.
So how come Germany’s reputation is better than it deserves? How come the third country in the world when it comes to beer consumption per capita doesn’t produce one great beer after another?
The cause is the “Reinheitsgebot”, a German purity law dating back to 1516. This law states that beer can only be produced with water, yeast, malted barley and hops. The law was politically and economically motivated and had little to do with trying to create good beer. It was created in Bavaria and during the unification of Germany in 1870 the region demanded for it’s implementation everywhere else in the new country. This resulted in the extinction of a lot of different varieties of beer. Unsurprisingly, it was done to get rid of competition from other German regions.
The limitation of the German purity law has led to a narrow range of pilsners and wheat beers. Beers that are refreshing and crisps, if brewed well, but not quite flavorful.
Some Germans are proud of their Reinheitsgebot. However, it should be a celebration of its economic efficiency and not it’s application for brewing great beer. This may sound like a cliché but the purity law is another example of Germany’s ability to set rules and color within the lines.
Another reason why the German beers available here are not exciting is that only big commercial breweries seem to be importing their beer. And commercial breweries don’t brew interesting beers.
As harsh a critic as I may sound right now, I’m not trying to say that Germans are incapable of brewing great beers and that there are none. If you visit Germany, you’ll find traditional beers that are good and like anywhere else these days, craft beers are on the rise in Germany and there are some promising breweries. Creative hotspots like Munich and Berlin boast a number of craft breweries and a lot of people seem to like this stroll of the beaten purity path. I’m sure they will make their way into Thailand as well. But for the thirsty among you, I’d give Becks a rest and go for the many other excellent beers available in the kingdom.