BeerCast #25 – German styles

Posted by on Dec 3, 2008 in BeerCasts, German Beer | 2 Comments

Our quarter-century BeerCast sees a return to one of the great brewing powerhouses of Europe – Germany. We’ve been there before, but this time we try three German beers of very different styles, all distinctive of that brew-loving country. Firstly we sample Küppers Kölsch (4.8%) from the Küppers Brauerei in Cologne, a fairly typical example of Köln-area light, hoppy beer. From there, we travel to the centre of the country and the state of Thuringia for Köstritzer Schwarzbier (4.8%abv), a bottom-fermented ‘black beer’ produced with characteristically dark malts. We finish the episode on a stronger note, with the BeerCast’s first wheat doppelbock – Aventinus’s Weizenstarkbier (8.2%abv) – ‘Bavaria from it’s strongest side’, apparently. On the three-man panel this week are Richard, Grooben and Shovels.

1. Küppers Kölsch (4.8%abv)
Küppers Kölsch GmbH, Köln
500ml glass bottle

Cologne – or Köln – is Germany’s fourth-largest city after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, and is renowned for it’s own distinctive style of beer – Kölsch. Fourteen breweries in and around the city produce it, and in true apellation contrôlée fashion to be called a Kölsch it must be brewed in the region – as determined by the serious but rather boozy-sounding Kölsch convention of 1986. Küppers are owned by the German national Brau und Brunnen, aka the Radeberger Gruppe, who also own many other beer labels (Berliner, DAB, Schloesser, Schöfferhofer), constituting 15% of the total German beer market. Küppers Kölsch might be a common find over there, but is it worth finding over here?

What They Say“Typically for the style, it is a delicate golden colour with a lovely white head, and fairly lively. The palate is already dry and citric-fruity at first taste, with a delicate honeyed hoppiness, slightly salty with lime-like hints and maltiness far back, then a gradually further drying, firm finish: it is certainly a dry beer, but at the same time has an appealing mildness that adds to its drinkability” [beer writer Des de Moor]

What We Say
Shovels – Initial wheatbeer taste but sweetens as it warms up 6
Richard – Very pale, not unpleasant but not that exciting 5
Grooben – It’s like a flat lager – I pity the people of Cologne 5

2. Köstritzer Schwarzbier (4.8%abv)
Köstritzer Schwarzbierbrauerei GmbH & Co Bad Kostritz, Thuringia
500ml glass bottle

The central German state of Thuringia is perhaps more famous for it’s sausages than beer, but the lengthily-titled Köstritzer Schwarzbierbrauerei churns out an extremely popular brew. Schwarzbier – “black beer” – is a bottom-fermented dark lager which is hugely popular in Germany, and Köstritzer’s is the market leader and most popular brand. They have some similarities with porters, but are milder in taste and less bitter. The Köstritzer brewery also happens to be one of the world’s oldest, tracing production back to 1543 (although their current Schwarzbier dates from a more modest 1993).

What They Say“Brewed according to the German purity law of 1516, the original is convincing by it’s light and sparkling character. Barley malts subjected to special processes give it it’s distinctive, delicate aroma and extraordinary colouration. Well-rounded by a mild hop flavour it is really a great enjoyment.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – Skips the front of the tongue, goes right to the back
Richard – Sugary molasses taste, takes a while to get used to it 7
Grooben – For such a dark beer it’s really light on the palate 7

3. Aventinus Weizenstarkbier (8.2%abv)
Private Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn GmbH Kelheim, Bavaria
500ml glass bottle

Georg I. Schneider acquired the rights to boil wheat beer from King Ludwig II in 1872, and the saviour of wheat beer (which was apparently dying out) continued a dynasty which had been brewing uninterrupted since 1607. Unsurprisingly the oldest wheat beer brewery in Bavaria have added a few strings to their bow in the last 400yrs. In 1907 then brewery head Mathilde Schneider developed a wheat-doppelbock which she named ‘Aventinus Weizenstarkbier’. Apparently from the very beginning it ‘claimed a very good position in the strong beer category’. Will it claim a similar position on the BeerCast leaderboard?

What They Say“This is a very intense wheat doppelbock with a complex spicy chocolate-like aroma with a hint of banana and raisins. On the palate, you experience a soft touch and on the tongue it is very rich and complex, though fresh with a hint of caramel. It finishes in a rich soft and lightly bitter impression.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Grooben – Got that banana wheatbeer taste, it’s a struggle 6
Shovels – Hides the alcohol well but overpoweringly sweet 5
Richard – Lots going on, challenges the palate but in a bad way 5

BeerCast panel verdict
Köstritzer Schwarzbier (21½/30)
Küppers Kölsch (16/30)
Aventinus Weizenstarkbier (16/30)

Panellists – (from bottom right) Grooben, Richard, Shovels



We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with our festive spectacular Christmas edition, where we’ll be sampling six beers made for the season. Stay tuned for details…and please leave us comments on the blog or iTunes, or emails. Cheers!


  1. mcgenius
    December 20, 2008

    Aldi were doing the Köstritzer Schwarzbier for half nothing the other month, as part of their Oktoberfest promotion.

    Excellent stuff it was too. At the time I reckoned it’d be just the thing to accompany a bowl of Christmas pudding, but predictably enough, the festive season is now upon us and the Schwarzbier is long gone, and they’re not getting any more in.

    According to whatever Michael Jackson beer book I was looking at, there used to be different varieies of Köstritzer with different levels of sweetness. But then German unification meant the introduction of our old mate the Rheinheitsgebot purity laws – so any added sugar was now strictly verboten and the Schwarzbier was reduced to a single sugar-free version.

    Which seems a bit of a shame to me. I fancy a slightly sweeter version would have worked pretty well, but adding a spoonful of sugar at home doesnt seem right somehow.

  2. KneemaOreva
    February 7, 2009 – now in my rss reader)))
    internet signature:

Leave a Reply