Like all good American drinkers born between the 1840s and 1970s, the Shelton Brothers grew up secure in the knowledge that Germany was the world’s capital of beer.
Today, Deutschland hasn’t lost its luster as the capital of traditional beer culture (think oompah brass bands, lederhosen, and liter steins), but the massive shift in American brewing trends over the past 25 years — from cheaply made faux-pilsners to “craft” ales, often aggressively hoppy and/or alcoholic and/or quirkily flavored — has ushered in a new era of creativity and giddy Yankee pride at the expense of the relatively staid Teutonic imports. The accepted new-age view has been that Germany’s purity law, with its seemingly strict adherence to a narrow set of styles and ingredients, has insured its exclusion from the craft beer world party. To make matters worse, serious tasters have deduced that most of Germany’s well-known and loved large producers have, in the interest of cutting costs, gradually phased out elements of the indigenous brewing methods that historically gave their beer so much of its character.
The Shelton Brothers have two answers to all this:
Traditional German beer — that is, seriously, unwaveringly traditional German beer — has been championed by the company all along. We recognized back in the mid-’90s that the small village, farmhouse, and monastery brewers of Franconia (or northern Bavaria) were the ones carrying the torch, passing on the ancient knowledge of their fathers’ fathers, and generally sticking crankily to the “correct” ways to brew. To little guys like Mahrsbräu, Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe, and Göller, as well as bigger guys like Kulmbacher, there is, and always has been, a proper, honest way to make beer, and the difference is evident to anyone with a palate not totally desensitized by trendy extremes of high-alpha hop and alcohol. For the traditionalist wing of the craft-beer movement, it’s the brewers’ dedication to technique, balance, and simple quality that makes Franconia the world’s mecca of beer.
More recently, and seemingly overnight, a few German brewers outside Bavaria have challenged the might of the mega corporate beer factories in their own ways — by rejecting narrow rules, resurrecting once-common local styles, and insisting on depth and individual character over mass appeal. But while beers like the challengingly dry gose of Ritterguts, the sour, smoked, and funky ales of Freigeist and Monarchy, and the quirky concoctions of Neuzeller fit effortlessly into the new American craft scene, the brewers behind them are very much revivalist, and very proudly German. The hallmarks which define the land’s ancient brewing culture — technique, balance, and simple quality — remain.
Gänstaller/KCBC/Pretty Things/Rockaway Perseverator
A beer as unique and complex as the planning that went into its creation, Perseverator Red Doppelbock utilizes 6 different malts, 4 varieties of hop, and the skillful hands of 4 world-class brewers. A trio of Americans recently descended upon the historic Gänstaller Bräu in…
From This Country
- Berliner Getränkemanufaktur
- Gänstaller Bräu
- Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle
- Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe
- Kulmbacher Brauerei
- Mahr's Bräu
- The Monarchy