Ohne Bananensaft: A Few Notes on the German Beer Myth

So, Matadornights.com ran a piece of mine covering German beer mixes. Despite the sardonic tone of the article, it springs from an earnest desire to try, what I feel, is the true, modern drinking culture of Germany.

But, oh god, does it look delicious. (Jamie Peacock/LIVING ASTRAY)

The Germans don’t make “good” beer. They make time-tested styles of beer, and their populace has long come to depend on a level of beer quality and service most cultures care not to maintain. Seriously, even the dive-iest sh**hole in the former East knows how to pour one with a perfect head. (The Asian restaurant down the street…well, that’s a whole other story).

But any American who dabbles in craft beer connoisseurship will be utterly “whelmed.” Dare I say, “underwhelmed.”

Don’t get me wrong: German beer is great. I have never gotten a hangover pounding back liters and liters (or, quarts and quarts) of German beers. The only time German beer gave me anything close to stomach cramps (I’m looking at you, Old Milwaukee) was when I purchased the Aldi-like grocery store’s in-house super-cheap brand.

Kirner: The official Beer-cola mix of scenic vistas in Idar-Oberstein (Jacob Bielanski/September 2012)

In plastic bottles, nonetheless.

But Germans don’t play with different hops and flavors. They don’t (generally) re-imagine old styles from different countries. Their owner doesn’t fly to the Southern Hemisphere to get “green” hops in the middle of winter (side note: WTF, Sierra Nevada?). With regards to brewing, they just do what they’ve done for about a thousand years (yes, I’m aware that there are many different “German” styles, including the Altbier, Berliner Weiss, Dunkel/weizen, Maerzen and so forth, but what I argue is that the interpretation of these styles is the EXACT SAME across the nation and that “dynamic” styles can’t grab any commercial foothold whatsoever).

When I first came to Germany in 2005, I was stuck on the mythology of “good” German beer. I scrunched my face at the idea of mixing sprite with a good Pilsner. But I came from a place where you could go to a liquor store and get a light beer for a fishing trip, an IPA, a locally-sourced cherry-belgian, or even an incredible coffee stout–all of them made on U.S. soil (if not within 50 miles, as is the case in Wisconsin).

You can’t get any of those in Germany.

In light of this knowledge, I learned that the only way to be “on the edge” of German beer tastes was to sample those mixes. I did, and they taste just as you would imagine. But they seem to disappear from German store shelves just as fast, if not faster, than those old staples. Smashed bottles of Diesel can be found in any reputable alleyway of Leipzig. I suspect these beer derivatives provide a more direct line to modern German culture than the beer from which they’re made–German Purity Law be damned.

So read my article at Matador Nights, tell your friends, and let’s try to make “The Sonic” the newest hipster-drink trend in America.

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