The German brewers making foreign-style beer

Beer being poured in a bar in Berlin Beer is a serious business in Germany, and there is a strict limit on what ingredients can be used

Eric Toft is on a mission to improve German beer - which is odd because he's an American.

All the same, Mr Toft, the head brewer of a tiny brewery in Bavaria, in the south of the country, politely preaches that Germany's beer-makers should be more adventurous.

In a nation very proud of its beer, he is an outsider who thinks the natives could do better.

Not that Mr Toft looks like an outsider. With his curly fair hair, and the fact he almost always wears lederhosen - the traditional Alpine leather shorts - he could pass for a Bavarian.

Start Quote

For a lot of brewers, [the law is] an easy excuse to say, 'I can't think outside the box, so we'll carry on business as usual'”

End Quote Eric Toft Brew master, Schonram brewery

Mr Toft, who first went to Germany to study brewing and ended up staying, is brew master at the 234-year-old Schonram brewery, based in the village of the same name near the border between Germany and Austria.

He is passionate about beer, and although he works within the constraints of the Reinheitsgebot, the country's beer purity law, in addition to more traditional German brews he makes British-style beers, such as India Pale Ale (IPA).

While such a state of affairs may make many Germans cough into their helles or dunkel lager, Mr Toft says other smaller German brewers should also explore new flavour possibilities while not breaking the law.

After all, sales of his newer recipes are rising strongly, at a time when overall beer consumption in Germany is now at a 20-year low.

Unesco appeal

The Reinheitsgebot was first applied to Bavaria in 1516, before subsequently covering the whole of Germany from 1906. In its original text, the law stipulated that beer could only be made from water, barley and hops.

Eric Toft Eric Toft brings a cross-cultural approach to his brewing in the German village of Schonram

Yeast was later added to the list when its vital role in brewing became understood, and wheat was subsequently also allowed.

Yet the practice in other countries of adding cheaper ingredients to beer, such as rice, maize, and sugar is forbidden. As is fruit, which is often added to Belgian ales, or - heaven forbid - anything artificial.

So revered is the Reinheitsgebot that the German Brewers' Association applied in December of last year for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) to give it protected "world heritage" status.

It used to be that Unesco only accorded monuments and other physical sites World Heritage status, but recently it's been widened to include "intangible" treasures.

The tango dance and French cuisine are already on the list, and the German brewers want the Reinheitsgebot to follow suit.

Marc-Oliver Huhnholz, spokesman for the German Brewery Association, says the law means that when people drink a German beer they know it is "absolutely pure".

"We made a survey [in Germany], and asked people if they wanted to have beer brewed under the purity law, and more than 90% said they wanted to stick to the purity law.

"There are some things that Germany stands for and one of them is German beer... we want to show the world that we have a very old tradition."

A handful of hops Newer varieties of hops, especially those from the US, can give beers distinct fruit flavours

But there is no doubt the Reinheitsgebot is also a constraint. As already mentioned, it means German breweries cannot flavour their beer with fruit, something their counterparts in Belgium routinely do to much acclaim.

At a time when sales of beer in Germany continue to fall, Mr Toft thinks the ancient regulations make many German brewers believe - wrongly in his mind - that they have to keep to the same old ways, and the same old beers.

"For a lot of brewers, it's an easy excuse to say, 'I can't think outside the box, so we'll carry on business as usual,'" he says.

"But, actually, the Reinheitsgebot ought to be an incentive to be creative, because we are forced to think of ways of making different flavours within the law."

Popular with women

Salvation comes in the main from the not-so-humble hop flower, which gives all beers a level of bitterness.

Traditional German beer styles

Helles - pale lager from southern Germany, low in hops

Pils - a version of the lager that originated in the Czech city of Pilsen; has a higher hop rate than helles

Dunkel - a dark lager made using barley malt that has been roasted for longer

Wheat beer - as the name suggests, this uses wheat in addition to barley

Kolsch - a pale ale from the city of Cologne

Altbier - meaning "old beer"; a copper-coloured ale from Dusseldorf

While most hops grown in Germany are mild and subtle ones used for making lager, hops from the UK - and especially the US - can also impart a distinct fruitiness to beer, with flavours like orange, grapefruit, and peach.

Such fruity hops are now starting to be grown in Germany, and mean that brewers such as Mr Toft can increasingly produce brews that taste more like a British real ale or American craft beer.

The result is that sales of the new fruitier beers are selling very well, especially among women, and that they have discovered new foreign markets.

Mr Toft says: "We found these beers appeal to women who previously claimed they didn't like beer. And from that, it's become popular with their husbands."

He is also successfully marketing the beers to young people in Italy.

Thorsten Schoppe, owner of the Schoppe Braeu microbrewery in Berlin, is using fruity hops to brew strong American-style craft ales.

"In Belgium they produce cherry beer," he says.

"If you produced it in Germany you would have to call it 'alcoholic beverage made with cherries', and that wouldn't be a beer. You have to write that on the label."

A waitress at Munich's Oktoberfest German beer is famous around the world for its purity

While Mr Schoppe says most people in German are pleased with the Reinheitsgebot because it means they don't have "rubbish" or "artificial chemicals" in their beer, he says it does limit small breweries that want to be creative and stand out from the crowd.

In the past he has experimented with adding things such as herbs, honey, cinnamon and chilli to beer - all unacceptable in Germany.

But at Schoppe Braeu Mr Schoppe is conjuring up new flavours, and higher sales, while sticking to the brewing law.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    UKIP SHOP 11:57:
    Anti EU bag

    Sales of hi-vis vests, silk ties and even jewellery raised £80,000 for UKIP in the past year reports the Financial Times. It has seen its Companies House filings. Recalling disgraced party member Godfrey Bloom's exhortation to women to clean behind the fridge, it notes UKIP steers clear of the fridge area entirely and does not do fridge magnets.

     
  2.  
    MORTGAGE LENDING Via Email

    Of course you don't have to take our word for it. Here's the ubiquitous Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight: "The appreciable rise in mortgage approvals reported by the Bank of England in June fuels uncertainty as to whether the recent loss of momentum in housing market activity is likely to be lasting or just a temporary development related to changing mortgage regulations, and whether there will be a significant easing back in house price growth." Can't say fairer than that.

     
  3.  
    MARKET UPDATE 11:34:

    European shares are scraping a living now - all show minor (very minor) gains. Retailer Next stays a winner though - up 2.65% after giving a positive account of itself.

    • The FTSE is up 15 at 6803.01
    • Germany's Dax is up 11 at 9609.19
    • The French Cac-40 is up 3 at 4347.55
     
  4.  
    MORTGAGE LENDING 11:30:
    Table showing mortgage approvals for house purchase from March to June

    This table shows the potential impact of the MMR. Mortgage approvals were ticking along at around the 67,000 mark and then suddenly dropped in April when the new rules came in. Some feared the new rules were stifling lending. Others that it was an indication of rampant house price growth and borrowers over stretching their finances.

     
  5.  
    MORRISON'S CHAIRMAN 11:20: Via Email

    Andrew Higginson's new job as new chairman of Morrison's has generated something of a buzz in the City. Jon Copestake, retail analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit says: "Having been passed over by Tesco for Philip Clark this Morrison's appointment gives Andrew Higginson an opportunity to prove himself with a big four retailer."

     
  6.  
    MORTGAGE LENDING 11:05:
    Chart showing mortgage approvals in June

    Monthly mortgage lending for house purchases rose in June to £10.8bn from £10.1bn, said the Bank of England. May mortgage approvals jumped to 67,196 in the month from 62,007. What has changed? Well, it's entirely possible that the regulatory bottleneck caused by European mortgage affordability rules introduced in April - given the catchy title of the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) inexplicably - is getting to the point of being cleared now mortgage lenders have got their heads around them.

     
  7.  
    AIRBUS CANCELS ORDER 10:44:

    Back to Airbus for a moment and it is worth pointing out that it is very unusual for a planemaker to cancel an order from a customer. Reuters news agency carries a statement from Skymark that explains (sort of) from its point of view how the cancellation came about: "[Airbus] said it would charge overpriced breakup fees for cancelling the purchase of A380s if our company decides to cancel," Skymark president Shinichi Nishikubo said.

     
  8.  
    SUPERMARKET SALES 10:30:
    A shopper selecting fruit

    The latest figures on supermarket sales are out from the well-watched Kantar Worldpanel. Tesco sales fell 3.8%, Asda sales rose 0.9%, Sainsbury sales were up 1.2%. All figures are for the 12 weeks to July 20. Overall sales were up 0.9% - the slowest pace of growth for 10 years.

     
  9.  
    AIRBUS CANCELS ORDER 10:15:
    A380

    Airbus confirms it has cancelled a deal for six A380 superjumbos for Japan's Skymark airline. The statement came a few hours after Skymark said it was locked in "difficult" talks over the order. There doesn't seem to be the vastest amount of confidence in Skymark's finances. Shares closed down 13% in Tokyo earlier.

     
  10.  
    BITCOIN BIG IN ROMANIA 09:58:
     bitcoin medals

    Bitcoin is big in Romania, says Reuters. The citizen's of Europe's second poorest country apparently remain distrustful of officialdom but are also tech savvy. Reuters adds Romania is among the worst at collecting taxes and fighting fraud, making it poorly equipped to manage the bitcoin.

     
  11.  
    INSOLVENCY FIGURES 09:47:

    Some 27,029 people went into personal insolvency in the second quarter of this year, a 5.1% increase on the same quarter last year, official figures from the Insolvency Service show.

     
  12.  
    MARKET UPATE 09:36:

    European shares are mixed. They started out good after a batch of encouraging company results. Retailer Next is among the big winners - up 2.45% to 6680p on the FTSE 100 so far.

    • The FTSE is 0.12% higher at 6796.35
    • Germany's Dax has just turned negative and is now 0.09% lower at 9589.54
    • The French Cac-40 is also down 0.18% at 4336.92
     
  13.  
    Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Next now worth slightly more than Sainsbury's and Morrison's put together."

     
  14.  
    GHERKIN SALE 09:14:
    An aerial view of the "City", London"s business disctrict

    London landmark and general troubled child of the City's tall buildings, the Gherkin - otherwise known as 30 St Mary Axe - has been put up for sale for £64m. It was put into receivership with accountants Deloitte managing the place since April. Co-owners Evans Randall and German firm IVG told it to put it up for sale after they failed to reach a deal with their lenders over restructuring the building's mounting debts.

     
  15.  
    BANKERS ETHICS 08.58:
    Book

    Back to the proposed bankers' oath. Would it mean an end to such fines as the £218m Lloyds received yesterday for fiddling rates? Think tank ResPublic, which operates "on the premise that human relationships should once more be positioned as the centre and meaning of an associative society", hopes so. Click here to read what it suggests are the magic words.

     
  16.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 08:45: BBC Radio 4
    Russian President Vladimir Putin

    Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind is talking to the Today programme about the potential impact of sanctions on Russia. He says President Putin is unconcerned about his popularity at home. "This isn't about his popularity this is about imposing sanctions that will require Putin to change his policy," he says. Up to now, he says, sanctions have been "pretty useless". Sanctions need to be about serious economic damage to Russia, he adds.

     
  17.  
    UBS PROBE 08:35:
    The floor of the New York Stock Exchange on 28 March, 2014.

    The "Dark Pools" investigation widens to include UBS. The Swiss bank became the latest bank to say it is cooperating with inquiries about these alternative trading systems. Its second quarter report this morning said a clutch of US regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Attorney General, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority had made inquiries. Banks Barclays and Credit Suisse are also involved in probes.

     
  18.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 08:25:

    Separately the US State Department has accused Russia of violating a key arms control treaty by testing a nuclear cruise missile. Russia tested a ground-launched cruise missile, breaking the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 during the Cold War, the US says. A senior US official described it as "very serious" but gave little more in the way of detail.

     
  19.  
    PAY KICK? 08:13:

    Two fund managers overheard on the 06:45 to Vauxhall: "It's called a pay away, not a kick back." Business Live (not being perfect) does not know what this means. Any ideas?

     
  20.  
    HEADLINES
  21.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 08:05: BBC Radio 4

    One more from Malcolm Bracken on Today. He doesn't mince his words. He says: "Putin has looted an enormous amount of money from the Russian people." Mr Bracken adds he doesn't think the aim of sanctions will be to "devastate the Russia economy or isolate it from the world." But squeezing "the cronies" will be language Mr Putin can understand, he says.

     
  22.  
    NEXT PROFITS 07:53:
    Woman in picture

    Next also has results. First half profits at the clothing and homeware retailer rose 10.7%. Next tells investors to stand by for better profits of between £775m and £815m. Sales at the physical stores were up 7.5% and through the Next Directory were 16.2% higher.

     
  23.  
    BP PROFITS 07:43:

    BP says rising oil and gas production from new or recently started projects led to increased processing of heavy crude oil by the newly-modernised Whiting refinery contributed to operating cash flow of $7.9bn in the quarter. Total operating cash flow for the first half of 2014 was $16.1bn.

     
  24.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 07:36: BBC Radio 4

    The purpose of sanctions is to target the regime and [Russian president] Putin's cronies, not really the Russian people, Malcolm Bracken, analyst at Redmayne Bentley, tells the Today programme. "The mismatch," he says "Is that Russia needs German money from gas sales even more than Germany needs Russia gas." Germany can get its gas from countries other than Russia, he adds. But Putin can impose far greater economic pain on his people than Angela Merkel can on hers.

     
  25.  
    MORRISON'S CHAIRMAN 07:30:
    Signage for Morrisons supermarket on a trolley handle

    There's confirmation that former Tesco finance director Andrew Higginson will become the the new chairman of rival supermarket Morrison's when Sir Ian Gibson retires in 2015. Mr Higginson will join the board on 1 October as non-executive deputy chairman. He was finance director at Tesco between 1997 and 2012. He is currently chairman of Poundland, N Brown Group and McCurrach UK as well as a non-executive director at BSkyB.

     
  26.  
    BP PROFITS 07:17:
    British Petroleum sign

    BP has reported profits (second-quarter replacement cost profit - which strips out the effect of oil price movements) of $3.2bn, compared with $2.4bn a year earlier.

     
  27.  
    BIG CHEESE 07:13: BBC Breakfast
    Cheese

    The biggest event in the global cheese calendar starts today in Nantwich in Cheshire. Steph McGovern is at the International Cheese Fair for Breakfast along with the 4,500 cheeses there. Andrew Loftus, agriculture manager for Morrison's supermarkets says: "Customers need a big variety, the block cheese, the cheddars, but we also have our own range that we cut and grate in our factories."

     
  28.  
    BANKING ETHICS 07:03: Radio 5 live

    Control Risks' Charles Hecker on Wake Up to Money pulls together the two big topics of the morning - Russia and banking ethics. He says it's the ethics that attract them: "There is a reason why the British banking sector is by a mile the preferred destination for Russian financial transactions. It's seen as transparent and liquid market that is well regulated and is seen as clean." And they also like the flight time and the restaurants, he says.

     
  29.  
    UBS RESULTS 06:53:
    The logo of Swiss bank UBS

    Swiss bank UBS reports second quarter net profit of 792m Swiss francs (£516m), up from 690m francs last time. Results were whacked last year by a $885m settlement with the US housing regulator over the mis-selling of mortgage-backed bonds. The bank has still had to set aside 254m euros (£165.4m) this year, mainly to settle legal claims that it helped wealthy Germans to dodge taxes.

     
  30.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 06:41: BBC Radio 4

    In case you were wondering why sanctions were back on the news menu, last week, European leaders agreed there should be tougher sanctions on Russia after Ukrainian separatists brought down Malaysia Airlines MH17. This week they decide what sanctions should be applied and against whom or what.

     
  31.  
    BANKING ETHICS 06:31: Radio 5 live
    Triumph of Virtue and Nobility

    Would getting bankers to swear an oath promising good behaviour work? That's a suggestion by one think tank, ResPublica. It wants to introduce "Virtuous Banking". But the chairman of the Banking Standards Review Council, Sir Richard Lambert, tells Wake Up to Money an oath won't help to bring that about.

     
  32.  
    GAS GUZZLER 06:21:
    Mayor of London Boris Johnson

    London mayor Boris Johnson wants the drivers of diesel cars to pay an extra £10 - on top of the congestion charge it should be noted - for the pleasure of driving into the centre of the capital according to a report in the Daily Mail today. Other cities are also considering introducing low-emission zones to crack down on diesel fumes. These cars were once encouraged as being less polluting...

     
  33.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 06:08: Radio 5 live

    More from Charles Hecker. He tells Wake Up to Money: "I don't think anybody is that keen on sanctions that are going to impact on their own economic sectors." Part of the problem with European sanctions against Russia is the French have defence deals with Russia, there is a substantial amount of Russia money in the UK's financial services sector and Germany has energy deals with Russia, he adds

     
  34.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 06:01: Radio 5 live

    Charles Hecker of consultancy Control Risks tells Wake Up to Money targeted sanctions, whether against sectors of the Russian economy or against individuals, would have a potential impact and suggests the Russian economy is already teetering on the edge of recession. But he adds both Cuba and Iran have been subject to far more stringent sanctions and that further sanctions against Russia are unlikely to change the country's behaviour.

     
  35.  
    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Yes, we're back. And we're here: bizlive@bbc.co.uk @bbcbusiness - should you wish to get in touch.

     
  36.  
    06.00: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning everyone. Yesterday afternoon we had a £218m fine for Lloyds for its part in the 2012 Libor scandal, while the think-tank ResPublica has suggested this morning bankers should take an oath - a bit like doctors - to fulfil their "proper moral and economic purpose". We also have second quarter trading updates from BP and Next this morning, plus more on Russian sanctions.

     

Features

From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • A digger operated via an Oculus Rift and a controllerClick Watch

    Why controlling a heavy digger with a virtual reality helmet might improve safety

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.