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Craft Beer in Munich
In the slipstream of six large breweries, a lively craft beer scene is currently flourishing in the Bavarian capital, with more and more young brewers mixing up the traditional market with creative specialities. Mareike Hasenbeck, beer journalist and craft blogger from the very beginning, gives an insight into the turbulent scene on the Isar.
Giesinger, Crew Republic & Co.
With its Oktoberfest, beer mug and beer garden culture, Munich is a beer paradise par excellence for barley juice fans in all parts of the world. But while the Isar metropolis has always been dominated by regional brewing giants, a new enjoyment scene with young creative brewers and beers with very special combinations of raw materials is now causing a sensation.
Although Munich still ranks just behind Berlin and Hamburg in the ranking of new breweries, the craft beer train is rolling ahead strongly with new brands and unusual brews. After a wild phase of experimentation, many young brewers in the state capital are now returning to their Bavarian roots and opting for modern interpretations of traditional beer styles such as Helles, Pils and Weißbier.
One of the pioneers of the scene is Steffen Marx with his Giesinger Bräu. The Bavarian once started his brewing career in the garage until the demand for his brew grew enormously and he raised a lot of capital for his own brewery through a crowdfunding initiative. In the meantime, Giesinger Bräu is considered the largest craft beer manufactory and the most important new brewery in the city.
Marx's team brews not only Pils, Helles, Dunkles and Märzen but also a fruity Triple, a strong Double-Alt and a tasty Belgian Blond Ale. With the financing of around 20 million euros via several crowdfunding projects, Marx realised a second location in the north of the city in 2020. And thanks to its own deep well, Giesinger Bräu can now also be called "Münchner Bier".
“Werk2” (which means “Plant2”) can now produce more than 20,000 hectolitres of beer per year in the first expansion stage. In addition to the brewhouse and bottling plant, the new location also includes a full and empty beer storage facility, a malting plant, a laboratory, a pick-up facility and an event room.
Marx is proud of its new brewery, which, with the turnkey line from Krones, meets the very latest requirements in terms of energy efficiency, thus enabling it to operate in a particularly resource-economical manner. "In our philosophy, we regard brewing at its core as a natural and responsible craft," emphasises Münchner Bräu.
Another successful example of the Munich craft scene is located just a few kilometres from „Werk2”. In Unterschleissheim the boilers of Crew Republic, one of the equally successful makers of the Bavarian craft beer scene, shine.
Mario Hanel and Timm Schnigula gave up their jobs as management consultants to fulfil their dream of having their own brewery with an attached taproom. Having started out as gypsy brewers, the two entrepreneurs were able to crown their venture about five years ago with a stake in the world's largest hop service provider, Barth-Haas from Nuremberg. After a steep success curve, the brewery group AB InBev has now also taken a stake.
The Munich crew owes much of its success to the latest production technology. Brewing is done with a fully automated Rolec system and hopping is done with three high-quality hop rockets.
The standard range of Hanel and Schnigula, bottled on a Krones line, is almost as broad as that of many a large brewery. Besides the hopy light beer Easy and various fruity India Pale Ales (IPA), the range includes an Imperial Stout called Roundhouse Kick and a powerful Barley Wine with 10.1 per cent alcohol.
In their X-Series the crew also carries seasonal and experimental beers. These include a dry hopped lager with Saazer, Tettnanger and Hersbrucker, but also a tropical-fruity New England IPA with Galaxy, Mosaic, Amarillo and Citra.
Unlike the creators of Crew Republic, Munich's young brewer Tilman Ludwig focuses mainly on German beer styles, which he interprets in a modern way. His first beer was a Helles, which he gave a characteristic kick by adding American Chinook hops.
When Ludwig founded Tilmans Biere six years ago, he did not want to scare off conventional Bavarian beer drinkers right away. In the meantime, Ludwig calls Das Helle, which comes in the 0.5-litre Euro bottle, his flagship.
Another favourite beer of his customers is also Die Dunkle. Here Ludwig modernised a classic Munich dark with caramelised and roasted brewing salts from local production and the hop varieties Tettnanger and East Kent Golding.
In the meantime, he now also has a Pale Ale in his range, which is always brewed according to the same recipe, but with a different hop variety used each time. "This is a brew in honour of our beloved hops," enthuses Tilman Ludwig.
In order to surprise his fans with new taste flavours in the future, he also experiments with varieties such as Callista, Bru-1, Pekko and Hallertauer Nugget as well as some new breeding lines.
Munich Brew Mafia
The Munich Brew Mafia, a creative new company with great potential, also swears by hoppy enjoyment. Dario Stieren's team hops its Pils four times with the Citra variety, thus achieving an unusual spectrum of aromas. Criminal Hellen also contains a lot of hops of the varieties Tradition, Hersbrucker as well as Mistral and Callista.
However, the Munich beer mafia is not only known for creative interpretations of traditional styles. Alternative ingredients - beyond the purity law - like raspberries and blueberries also like to end up in the kettle.
The Exotic Monster, brewed with mango and coconut, is currently on the shelves. A brew called Gintasia, which Dario Stieren calls "Gin Tonic Infused Strong Beer Seasoning", is also attracting attention among beer geeks - brewed with juniper, lemon, lime, ginger, lemongrass and various spices.
The makers of TrueBrew sometimes swear by wild experiments. Seasonally, the people of Munich like to rely on Hokkaido pumpkin, cinnamon, cardamom and allspice for their Pumpkin Ale - or on lactic acid bacteria in their so-called Kettle Sour called Brain Pain.
In the taproom of Luis Seubert, Andreas Dünkel and Lukas Lochem in the Munich district Isarvorstadt there are four shiny 500-litre copper kettles behind the counter, in which mostly Helles, Vienna Style Lager or Pale Ale are waiting to be freshly tapped.
For sales, however, the young entrepreneurs rely on cans. "They are not only chic, but also environmentally friendly and, above all, probably the best packaging for aroma-intensive beers," judges Andreas Dünkel.
Although the Munich newcomers are still on the road as gypsy brewers, they invested in a mobile can filling line from Canada, which they now also use to fill for friendly creative brewers.
Hopfmeister, Higgins Ale Works and Hopfenhäcker
Cans seem to be increasingly popular as containers among Munich craft brewers.
Marc Gallo from Hopfmeister, in addition to his core range with Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Stout and hoppy Lager, is now also relying on a can series with predominantly trendy double dry hopped beers.
At Higgins Ale Works, craft fans can even pick up 750 ml Crowler, filled with various hop bombs, sometimes even cask aged in a rum barrel.
Werner Schürgraf from the creative brewery Hopfenhäcker, who runs his beer manufactory in the old Munich district of Haidhausen, occasionally dares to tackle complex barrel maturation. His current range includes a ten percent Barley Wine, matured for nine months in Madeira barrels.
As a trained brewer, he has always been interested in technical processes and the various refinements in the production process. Before becoming self-employed, Schürgraf first went into plant construction, where he advised smaller breweries all over the world. In 2016 he designed his own plant and since then he has concentrated on innovative beer styles in his own business. Thus, in addition to light lager, he also carries a wheat beer that is brewed with hemp flowers. He also brews a modern interpretation of widower beer with bitter orange, cumin and coriander.
Nicole Herdin, Dirk Lamprecht and Heiko Schwanz from Testbräu prove that even career changers can brew good brews in Munich. The trio works with the philosophy: "No purity law is too sacred for us, no ingredient too expensive and no recipe too absurd.
For example, the Testbräu team has a Sorachi Blanche in its portfolio. They use a classic Bavarian wheat beer malt, Belgian Bière Blanche yeast and Sorachi Ace hops to produce the result. Finally, the drink is post-fermented with ten percent raspberries. The creation is also available in a cider version, where the brew is fermented with cider yeast. It is brewed on the two-hectolitre Maricans plant at Higgins Ale Works, often also as a double brew with four hectolitres.
Cohesion is considered an important constant in Munich's diverse and constantly growing craft beer scene - and the next brands and brewpubs are already in the starting blocks. The market shares of Munich's young brewers are still extremely small compared to the old-established brewing giants, but the race to catch up is already in full swing.