In comparison, the German beer market seems a little boring to
Americans. It's true that Germany produces Schneider, Weihenstephaner,
Andechs, and Schlenkerla. But how often are these beers consumed?
Becks, Sternburg, Flensburg, and others are the most-consumed beer
brands in Germany, and they are hardly better than Coors or Miller.
It's no wonder that, according to the German statistical office, in
the first half of 2009 German breweries sold 2.3 million hectoliters
(4.5 percent) less beer than in the same period for 2008. That's the
largest drop in statistical history. Is it possible that Germans find
their own beer a bit boring? In any case it's time that Germany give
American beer a second chance. Here are five reasons:
1. Quality For a long time price was the single most important factor
in the American beer market. But today there are really two beer
markets: one, in which price is still determinant, and another, in
which quality counts. The second market is smaller, but more complex
and adventurous; they drink Dogfish Head and other beers as a luxury
symbol. In this market the best breweries compete through quality as
well as price. It's normal to find a $10 beer made with the finest
ingredients in a corner grocery store. How many German beers cost more
than 1.50 euros?
2. Selection This second market promises not just quality, but also
variety. Twenty years ago there was only watery pilsner. Today any
local store offers a beer universe: barley wine, IPAs, cream porters,
Belgian triples, fruit beers, imperial stouts and many others. The
beer world knows more than just light and dark.
3. Innovation German beer is prized for its tradition. The breweries
here have perfected the lager, the hefeweissen, and the helles. But
how often do you find new offerings? In contrast, each year brings new
trends, experiments, and fads to the American beer market. The current
trend is for more and more hops, although Belgian beers--tripels,
saisons, etc.--are also hot. These often have a higher alcohol content,
and as an answer you can also find more and more nuanced beers,
especially from Pennsylvania. There you can find Stoudt's, which
specializes in German beer styles--they brew kölsch, maibock, helles,
pils, doppelbock, and hefeweissen. Such innovations make the American
beer scene exciting, fun, and surprising. It's also important to note
the influence of homebrewing. Americans love homebrewing, and many
microbreweries started out as hobbies. The homebrewing scene is an
enormous workshop for the American beer world.
4. Geography America is a big place, with different climates and
"terroirs." Beer from the American Midwest contains more malt, because
that's where a lot of barley is grown. Beer from California, Oregon,
and Washington State on the other hand contains more hops. The water
in Oregon tastes different from the water in Florida, which makes
their beers taste different as well.