First, we must understand that the German brewing methods, as their technologies in general are complex and specialized. The history of German beers dates back over 5,000 years and during that time, they refined the brewing methods currently used. Are those the best methods in the world? Not necessarily, Belgians and British produce very good beers also using their own techniques. But to produce authentic German beers, we must use their ways.
The major contributor that led to the current brewing methods used is the purity of beer law, the “Reinheitsgebot” decreed in 1516 in Bavaria. Under this Act, only the following ingredients could be used for the production of beer: malt, hops and water. At that time, the fermentation was not yet well understood; the notion of yeast did not exist. The fermentation was either spontaneous from aerial wild yeasts or by the use of wooden containers ‘contaminated’ by a previous batch. This crucial legislation pushed German brewers to develop unique methods that did not use any additives other than the temperature and time to package their beers. Those methods allow the consumption of the packaged beer over a longer period of time before the advent of refrigeration.
Following those traditions, we use a 5 vessels brewing system. This system allows us to brew according to German techniques and to use a special method: the decoction. According to this technique, we boil a portion of the wort with the grains during the mashing to improve the quality of extract and to give more complexity to our beers.
We also only use German quality ingredients. Why German malts? Because of the protein level and the starch conversion obtained during malting are ideal for the brewing methods we use. Although North American and Quebec malts are excellent, they cannot be used with our brewing methods. Why German hops? Because just like for grapes and wines, the aroma and flavors of hops are closely related to the region where they were grown. For us, the production of authentic beer styles required the usage of hops that come from that region. Without it, the aromatic characteristics of British and American beers for example, would not be the same. We don’t use any additives (not permitted by the “Reinheitsgebot”) in our manufacturing process. No fining agent based on gelatin, egg or fish is used to clarify our beers, or any enzyme or polymer resin to prevent the formation of haze. All our beers are cold conditioned on yeast to permit re-absorption of undesirable fermentation by-products. This maturation period called lagering from the German word “lager” meaning warehouse, last from a few weeks to several months depending on the types of beers. It greatly improves the taste and stability of the beer.
Historically, the physicochemical properties of water used by the breweries determined the type of beers they could do. It is for this reason that the British, with their very hard water and high mineral content were able to brew dark beers such as Stouts and Porters and why the city of Plzen with their very soft and low level mineral content water was able to develop the blonde pilsner. Being a brewery that produces several different styles of beers, we have to adjust the physicochemical properties of our brewing water, either by adding mineral salts or by removing them using a reverse osmosis system.
Finally, we only use coarse filtration to remove suspended yeast before bottling. This minimal filtration doesn’t remove any of the components that give the body and flavors to our beers and help us improve the long-term stability of our products. Since we have taken great care to include them during the brewing and fermentation steps, why removed them… These distinctive techniques and methods allow us to offer genuine products with our own personality.
When I started brewing at home, I immediately hooked on German beers for a special reason: they are not easy to do. Because of my engineering background, I like that, complicated things!