Lowering into Saxony: Musings on the Germany – Lower Saxony Beer Scene

We all know the German beer scene, right? It is pretty much an icon of lagers around the world. I don’t really need to do one of my post trip round up notes do I?

Maybe, maybe not. I’m not going to claim my week in Hannover and the surrounding area made me an expert on Lower Saxony, let alone the entirety of Germany – however a few things out there were a bit different than I would have expected, so figured it is worth doing one of my usual musings.

Now, a lot of what you expect is true – Germany has bloody excellent lagers. People joke about “Eurofizz”, but you know what, if you want lager done well – Germany is in the top three places to find them. Exactly what is around will depend on your locale – Many places seem to have their regional lager, like the Herrenhauser in and around Hannover, but generally you will find a good range of good quality lagers in the different pubs. Jever, Paulaner, et al. Supermarkets similarly have usually 20 odd different Germany beers in cans and bottles. It isn’t all pilsners either – nearly every pub and supermarkets we went to had a nice mix of dunkels, weisse, and so on – a few even going into heavier weizenbocks. So, base quality has always been good in Germany – its the range and variety that has usually been the let down. Even that seems slightly harsh – as indicated before there are a lot of weisse beers, some places even having the less common berliner weisse for sours.

What I think people are noting is that there is very little coming in from beer styles or breweries from outside of Germany. However even that is starting to break, in my recent experience. If you search, you can find craft beer shops and pubs – with an emphasis on Belgian and USA imports from what I saw, mixed with a growing local craft scene. Now, this has nowhere near the level of public penetration as in the USA, or even the UK these days – you have to go looking specifically for bars that tailor to your needs, rather than them just being available on your average tap or restaurant, but there does seem to be a fledgling craft beer scene going on.

What hasn’t penetrated at all, that I could see, is any sign of a Real Ale scene – not a surprise, outside of the UK I very rarely see them – a few in Sweden, a few rarely in craft beer in the USA, but it is not a surprise to me that German craft beer scene seems to be doing either craft beer takes on the traditional German styles, or following the hoppier USA styles which would match easier to the more keg friendly Germany scene.

The biggest impact seems to have been the IPAs, which always seem to be a popular part of any craft beer scene – particularly the New England IPA style which was bloody everywhere while I was there. Admittedly that could just be because the New England style is booming everywhere at the mo – so may not be representative of the general German scene. Also with Stone Berlin opening up, their beers are starting to get wider, if still not super easy to find, distribution. I think Stone Berlin still need a bit of dialling in on their brewing though – they are good, but don’t quite match those from the USA yet – though that may just have been the few I tried. Like all of these thoughts, I am extrapolating from a comparatively small sample.

The difference in cost between craft and the more local German beers is pretty heavy as well – your standard lagers and weisse beers are ridiculously cheap – while your craft beers approximate main city costs of craft that you would find in the UK. So pretty expensive, but not stupidly so.

What is very useful for the beer traveller in Germany however is the public transport which is plentiful and very reasonably priced. Our main travel out of Hannover was a day pass which allowed use of trams and buses in it and most surrounding cities, and trains that went as far as Hamburg. Cost was just over 20 quid for one person, but only 4 quid extra for each additional person which soon made it brilliant value for groups – It puts most places I have visited in the past to shame and made it very easy to head over to Goslar to try their distinctive local Gose beer. I’ve mentioned it before, but the salted and spiced German wheat beer was originally created on Goslar – and unlike the Leipzig version which for many a year was the only other goze available, is not particularly sour. Well worth trying for the oddity if you are in the area – the gose style is having a resurgence worldwide at the moment so it is nice to be able to try some of the originals.

So, still the land of excellent lager and weisse, and still with a very solid baseline of quality – there does not seem to be much mediocrity to horror of John Smiths or Fosters to be found – and now it is building on the flaws the scene used to have, with more experimental beers and more range coming into play. The scenes seem to be developing in the same way that the craft beer movement evolved alongside and intermingled with the Real Ale scene in the UK, but here with craft and lagers – no bad thing. Hope it continues to develop well,

If any locals, or anyone with more experience than me disagree, wish to add or correct any points let me know – I’m always happy to learn. Until next time – Enjoy your drink!