German Beer Tradition Research Paper

Length: 10 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Agriculture Type: Research Paper Paper: #24072470 Related Topics: Brewing, German, Legal Drinking Age, World Cup
Excerpt from Research Paper :

Beer is as synonymous with German culture as watches are to Switzerland. The centrality of beer to German culture is owing to centuries of tradition, long before the unification of Germany in 1871. Although beer consumption in Germany has declined over the last several decades, beer continues to be a defining feature of modern German economic, social, and even political life.

Background and Pre-Modern German Beer

According to the German Beer Institute, beer has been brewed in Germany for about three thousand years. Until the 8th century CE, most beer was brewed at home for personal consumption. Because it is a domestic food product, and gender roles assigned women to domestic chores, brewers were almost exclusively women during the days of the Teutonic tribes. As Christianity penetrated Germany, brewing shifted toward semi-professional and eventually professional status. Christian monasteries and nunneries brewed the first commercial beers in Germany, using the proceeds from their sales to cover their operating expenses (German Beer Institute). The tradition of monastic brewing still remains throughout Germany and much of Europe. As the Germanic tribes evolved into fiefdoms and kingdoms during the Middle Ages, secular brewing guilds emerged.

However, the division between northern and southern regions of Germany was starting to become increasingly apparent during the Middle Ages as well. Those divisions continue to characterize the diversity of German beer culture. As the German Beer Institute points out, "feudal lords took over most institutional brewing in southern Germany, while burgher-merchants did the same in northern Germany." Bavaria, in Southern Germany, reached its peak of economic and political power in during the late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance. It was during this time that brewing guilds wielded significant enough political clout to influence trade laws. Secular commercial beer producers often competed vehemently with the monastic beer producers wishing to dominate the industry (German Beer Institute).

The most important trade law -- in any industry -- to emerge from Germany was the 1516 Reinheitsgebot, which means "purity law." Initially a regional law pertaining only to Bavaria, the law became adopted throughout modern Germany hundreds of years later. Widely believed to be the "world's oldest consumer legislation," the Reinheitsgebot was designed in part to protect the bread industry. Brewing had become such big business and so thoroughly entrenched in German society that the bread bakers needed greater access to grains like wheat and rye. The Reinheitsgebot stipulates that beer must contain only malted barley, liberating the stores of rye and wheat for bakers. Of course, the law would later be amended to account not only for the increase in global grain production but also for the fact that wheat and rye beers were being produced at a fairly large scale throughout Bavaria and much of Germany. In addition to barley malt, hops and water were also ingredients permitted in German beer production. It was not until scientists discovered the microscopic organisms responsible for fermentation, yeast, that the Reinheitsgebot was amended once again. The Reinheitsgebot influenced German beer production, quality, taste, style, culture, and finances for centuries.

After the Protestant Reformation, which began in Germany, the regional differences in Germany became pronounced. Regional differences are apparent in the beer itself, with different styles of beer being brewed in different regions. Those differences remain extant in the 21st century, with some styles of beer only available in their native regions of Germany. Differences in beer drinking culture and context are also apparent throughout Germany. The country now known as Germany was little more than a collection of smaller kingdoms, states, and city-states until 1871. The newness of the nation-state of Germany makes it so that modern German brewing and drinking culture is colorful and diverse. Although the number of beer breweries has declined exponentially over the last century, modern Germany still "boasts approximately twelve hundred breweries making over five thousand different beers in about twelve major styles," (Borak).

Bavaria epitomizes the importance of beer in modern German culture. Prior to unification, Crown Prince Ludwig married Theresa von Sachsen-Hildburghausen of Bavaria. The celebration was commemorated on October 12, 1810 in Munich with a major festival held on fairgrounds now called Theresienwiese, which means "Theresa's fairgrounds." Still called Theresienweise by locals, the festival is one of the world's largest and most famous: the Oktoberfest....

...

According to Fazel, Helay, Torras, and Saha, "The event was so successful that it was decided the celebration should occur every year." A hallmark of the Oktoberfest is the invitation of all Munich breweries -- as well as being open to all who care to join in the festivities. The festival includes carnival rides and is appropriate for families and young children, but beer is central to the event too. Okotoberfest symbolizes the importance of beer in modern German culture.

The early modern era in German beer culture was also characterized by significant shifts in the craft of brewing itself. Most importantly was the discovery of bottom-fermenting yeasts that were conducive to longer periods of fermentation at colder temperatures. Suitable to the climate of Bavaria, the longer fermentation process necessitated lagering -- German for cellaring. Initially developed in neighboring Bohemia, lagering caught on quickly in Bavaria. The first lagers were brewed in Bohemia, and the first pilsner-style lager was named for the Bohemian town of Pilsen in 1842 (Borak). Pilsner-style beer has become popular in some, but not all, parts of Germany.

The Modern Era in German Beer: 20th Century

Regardless of the stylistic differences between the different regions of Germany, what remains is a nationwide respect for the role beer has historically played as a food, as an economic commodity, and as a symbol of German cultural identity. Otto von Bismarck unified Germany in 1871, bringing together disparate Germanic peoples with different dialects and traditions. The unification of Germany is one of the three most important variables influencing the dramatic changes that took place in German beer culture in the modern era. A second variable is modern chemistry, and the third is industrialization.

Industrialization changed the way beer was made and distributed, and also changed the role beer played in the modern German economy. Beer went from being either within the province of the monastic non-profit tradition or within the province of specialized artisan brewers. With industrialization, it was possible to produce beer on a scale never before possible. Transformations in brewing science and technology likewise made mass production of beer possible because the otherwise sensitive beverage could enjoy improved storage conditions and more rapid transportation to areas outside the town where the beer was brewed. Although most German beer is still consumed in its local province, industrialization did allow for the distribution of beer beyond local, regional, and eventually, national borders. Beer had come to occupy such a central position in German culture, and had attained symbolic value, that "the first freight ever transported by a German railway were two casks of beer brewed by the Lederer Brewery of Nurnberg," (German Beer Institute).

Modern science and especially biochemistry changed the nature of beer brewing globally. German scientists were at the forefront of much of the research being done on brewing chemistry. In 1837, the most significant breakthrough in early modern brewing chemistry arrived when Theodor Schwann discovered the yeast cell. Noticing under his microscope that yeast consumed sugars voraciously, often devouring all sugars in its wake, Schwann named yeast saccharomyces, Latin for "sugar fungus," (German Beer Institute). Schwann also discovered how yeast behaved, and that it preferred anaerobic conditions for it to multiply and cause the fermentation of sugars into alcohol. Building on Schwann's discovery, French chemist Louis Pasteur recognized how to further control and manipulate yeast during the fermentation process. Prior to these scientific discoveries, German brewers had been operating blindly. Most knew that beer did not do well in warm weather conditions, which is in fact why Bavaria eventually outlawed summer brewing (German Beer Institute). Pasteur's development of the pasteurization process also led some industrial brewers outside of Germany to pasteurize their products for a longer shelf life, a practice frowned upon by most artisanal brewers.

Beer has become one of the common grounds between Germans from different regions, who retain distinct traditions, dialects, and identities. Because of the link between beer and German unification, eeer has become an emotional issue for Germans. As the Radeberger Gruppe puts it, "it is the drink of the man in the street, Germany's national drink…no other product is discussed with much passion and emotion. German beer represents conviviality," (1). Beer has social, as well as economic and political significance in modern German culture. The political significance of beer became apparent to the world in 2006, when Germany hosted the World Cup of Football (Soccer). When the announcement was made that Anheuser-Busch received the exclusive rights to serving their beer at World Cup tournaments, fans revolted. Protesters likened the American beer to "dishwater," and designed a website mocking the Anheuser-Busch logo by making its iconic American eagle throw up (Lawton). So vehement were the protests that Anheuser-Busch was forced to…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

"A little history of what Germans drink and why." DW. Retrieved online: http://www.dw.de/a-little-history-of-what-germans-drink-and-why/a-16880477

Borak, Mark. "Beer in Bohemia and Bavaria." Retrieved online: https://courses.cit.cornell.edu/his452/Alcohol/Beer%20Page/Beerpage1.html

Fazel, Helay, Flaquer, Xavier Torras, and Venkatesh Saha. "Is the End of the German Beer Industry Near?" Wharton: Management. Jan 02, 2013. Retrieved online: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/is-the-end-of-the-german-beer-industry-near/

German Beer Institute. "Three Millennia of German Brewing." 2006. Retrieved online: http://www.germanbeerinstitute.com/history.html
"The Highs and Lows of Germany's Drinking Culture." DW. Retrieved online: http://www.dw.de/the-highs-and-lows-of-germanys-drinking-culture/a-2226609
"The History Place." Retrieved online: http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/putsch.htm
Lawton, Christopher. "Ditching the 'Dishwater': Eastern German Beer Scores with World Cup Sponsorship." Spiegel Online. Retrieved online: http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/ditching-the-dishwater-eastern-german-beer-scores-with-world-cup-sponsorship-a-657877.html
Radeberger Gruppe. "German Beer Culture." Retrieved online: http://www.radeberger-gruppe.de/files/downloads/deutsche-bierkultur-eng.pdf


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