Bavarian Beer Guide 2022
The lockdown has accelerated the popularity of buying craft beer online, with shoppers able to explore a world of breweries from the comfort of their own sofa. Authentic German craft lager continues to be a popular choice for UK home drinkers, with Bavarian brewers, in particular, defining many of the most popular beer styles drunk in the UK today.
Developed under the ancient ‘Reinheitsgebot’ German Beer Purity Laws of 1516, Bavarian beer is renowned for its history and tradition. ABK (Aktienbrauerei Kaufbeuren) is the fastest-growing German beer brand in the UK, and can trace its roots even further to 1308 – representing more than 700 years of Bavarian brewing heritage.
ROKiT Drinks Marketing Director, Lucy Grimmett Slater, reflects on this heritage, and the regional character, and styles that makes Bavarian beer so special.
The Aktienbrauerei Kaufbeuren (ABK Brewery) then and now.
Bavaria is located in the heart of Southern Germany and is an important producer of hops, including the traditional Spalt and Hallertau ‘noble’ hop varieties. The area also arguably produces some of the best brewing barley and wheat in the world. The Bavarian beers, still exclusively made from these locally grown hops and grains, present with famously distinct and clean flavour and aroma properties, making them world renowned.
One of Bavaria’s oldest and important brewers, Aktienbrauerei Kaufbeuren (ABK Brewery) lies in the beautiful medieval town of Kaufbeuren. Its story begins in 1308, when the brewhouse was gifted to the citizens of Kaufbeuren by the wealthy local Baron, Henry Twinger.
Setting the beer standards, in 1325, almost 200 years before the ‘Reinheitsgebot’ German Beer Purity Law was enacted, Kaufbeuren Brewers Guild declared that all beers produced in Kaufbeuren could only use the finest barley, hops, yeasts, and the purest local waters. All other ingredients, including wheat, were banned.
Today, these processes and values are still in use, notably with ABK continuing to solely use only the finest locally grown Hallertau ‘noble’ hops and grains, from the same local farms it has been using for over 700 years. The result is a range of beers with distinctive character in some of these five traditional Bavarian styles:
Wheat beer is arguably the most Bavarian of all beers, and enjoys a long history. Top-fermented wheat beer or Weizenbier is characterised by its cloudy appearance and subtly bitter and fruity nature.
In the 17th century Aktienbrauerei became one of the very first breweries in Bavaria to produce the then ‘forbidden’ wheat ales that had, until then, been brewed exclusively for Bavarian Royalty.
ABK’s highly regarded Weissbier [5.3% ABV] is a fruity, aromatic, and lively, full-bodied beer. With a wonderful honey yellow colour and a strong foam generation, this traditional wheat beer has a typical natural yeast cloudiness with a yeast sediment.
The Dunkel is a darker lager, which can range from copper to dark brown. The iconic Bavarian Dunkel beers tend to be smooth, medium-bodied, and subtly sweet, with notes of caramel or toffee, without being too heavy.
Winner of BeerBods Beer of the Year 2020, ABK’s top fermented Dunkel [5.0% ABV] is a gloriously dark, rich, fruity, and aromatic example. This wonderful beer is coupled with subtle and delicious notes of caramel and dark chocolate.
Bavarian light beer, Helles, is a traditional Bavarian style, bottom-fermented lager, characterised by light hop bitterness and subtle malt sweetness, making it fresh and dry.
Crowned world’s best lager at the International Beer Challenge, 2021, ABK’s Hell [5.0% ABV] is a light, bright, and very satisfying Helles beer. Lightly golden, the bubbly, medium white head steadily shrinks to the characteristic thin foamy lace.
With a taste that is full bodied grain, ABK’s Hell has notes of green apple and light hints of pine and herbs. There is also a light bitterness that persists through to the finish. The aroma is soft and sweet with grain and very flowery hops.
Radler is essentially Bavarian shandy. Radler means cyclist in German, and the story goes that in June 1922, a Bavarian innkeeper, Franz Kugler, from the small town of Deisenhofen, discovered that he was running out of beer for his cyclist visitors, so he blended the remaining beer with fresh citrus lemonade. The cyclists really liked the new drink, and so became Radler!
ABKs Radler [2.8% ABV] is a 50/50 mix of their award winning Edel (see below) and their organic Leo Lemonade. A refreshing, less-alcoholic beverage, perfect for a bicycle ride through the Bavarian countryside. Best served ice cold!
Traditionally developed for Munich's Oktoberfest, Festbiers are malty, light, and less heavy than the typical Bavarian lagers, making them the perfect easy drinking festival lagers.
Although many breweries make their own Bavarian festival style beers, only six breweries that produce beer within the Munich city limits are allowed to brew beer for the festival.
ABK’s Edel is a Dortmunder style lager, brewed as a typical Bavarian festival style beer. Edel means noble, referring to a beer that has been brewed using only the finest ingredients. If you like a more malty festival beer, with a lovely pillowy head, a deep gold colour and packed with malt, Edel is the one for you!
To the nose, Edel is mostly hops mixed with a biscuit sweetness and a freshly baked bread aroma with a hint of some sweet apples and pears. On the tongue, you’ll notice the slightly toasted malts and light floral hops which start with light biscuit malts, before a sweetness, to form a buttery bitter finish.
Multi award winning Edel, won both gold medal and best Dortmunder style lager in Germany at the World Beer Awards, 2021.
ABK’s bottom-fermented, special Festbier [6.0% ABV] is brewed specially for the Christmas season. This substantial, traditional beer is amber-coloured, malt-stressed, full bodied and full flavoured.
By Jack Handley
Jack is E-Commerce Assistant for the Deckers Hospitality Group. With over 5 years' experience in hospitality, he has served behind the bar in all manner of venues, including cocktail bars, concert venues, festival VIP bars, hotels, and restaurants.
Jack has particular expertise in and fondness for craft beer, and has tried and reviewed over 500 different craft beers from breweries all over the world! His favourite styles being wheat beers and New England India Pale Ales (NEIPAs).