Oliver Lemke was the first in Germany to present home-brewed craft beer to the public in Berlin. The trained brewing engineer had built breweries around the world after his studies and thus had also come into intensive contact with the US beer scene. With great enthusiasm he therefore opened his brewery Lemke in November 1999 under a S-Bahn-Bogen on Hackescher Markt and offered more than 50 different home-brewed beers in the first six months. Customers were even able to purchase the specialties as bottled beer. But Lemke was ahead of his time. Aroma-intensive beers were of no interest to the millennium in Berlin and so he could only avoid bankruptcy by switching to a classic pub brewery with Hellem, Braunbier and Pils only a year later. It would take more than a decade for Oliver Lemke to venture back to more fragrant beers, and for the palette of his Berlin brewery to include a hoppy India Pale Ale. The courage was then immediately rewarded with a gold medal at the World Beer Awards 2015, many more awards should follow.
While one of the first craft attempts in Berlin was still unsuccessful, an American and a German in the year of Michael Jackson’s death in 2007 ventured out for a very special experiment. Georg Schneider, owner of the Weißbierbrauerei Schneider in Kelheim, wanted to revive the “Oktoberfest white” and discovered in the reconstruction of the recipe that this beer was always brewed at the end of the hop year – ie with an approximately one-year old hops.
This had a slight citrus aroma that Schneider wanted to have in his Oktoberfest white. Nowadays, however, hardly any old hops can be found, making the venture difficult until a coincidence helped. Schneider was with his brew master Hans-Peter Drexler in the US and they tasted an India Pale Ale from the Brooklyn Brewery, which had a strong citrus flavor. The next day, they introduced themselves to their master brewer, Garrett Oliver, and asked about the taste secret of the beer. The answer was simple: Oliver used Cascade hops, a variety that was hardly known in Europe until now. Schneider got the hops over many detours and thus created his new Wiesn whiteness.
In addition, Oliver and Drexler wanted to measure their skills – with a beer that combined the best of both breweries and brewed with the same recipe, but different starting materials. In this exciting “Collaboration Brew” in Kelheim and New York, a double wheat buck with intense cold hopping came out like an India Pale Ale: the “hop whites”, based on the English term tap (Tap) and the Taphouses (pubs ) still today as “TAP 5” in the assortment of wheat beer brewery. When the first German consumers and Schneiders colleagues tried this beer, the amazement was great – and the craft message arrived here in Germany.
Brewing as a hobby
Also in 2007, James Watt and his best friend Martin Dickie founded the BrewDog brewery in Fraserburgh, Scotland. The two met Michael Jackson in 2004 and got inspired by him to become a hobby brewer. The “Beer Hunter” tasted the friends’ first attempts at the next meeting and advised them to hang their jobs on the proverbial nail and open a craft brewery. Out of the £ 30,000 in seed money, Watt and Dickie became the UK’s fastest growing brewery in less than a decade, with more than 200,000 hectoliters of annual production, own bars in every corner of the world, and over £ 1 billion worth of business.
In Denmark, high school teacher Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and his childhood friend, journalist Kristian Klarup Keller, joined forces in 2005 to brew beer in their respective kitchens. The results were a source of excitement at amateur brewery competitions and so they decided to start the joint venture “Mikkeller” in 2006. Just one year later, however, Keller left the company, and Bjergsø began to hire himself as one of the first “Gypsy Brewer” in breweries, there to implement each of his recipes. In 2009, he gave up his job as a teacher and became the most famous “migrant worker” in the world. His beers are in shops in over 40 countries and since 2016 Bjergsø is the proud owner of two breweries in San Diego and New York.
These brief insights show how the change has taken hold not later than 2007 in the German, but also pan-European beer world. The attitude of both the brewers and the consumer began to change at that time. It was no longer about producing the most mass-compatible beer, but rather putting the respective peculiarities and history of origin in the foreground. The breweries began to produce a variety of beer styles, regardless of the brewing tradition of their country or region. Consumers were becoming increasingly willing to put a little more money on the table if the product was right. Brewers suddenly had real fans and regional beer from small breweries gave people a feeling of home again. This development also made Brauen “sexy” again. Contrary to earlier tendencies, the following generations of family businesses once again felt like carrying on their parents’ business and went to the master brewing school – in the meantime, the brewing brewing in Germany has been stopped.
After a low point with 1273 breweries in 1997, the number rose again today to over 1,400. In most European countries, however, the backlog was much greater. There were 75 breweries in the UK in 1978, 745 in 2006 and almost 2,000 today. Other classic beer countries also grew significantly: Belgium (today 230 breweries), the Czech Republic (400) and the Netherlands (320). And even countries that had previously played no role in the beer market, now have a vibrant beer scene: Finland (100), France (800), Italy (700), Portugal (70), Spain (430) and Sweden (220) , It is in the individual countries quite different strata of the population, who have found their way to beer. In France, for example, beer is the drink of the young, who wants to distinguish himself from the wine-drinking parents. In Italy, women enjoy beer – and they like the wine’s high alcohol content.
In Germany, the beer drinkers are still older and male, while the Finns even take their beer into the family sauna. By far the beer styles are not just the rediscovered English beers that inspire enthusiasm in the new beer world. In all European countries, especially in the north, allegedly lost beer styles and their production processes are being revived. Good examples are Sahti (Finland), Grodziskie / Grätzer (Poland), Keptinis (Lithuania), Gruitbier (Netherlands) and many German beers such as Broyhan, Gose, Adambian, Lichtenhainer, Berliner Weiße, Mumme, etc. This is often not just about the exact reproduction, but also to new, creative recipes using the models of ancient times.
The craft beer enthusiasm extended the European beer market above all to new flavors and a new beer consciousness, which grasped all actors from the established master brewer over the enthusiastic consumer up to the beer sommelier and hobby brewer. For the shrinking market, the ability to attract new customer groups previously out of reach with beer was immensely important. In France, the boys and in Italy the gourmets, were in Germany, especially wine drinkers, spirits lovers and women in the focus. As an image carrier, craft beer has already significantly changed the European beer market and, above all, the consumer’s perspective on beer. Beer is again contemporary and on everyone’s lips. Even Lufthansa, which now spends 1.6 million liters of beer a year on the clouds, relies on craft beer and even sells tasting glasses in its shop.