Deutschland, Deutschland

German flag 2

Not many countries have managed to acquire their own month. But everyone in the beer drinking universe agrees that Germany owns October. Serendipity had a role to play in this, but the ever expanding juggernaut that is the global beer industry has had an influence on this too. Their world famous Oktoberfest has successfully managed to rivet itself onto the bucket list of beer enthusiasts everywhere, but it has also firmly anchored “brand Germany” in the minds of beer consumers globally.Oktoberfest2

This, like most things, has its advantages and its disadvantages. The Oktoberfest, for example, is really a show put on in Munich (in September) by the Big Six Munich or Bavarian-based brewers, all producing similar styles of beer (mostly lager and some wheat beer), and at least four of which are owned by either Anheuser-Busch InBev or Heineken; themselves owners and producers of an enormous share of the world’s mass-produced, pale lager beers (and even more so now, after the intended merger between AB InBev and SAB Miller). No wonder then that the original Oktoberfest found itself over the decades experiencing some quite impressive brand extension from Brazil to Beijing! Throw in some great atmospheric history like the 16th Century German Purity Law, the “Reinheitsgebot”, which all the brewers involved very prominently advertise, and the beer-appreciation prism has narrowed even further.

Despite their reputation for being one of the world’s largest quaffers of mass produced, identical looking and tasting beers, very few people other than a GermanAltbierglas could confidently tell you the difference between a Helles, a Lager, and a Pils. Probably because of the deeply embedded Germanic need to classify, qualify and catalogue! And yet, the differences are real, and to true beer-aficionados, they matter. Do a bit more digging, and you’ll actually uncover a wonderfully diverse range of beers, across the country, and even within smaller regions. There are the northern Bavarian beers of Franconia, in particular their Rauchbiers, or smoked beers, where the malt has been kilned over beechwood before mashing. Or the dark, earthy Altbiers, literally “old beers’ from around Dusseldorf, made with top-fermenting ale yeasts but cool-conditioned, like lagers. Head a bit further northwest to Cologne, and you’ll find the proudly local, pale, subtle Kolsh, served not in the huge 1L Bavarian ‘Mass’, but in tiny 20cl glasses. It’s strange, and rather refreshing that so many of these actually quite wonderful beers haven’t been packaged up and thrown at the world with some made-up marketing tagline. It leaves plenty of room for the enthusiastic beer nomad to wander and explore.

Outside of Germany, the best known traditional styles might be the Schwarzbiers – the dark, strong, but cool-fermented Bocks, and Dopplebocks, Paulaner’s Salvator probably being one of the best known.  Their wheat beers too have become note-worthy with their characteristic citrusy notes and banana-like estery character.

A German friend of mine, who also happens to own a local German ‘brauhaus’ selling brews from one particular Bavarian brewer, loved to tell a joke every time I ordered an alcohol-free beer at his bar. His joke was that buying an alcohol free beer was like going into a brothel, and asking for a hug. Imagine this being told, with extensive pauses for chortling, in a strong German accent. And he always finished with genuine, raucous laughter! The joke itself, especially after the umpteenth telling, wasn’t that amusing, but his enjoyment of the telling certainly was. In fact, I sometimes used to buy the beer just to watch him crumple up with laughter.  But then he’d sit down with me and talk like a scholar about the beers of his country, both of which he obviously loved.

Never underestimate the depths you can find in simplicity. The same can be said for German beer.



Beer Belly (Part 3)


(Part 3 of 3)

Kitchen scene 2


In the kitchen, beer can be used as a tenderizer, in marinades, and a leavener. Beer has wonderful tenderizing properties, as the enzymes released in the brewing process make it an excellent choice for a marinade for tougher cuts of meat. Dark, maltier ales would be best for this job. Breads and pastries baked using beer have a more moist texture and a longer shelf life. Using beer to glaze ham or poultry imparts wonderful flavours, and any recipe calling for stock or water can also have beer in the mix, as can soups. In batter coatings for fried foods, or Yorkshire Pudding mix, the yeast in the beer acts as a mild leavening agent, causing the batter to puff up, as well as adding a distinctive enhancing flavour, and many folks like to steam hot dogs or shellfish in beer. Lagers and ‘mild’ ales (diluted with water) work better here.

A good recipe using beer will have a subtle, not dominating flavour in the finished dish. Note that when slow cooking, the bitterness of the hops will become more prevalent the longer the cooking time, as the bittering α-acids in hops don’t break down the way the other flavour elements do. Better to add the beer a bit later in the process. For those concerned about the alcohol in beer, it largely evaporates during the cooking process, depending on cooking time and temperature. Non-alcohol or ‘lite’ beers can be substituted, but the flavour and texture of the outcome may not be the same.

Bar scene

And now, from the kitchen to the dining room! Here are some classic beer and food matches that any serious beer enthusiast needs to try at least once:-

(N.B. These are just suggestions based on personal experience, and also on what’s available locally in T&T. Feel free to recommend others!)


Beer and sushi1







Tip:-  The fatty-textured raw fish is well balanced by lots of hops, some acidity and/or carbonation

Wheat beer- Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier, Blue Moon

German and European style lager  – Paulaner Hell, Stella Artois,

Classic pilsner – Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser Budvar,

Craft Lagers – Belhaven Craft Pilsner, Sam Adams Noble Pils

Japanese ‘dry’ lagers – Asahi, Sapporo

Sake – actually a ‘ rice beer”, and not ‘rice wine’


Oysters and shellfish


Tip: A dash of dry stout or a very hoppy ale can add a very nice edge to soy sauce, or horseradish dips served with seafood and sushi.

Dry Irish Stout – Guinness with Oysters on the half-shell is an Irish Classic. Or, try a Black Velvet – a 50/50 mix of Guinness and Champagne! The tanginess of the dry stout (it must be a DRY stout) melds well with the saltiness of the oysters. A marriage made in heaven! Also works for other mollusks (clams, mussels), shrimp cocktail, deep-fried soft-shell crab, and lobster bisque. Another good match would be the strong and slightly acidic Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale.

Wheat and wheat/barley beers – Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier, Blue Moon, Hobgoblin Gold


Salads (e.g. green, chicken, salmon)

Tip:- try beer friendly ‘malt vinegar’ in your dressings!

Wheat beer- Paulaner Hefe-Weisse, Blue Moon

German style lager – Paulaner Hell

Flavoured pale ale – Badger Golden Champion (with Elderflower)

Classic pilsner – Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser Budvar, Heineken, Sam Adams Noble Pils

Brown ale – If it contains nuts, or nut oils in the dressing, try nice & nutty Newcastle Brown Ale, or Badger Fursty Ferret.




Tip: Highly spiced foods need muscular, flavourful beer, ideally ‘hop forward’, but ‘malt forward’ beers work well too, depending on the desired effect!

Pale ale (malt forward) – Abbot Ale, Old Speckled Hen, Fuller’s London Pride, Badger Fursty Ferret, Fullers Organic Honeydew

Classic IPA (hop forward) – Greene King IPA, Badger Hopping Hare, Fullers Bengal Lancer, American Style IPA– Anchor IPA, Harpoon IPA, Brooklyn IPA, Fullers Wild River, GK Double Hop Monster IPA, Thwaites 13 Guns IPA, Robinsons 9 Hop IPA

Belgian Ales – Duvel Moorgat,

Highly carbonated beers – Most local and regional lagers


BBQ, Burgers, Sausages

BBQ ribs

Tip: these frequently combine vinegar based acidity and sugar sweetness in the sauces (BBQ, Ketchup), lots of meat and a fair amount of fat, so decide what you want to emphasize, or balance.

Pale ale –  GK Abbot Ale, Old Speckled Hen, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Badger Golden Champion (with Elderflower), Fullers Organic Honeydew

Brown ale – Newcastle Brown Ale, Gales HSB, Thwaites Big Ben Brown Ale

Classic IPA  – Greene King IPA, Fuller’s Bengal Lancer India Pale Ale (IPA),

Porter & stout – Fuller’s London Porter, Guinness, 

Highly carbonated beers – Most local and regional lagers


Chinese noodles

Flavoured ale –  Blandford Flyer ale (with ginger), Fullers Organic Honeydew ale (organic ale brewed with honey)

Sweet/ strong stout  – Mackeson milk stout, Belhaven Scottish Stout ( for rich, spicy Szechuan)

Highly carbonated beers – Most local and regional lagers



Salmon steak

Grilled – Newcastle Brown Ale, Paulaner Dunkel Weiss (dark wheat beer)

Poached – Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier, Blue Moon

Smoked – Belhaven Wee Heavy Scotch Ale


Grilled meats

Apple ciderRoast pork

Pork chops – Fuller’s London Pride, Badger Golden Champion, Badger Applewood Pearwood cider, Cornish Orchard Apple or Pear cider (OK, the ciders are a bit of a cheat, but they’re GREAT with pork!)

Lamb chops – Belhaven Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, Fuller’s ESB, Newcastle Brown Ale, Paulaner Salvator

Steak – Fuller’s London Porter, Gales HSB, Hobgoblin, Thwaites Big Ben Brown Ale, Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale,


Brasserie scene

And finally (finally!) there’s no such thing as a Beer Belly; that’s just Pulp Fiction! Wine and Vodka have more calories per unit volume than beer, but have you ever heard of a Wine Gut or a Vodka Belly? It’s about lifestyle, not ingredients. Simple. And here’s a handy calorie checklist (below) to help any captive winos out there feel a bit better. So relax about the calorie thing, OK! The choices are out there, so be adventurous. You’re very unlikely to get stuck with a $500.00 bottle of beer!

Go on, I dare you….I DOUBLE dare you!!


Calorie chart for beer vs. wine


Beer  Pint/568ml Lager (163) Ale (182) Stout (170)


Red (85) Dry white






Sweet white




Whisky, gin vodka (120) Liquers, brandy (150)

N.B. Figures are averages across categories