The region boasts an astonishing 185 breweries, each producing its own distinctive brews. That’s why this really is the “Land of a 1,000 Beers”! And this is nothing new. Dating back to 1516, Germany’s “purity laws” specify that beer can only be made from water, hops, barley and yeast. No additives, no artificial flavours!
With 40 percent of the market, Pils is the most popular beer for quenching your thirst in SouthWest Germany. Light and golden, with an alcohol content of 4.8 percent by volume, Pils is perfect for any occasion and, with its delicate flavour, goes down well with gourmet meals.
About 15 percent of the beer drunk in SouthWest Germany is called Export. Originally brewed for distribution to nearby towns, this strong, light golden beer has a longer shelf-life. You’ll often hear a local order a “Helles” (light) or a “Halbe” (half-litre). It’s the perfect partner for a snack, sitting in a beer garden.
Typical of southern Germany is Weizenbier (wheat beer), made with half malted wheat and half malted barley. Always served in a special tall, narrow glass, wheat beer has a bright, fresh taste, thanks to its high carbon dioxide content – perfect on a hot summer’s day! But there are more choices to be made: light or dark wheat? Clear or unfiltered? Light or even non-alcoholic?
Increasingly popular is the full-flavoured, almost spicy Zwickel, a naturally cloudy, unfiltered beer. Originally, Zwickel was the beer drawn off by brew masters straight from the barrel, to taste during the brewing process. But, this unpasteurised beer, rich with vitamins and minerals, gained a cult following and is now sold by more and more breweries.
A truly SouthWest Germany speciality is Bockbier. Strong in taste and alcohol (6 per cent), Bock has a characteristic smooth malty flavour, often quite sweet or caramelly – great to sip with sweeter dishes, such as dessert.
This wide range of varieties and styles means that SouthWest Germany’s beers are not only drunk in taverns, beer gardens and pubs, but also in restaurants, with a different beer paired with each course – just like a fine wine.
So, wherever you travel in SouthWest Germany, you are never far from an authentic local brew, made with care and pride, as it has been for centuries. For a special treat, visit one of the region’s breweries for a tour and a tasting session. Brewers love to talk about their beers. All you have to do is listen – and sip!
GREAT BREWERY TOURS
Alpirsbach: Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu
Brewing is a tradition dating back 900 years at this Benedictine monastery in the Black Forest. Rules and recipes set down 500 years ago are still followed at the Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu. Take a tour to learn about the 17 different brews; visit the beer museum; join a beer seminar; buy beer-bottle shaped chocolates in the shop! Finish in the brewery restaurant over an excellent meal – with a glass or two of the local brew!
60 miles south of Stuttgart. www.alpirsbacher.de/brauwelt.html
Ehingen: Four special breweries
With four independent, family-owned breweries, Ehingen is a must for devotees of good beer. Taken together, Schwanen, Berg, Schwert and zum Rössle breweries produce a total of 43 different beers. As well as tours, they offer regular brewing workshops. Ehingen itself has a special app for your Smartphone, with a city walk and a beer trail.
42 miles southeast of Stuttgart. www.bierkulturstadt.info
Heidelberg: Two great beer tours
Heidelberg Marketing offers attractive packages for groups to tour and taste at the city’s two breweries. On the outskirts of town, overlooking the Neckar River, Neuburg Abbey is known for its organic beers. A visit to the monastery includes a guided tour of the Zum Klosterhof brewery, followed by a snack and a beer, fresh from the barrel. Back in Heidelberg, combine a one-hour guided tour of the Old Town with a visit to the Heidelberg Culture Brewery, where beer-making dates back to 1235. They also own the famous Zum Seppl student tavern: quench your thirst and enjoy the atmosphere.
Hohenstein-Ödenwaldstetten: Brauerei-Gasthof Lamm
Wolfgang Speidel is the ninth generation of his family to work at this small brewery in the Swabian Highlands, deep in Biosphere Reserve. Groups of ten or more enjoy guided tours of the Brauerei-Gasthof Lamm to find out the secret of their Helles (light) and Weizen (wheat beer), Bock (in May) and Dunkles (dark winter beer). Want to delve deeper? Lend a hand in the mashing or running off during a beer workshop.
40 miles south of Stuttgart. www.speidels-braumanufaktur.de
Karlsruhe: Der Vogelbräu
Compared to breweries with centuries of history, the Vogelbräu is new. Rudi Vogel created his brew in 1985 and named it after himself: Der Vogel. His fans think he is a bit of a rock star, but he is serious about making unfiltered and flavoursome beers. His strong, unfiltered Weizen-Doppelbock won the European Beer Star award in 2013. No wonder his beer tours that include a beer tasting and hearty snack are hugely popular. www.vogelbraeu.de
Owned by the Spitzer family, this boutique brewery has long been known to beer aficionados, who recognise the Hirschbrauerei’s stag logo as a sign of quality. Located in the green Swabian Highlands, the business was founded in 1826 and, today, offers tours and tastings. Family member Stephanie Spitzer is a Biersommelière, an expert on brewing history and techniques.
40 miles southeast of Stuttgart. www.boehringer-biere.de
St Blasien: Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus
One of Germany’s best-known breweries, the state-owned Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus dates back to 1791, when it was part of a Benedictine monastery. In the Black Forest, 3,300 feet above sea level, this is Germany's highest brewery! Among its beers, Tannenzäpfle has become a favorite among connoisseurs; brewed from local spring water, it is rated amongst the top 100 beers in the world. Take a tour to find out more.
40 miles southeast of Freiburg. http://rothaus.de/de/rothaus_erleben
Zwiefalten: Zwiefalter Klosterbräu
The current owners, the Baader family, trace the Zwiefalter Klosterbräu brewery back to 1521, when Benedictine monks were in charge. That centuries-old knowledge is still used to make award-winning beers. For groups, different packages are offered, all including a beer tasting. One of the most popular is the Beersommelier tour, tasting several of the brewery’s wide range of beers.
50 miles south of Stuttgart. www.zwiefalter.de