Not many people realise just how important Heidelberg once was as a centre of brewing expertise. This is probably because most of the 36 breweries that used to be here had been closed by 1900. However, there are still four breweries operating and providing Heidelberg with their thirst-quenching beers. A quick look behind the scenes at the Sudhaus makes one thing very clear: these breweries are much more than just businesses. The ingredients which the German Purity Law allows brewers to use are the raw materials for experimentation and creativity. „Tradition meets Innovation!“ This is the motto all four breweries – in their very different ways – adhere to.
It's an evident source of pride for managing director, Michael Mack, „that the brewery has been an important part of such a historic town for 263 years“ and for generations has worked closely with the local restaurants and pubs – especially the historic student pub „Zum Roten Ochsen“. The German Purity Law is 500 years old and is the oldest known legislation dealing with food and drink production; the Heidelberger Brauerei has been using this as a guideline for its brewing activities for more than half that time. And Mack feels himself as bound by these rules as ever. All the ingredients are sourced locally and state of the art technology, which sets a benchmark for the whole of Europe, guarantees the high quality and purity of their 21 different products. There's also a special side-line to the core products: Lutz Wirsching, the master brewer has developed two „craft beers“: The Urmensch-Bier (Prehistoric man beer), as a homage to Homo heidelbergensis and a Jubilee beer to mark 1000 years of Bammental. A Lutherbier has already been requested for Luther Year in 2017, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Further information about the brewery and tours of the brewery at www.heidelberger-brauerei.de
Over the course of the 18th and 19th century, successive generations of the Schaaf Family produced beer within the walls of the Kulturbrauerei; and still today, brewing-malt is produced and beer brewed for the pub „Zum Zeppl“. In former times, the beer was transported through an underground passageway from the cellar to the pub – a meeting point for students, as popular today as it was then. The master brewer Thomas Lamerz uses only the finest quality ingredients for the beers he serves the customers in this historic and atmospheric setting. Each beer has its unique flavour, thanks to the use of specially imported hops from Australia, America or New Zealand. The result is beers with the aroma of exotic fruits such as litschi, pineapple, pine, orange grapefruit and passion fruit. And all this within the bounds of the German purity law which sets the standard for the Kulturbrauerei. Jürgen Merz, the managing director is quite clear on this: “If brewers don't follow the rules laid out in this law, then you simply can't call it beer“. Further information about the Kulturbrauerei at www.heidelberger-kulturbrauerei.de
The party for Brauhaus Vetter's 30th anniversary next year is already being planned. 10 different beers are on offer in Heidelberg's first brewpub; brewed using locally sourced ingredients in two large kettles located in the drinking and dining area of the pub, the beer is only served on the premises. One of the beers became particularly famous in 1994: using 33% original wort, the “Vetter 33” brew made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the strongest beer in the world to be brewed following the guidelines of the German Purity Law. “We produce craft beers and tradition dictates that we follow the letter of the Purity Law” is the view of the director, Michael Vetter. “There are over 5000 different beers in Germany, all made with the same basic ingredients; nevertheless, they all taste different and especially the smaller breweries are adding diversity and variety. This is achieved by roasting the malt in different ways and using the individual ingredients in different proportions. Just like letting tea brew for different lengths of time”. However, Vetter also accepts that the customers are happy if the flavour is enhanced by adding ingredients falling outside the strict guidelines of the purity law. But then you can't call it beer - “in the same way a vegetarian sausage is not really a sausage”. Further information about the Brewery at www.brauhaus-vetter.de
For the Kloster Brewery, the natural spring water coming straight from the nearby hills, which locals have been enjoying for generations, is the secret of the smooth, mild taste of their beer. As you'd expect from an organic brewery all the ingredients are locally sourced from organic farmers to ensure the lightest of carbon footprints. There are six types of beer in the standard range: in addition to five seasonal beers the brewery offers unusual specialist products such as "Siegelbier" which is matured in sherry, brandy, barrique or whiskey barrels. Working in this way Till Barucco, the managing director's assistant, sometimes feels the need to stray from the strict rules imposed by the Purity Law because "it also forbids the use of natural products like orange peel". Luckily for this organic brewery, labelling their products in a particular way (not as beer!) allows them to experiment to their hearts' content. They're already planning an ale using orange peel and the beer world can lick its lips in anticipation of further results of "audacious experiments with different varieties of hops and malt." In a more conciliatory tone, Barucco is keen to stress that the purity law is "a great thing which protects us all". All offers for Beer seminars, and guided tours of the brewery and monastery at http://brauerei-zum-klosterhof.de