AUG/SEP 2006 | REGIONAL | INTERNATIONAL
Good Beer Guide to Germany : Don’t
Visit Deutschland Without It
By Don Scheidt
There seems to be something in the water in the U.K., at
least when it comes to producing some great beer guides. The
CAMRA Good Beer Guide is well-known as a comprehensive
guide to British pubs and breweries, updated annually by the
Campaign for Real Ale, the British consumerist beer-drinkers’
organization that has been championing the cause of British
beer and pub culture for three and a half decades.
CAMRA’s reach extends beyond the U.K., as Tim Webb’s
Good Beer Guide to Belgium first showed in 1992;
the current edition of the GBG Belgium continues to be an
indispensable reference for planning beer tours to Belgium,
with its all-encompassing listings of Belgian breweries and
the best places to savor Belgian beers in all their glory.
Webb and co-author Chris “Podge” Pollard, together
with Belgian beer judge and expert Joris Pattyn, are also
the authors of Lambicland, a small volume with a big heart,
dedicated to the preservation and presentation of what remains
of Belgium’s unique lambic beer style. There may be
some small irony in British writers producing some of the
best volumes currently in print on Belgian beer (see the current
edition of Michael Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium
for further evidence), but they remain indispensable references
As a reference for beer-touring Germany,
the Good Beer Guide to Germany stands apart.
This year, CAMRA has issued a milestone with the Good
Beer Guide to Germany. This isn’t the first guide
to German beer to come out of the U.K.; John Conen published
his Bamberg and Franconia guide just a few years ago, and
it’s still recommended as a great introduction to the
beers and culture of this sparkling gem in Germany’s
beer crown. The new Good Beer Guide to Germany, authored
and edited by Steve Thomas, doesn’t stop at one region
It’s all-encompassing, with sections on German pubs
and customs, Oktoberfest, the Reinheitsgebot (Purity Law)
and more, before it gives way to pages and pages listing every
German brewery in business at the time of publication (April
2006) — a daunting task that took five years to accomplish.
There are small maps after the brewery listings to correlate
locations with breweries listed, but they’re a bit hard
to use; the only indicators on the maps are the numbers corresponding
to each entry, and a road atlas of Germany is a necessary
After the maps, several of Germany’s great beer cities
get their own write-ups. Familiar names of proud beer cities
like Bamberg, Munich, Cologne/Köln and Düsseldorf
join Berlin, Leipzig, Stuttgart and others for a solid overview
of good beer venues in Germany’s great brewing cities.
Not all of the largest brewing cities and towns get this treatment,
though, partly because, in some cases, their best days are
behind them; Dortmund is down to just a couple of big breweries
and a few brewpubs, and Kulmbach has seen its commercial breweries
consolidate into a single brewing entity. German brewing has
also become subject to globalization, so well-known names
like Spaten, Löwenbräu, Dinkelacker, Diebels and
Beck’s are now no longer German-owned.
Trends in German beer consumption are also noted; over the
last few years, the overall trend has been steady decline.
Compared with Americans and Canadians, Germans still drink
an extraordinary amount of beer, at 115 liters per capita,
but that’s paltry compared with 150 liters per capita,
Germany’s consumption average 20 years ago. In spite
of this, Germany still manages to support more than 1,250
breweries, a figure exceeded only by the United States due
to the emergence of American craft brewing.
The Good Beer Guide to Germany may seem a weighty tome, running
at well over 500 pages — necessary to capture the sheer
volume of data it contains. It might be an effort to carry
around, but as a reference for beer-touring Germany, it stands
apart. It’s currently available from CAMRA’s Web
site as well as from popular online booksellers like Amazon.com.
Don Scheidt all too rarely updates the Northwest
BrewPage at nwbrewpage.com. He also writes about beer for
the Seattle Weekly. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.