Have you ever heard of the great forgotten beer culture of Europe? Alsace, an area of Northern France, is no longer a well-kept secret. With 60 percent of the beer consumed by France being brewed here and a wealth of hops, this region is experiencing a much-needed revival. Find out what makes the brews of Alsace so special and why it is the ideal destination for passionate beer lovers.
Whether you’re a novice beer enthusiast looking to learn more about the charming beer culture in Alpine Europe, or an experienced brewer or master of beer judging, everyone should know about Alsace, the great forgotten beer culture. Located in the northeast of France, this relatively small and forgotten region is actually home to a rich beer history, dating as far back as the 17th century. Today, Alsace is France’s brewing powerhouse: Around 60 percent of the beer drunk in the country is brewed here, and the vast majority of its hops are grown here, too. Now the region is enjoying a revival.
Alsace’s beer-making history is rich and interesting. Although the area has been settled by different cultures during its long history, the local brewing tradition is believed to originate from Germanic settlers who also developed and grew the local hop industry.
During the Middle Ages, monks played an important role in developing the beer-making industry in Alsace. The local Benedictines and Carthusians brewed beer not just for religious reasons, but also to generate income to support the church. Monasteries owned breweries and taxes were collected on production. This kept the region's people well-hydrated even during long scorching summers. Brewing slowly became a local tradition.
In the 18th century, large merchant breweries were established in Alsace and the region quickly became an important beer-making center. After World War I, this tradition was sadly lost due to French regulations. It took over one hundred years for Alsace's beer tradition to gain momentum again. In the 21st century, Alsace’s brewing industry has begun a slow revival, with artisan producers regaining their footings in the local crafts.
The beer produced in Alsace ranges dramatically in strength and flavor. The local brewing process uses top-fermenting yeasts, making the beers relatively light, quaffable and often hoppy.
The beers come in a variety of styles, including pale ales and blondes, light, golden and medium-hopped lagers, and rich dark beers. Alsace is especially known for its lagers, which are toasty and malty and come in an array of strengths, from delicate and refreshing Pilsners to complex amber lagers.
The region is home to many small independent breweries, including familiar names like Cave des Seigneurs and Brasserie de l'Est. These artisanal producers are reviving the beer-making tradition of Alsace and experimenting with new recipes and flavors. From crisp blonde beers to malty dark beers, brewers here are now pushing the boundaries of what beer can be.
If you’re looking to explore Alsace’s famous beer culture, beer geeks should start with the region’s classic recipes. Some notable beers brewed in Alsace include:
But Alsace’s beer-making traditions don’t end there; the Alsace beer culture also includes a number of unique beers, such as Gueuze, Biere de Mars, and Lichtenhainer.
Gueuze is a unique sour beer, traditionally blended from various batches of beer- making it one of the oldest and most traditional beers brewed in Alsace. This beer is brewed using a combination of wild yeast strains, giving it a sour tartness and a dry finish that make it stand out from other beers. The flavor of this beer can vary depending on the blend, but expect a complex