East Germany's Beer Scene: Forgotten?

Once a staple of East German Brewing Culture, the 22 beer styles approved for production during the Cold War era have been all but forgotten in the years that have followed. With a look back at the classic recipes, we can gain insight into the tastes and traditions of beer production in East Germany and the ever-changing landscape of the brewing world.

Brewing beer was an integral part of life in East Germany during the Cold War. A document released after Germany’s reunification in 1990 provides a fascinating glimpse into the country’s 22 distinct beer styles. Although these styles are fading in popularity, they remain as a reminder of East Germany’s unique brewing culture.

The East German Brewing Document

In 1990, following the reunification of East and West Germany, a document known as “Vorschrift über die Braustoffzusammensetzung und die technische Herstellung von Bier nach Art des Brauens in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik” (“Regulation of brewing materials and techniques in the German Democratic Republic”) was released.

The document contained a comprehensive list of the 22 national beer styles accepted in the former East Germany, as well as the specific brewing materials necessary to make each. The detailed information illuminated the brewing traditions in East Germany and offered insight into the country’s brewing culture.

East German National Beer Styles

The liberation of East Germany allowed the country’s some 200 breweries to expand their production lines. A move towards city-specific beer styles, such as the now-iconic “Berliner Weisse”, began. The national beer styles of East Germany, however, remain the same.

The 22 beer styles of East Germany are:

  • Altbier
  • Exportbier
  • Kellerbier
  • Kölsch
  • Leichtes Weizen
  • Lichtes Bock
  • Märzenbier
  • Mildes Bier
  • Pilsner
  • Saison
  • Schwarzbier
  • Starkbier
  • Starkes Dunkel
  • Stören
  • Tafelbier
  • Weizen
  • Weizenbock
  • Weizenmischgetränk
  • Witbier
  • Zwickel
  • Zwickelpils
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Of the 22 styles, 4 styles had their own sub-styles, defined by specific variations in alcohol, naturally preserved with hops, and the use of an Oxford enzymatic standard.

Sub-Styles

The 4 beer styles with sub-styles are:

  • Altbier
  • Exportbier
  • Kölsch
  • Pilsner

Altbier has two sub-styles: Einfachbier (2.2 - 3.2% ABV) and Starkbier (3.3 - 4.3% ABV). Exportbier has two sub-styles as well: Einfachbier (2.2 - 3.2% ABV) and Starkbier (3.3 - 4.3% ABV). Kölsch is divided into Leichtes Kölsch (2.7 - 3.2% ABV) and Starkes Kölsch (4.4 - 5.4% ABV). Pilsner is further divided into Einfach Pils (3.3 - 4.3% ABV) and Starkes Pils (4.4 - 5.4% ABV).

Brewing Ingredients According to Vorschrift

The Vorschrift did not only prescribe the national beer styles of East Germany. It also specified the brewing ingredients and techniques for making each style. For example, the document states that Altbier must be made using malt and hops, with a minimum of 8.4% original wort.

In addition, the Vorschrift outlines precise guidelines for the use of hops and adjuncts. Hops must have a minimum

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