Yesterday was rather important for Germany as the 23rd of April 2016 marked the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity law. Quite simply, the law, which originated in Bavaria, limits the production of beer to just water, barley, and hops. The law was enacted in order to protect Germans from unscrupulous brewers who would put some rather nasty additives into their beer, like wood shavings and soot. Even today, the Reinheitsgebot is largely still followed as it's become a symbol of quality and national pride for Germans. (You can read more about it in this helpful article posted by the BBC.)
And so, it was perhaps with more than a bit of irony that Kraftpaule, a new local pub, decided to celebrate the 500th anniversary with Stuttgart's first ever Craft Beer Festival. If the sold-out, 3,000-person attendance is anything to go by, then the event was a huge hit and no one seemed to mind that their double chocolate stout and whiskey porter did not fall under the beloved Reinheitsgebot (and neither did we).
Luckily, we bought tickets for this one early. We went with a group of friends, and arrived at the festival location at Im Wizemann in Stuttgart North at about 14:30 (three hours after they opened). The ticket checkers at the door placed colored bracelets on our wrists with the name of the festival, and then gave us some beautiful tasting glasses for a 5€ pfand. After that, we could taste as many beers as we wanted for just 1-2€ for 0,1-liter or up to 3€ for a full beer.
Once inside, we headed through the first room with a café and shirt printing station, past a larger room with some food stalls and beer stands, to the largest room with most of the beer stands and a giant stage for entertainment. It was really an excellent space, not just because it was raining outside and we were sheltered from the elements, but also because the event felt rather refined with tasting glasses, a coat check, several food options, and nice toilets.
Our first stop in the big hall was Stone Brewing Co., a California brewery that recently opened an outpost in Berlin, where I tried the Ruination 2.0 Double IPA. It was strong at 8.5% alc., but deliciously rich, hoppy, and with complex citrus and pine notes. Though it was my first tasting, I think it was probably my favorite of the night. I'm partial to pale ales, though I also really liked Matt's taste of Stone's Coffee Milk Stout, a creamy, bittersweet blend that I could imagine rounding off a meal nicely. He also got a deliciously sweet and fruity Belgian Chocolate Cherry Porter from Lenny's Artisanal Ales based out of Berlin at the stand next door -- another winner for the afternoon.
Next up, we headed over to Brauhuas Nittenau, a brewery just east of Nuremberg that I'd never heard of before, where I tried their cider. I love a good cider, and was surprised to find one from a German producer. The taste was light on the sugar, but very crisp and heavy on the apple. I imagine it would be a perfect drink for a hot summer day in a Biergarten.
We stopped at the Camba Bavaria Brewery after that, where I was excited by the variety of their offerings. I really wanted to try the Heller Bock Muscatel aged in a white wine barrel, but they unfortunately had not brought any with them. My next choice was the Melon Flash with melon flavoring, though a friend of mine let me try her tasting and we were not impressed. We could hardly taste any melon, which was not what we were expecting.
On the way back into the large room, I decided instead to stop at Cast Brewery, one of Stuttgart's own local craft breweries, to try their 500 Year Special. The flavor was malty and just a bit heavier than a normal hefeweizen. Good, though I think I'll stick to their pale ale in the future.
Back in the main tasting room, I headed over to Browar Dukla, a Polish brewery. I tried their Bawidamek Double IPA, a smooth, citrusy double with a creamy finish. Their labels, which were designed by a comics artist, were all ridiculously cool, too. Next door to them was Browar Baba Jaga, another Polish brewery from Warsaw, from which I tried the Hern American Pale Ale, a golden beer with a medium hop flavor. I also got a tasting of the Black Widow Extra Oak Whiskey Stout for Matt, which he said was a smoke explosion.
My last tasting of the afternoon was at Kraftbierwerkstatt, a new craft brewery in Böblingen. They had a special Chinook Red Indian Ale on tap, an amber beer with a warm caramel and orange flavor. They also bottle a Triple A Awesome Amber Ale, but both a friend and I agreed that the new Chinook ale was better.
There were many, many more breweries from Germany that we didn't try, including Archer's Brewery, Brauhaus Rössle, Braurevolution, Distelhäuser, Hopfmeister, Inspirationsbräu, Pirate Brew, Rossknecht, Schneider Weisse, Schönbuch, Superfreunde, Süeffisant, Tilmans Biere, Walder Bräu, and Wichtel. I would have loved to try them all, but after three hours and six beers, I was ready for some food. There were several food trucks out back and both the burgers from Schräglage and the "beefwich" from the Flying Butchmen looked tempting. In the end, our group decided to leave the venue and go to a sit-down meal.
The festival carried on well into the night with several concerts on the main stage and beer seminars in a side room. There really was tons to do there, and it was nice to see such a well-organized event. I'm hopeful that the popularity will mean that Kraftpaule will hold another one next year.
But whether they do or not, I know that I can find all kinds of craft beer at their great new location on Nikolausstr. 2 next to the Stöckach U-bahn station. Even though they just opened a little over a month ago, we've been there three times already! They have some six craft beers on tap, another thirty or so by the bottle in the fridge, and almost a hundred more in their shop below where you can make your own six-pack. It's the most impressive craft beer selection that I've seen in Stuttgart, which, it would seem, is slowly but surely beginning to understand that there can be great beer outside of the Reinheitsgebot.
Did you go to the craft beer festival this weekend? What did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.