As promised a small blog post on our visit to the Staatiche Brauerschule Main-Spessart.
Our program would include two full days in the school (Tue and Wed) and one day visiting a small brewery and a brewery technology company called GEA(Thurs) with Monday and Friday travelling.
We arrived in Frankfurt a little late after being delayed in Edinburgh, this was due to the typically Scottish weather they were having in Germany (you know…the horizontal rain type weather!). After what seemed an age the luggage finally arrived and we went away to find the train. Frankfurt airport is HUGE it took us about 15 mins to find an information point where we were told that the train we were booked on was running 30 mins late but if we caught a different train and changed at Wurzberg we would get in on time. Don’t know how but we managed it. We caught an ICE train from Frankfurt to Wurzburg (The ICE trains are the German equivalent of the Intercity type trains in the UK). Service and comfort is in a different class on these trains compared to the UK. Drinks served at your seat in proper glasses (even in cattle class!) and loads of room. We duly arrived in Karlstadt where we were greeted by two of the students with fantastic English (given we knew very little German we were very thankful) Nico and Tobias. Once our cases were deposited in Oberes Tor (our B & B) we went out for food and some other German delicacies. We walked along the HauptstraBe and found a restaurant which was open, some Schiztnel and a couple of beers later we left and went to a bar where the students frequent on a regular basis called Karschter Eck or ‘The corner’. This was to be our goto bar for the rest of the week!
Up bright and early for the 2nd day in Karlstadt and faced with a typically European breakfast. Meats, Eggs, Yoghurt and bread rolls etc. Suitably filled we departed for the school with our guides/hosts/friends Nico and Tobias. The Brauerschule day starts at 8.35am and finishes at 4.20am with one break in the morning and one in the afternoon and lunch is provided for the brewing students. The brewing students are actually apprentices on a block release type scheme. Staying in a couple of hotels in Karlstadt whilst they attend the Brauerschule. On arrival we met Boris Durr a tutor who takes the students in the actual brewery, Robert Pawelczak, a classroom lecturer and former professional brewer and Markus Metsger, a classroom lecturer, Master Brewer and Chairman of the Home Brewers association of Germany, an esteemed group of lecturers! After a quick chat we sat in on the students in the brewery where they were making a Marzen. Pilsner malt and around 10% Caramunich! In the classroom they have every kind of equipment you could need from heaters to germinate grain and malt it, grain sorting machines, grading machines and a large dry mill for crushing. The kit they use is fully computer controlled, heat is generated by steam. Following our tour of the equipment in the class it was time for a quick meet and greet from our host Matthias Dietz, lecturer at the school and the Project Yeast co-ordinator. After that it was lunchtime served in the small canteen in the school only for the brewers.
In the afternoon it was back in the classroom observing and we had a tour round the Karlstadt campus and a Project Yeast meeting.
In the evening we managed to sit outside for dinner and more German delicacies and then retired to Karschter Eck for a few drinks and a couple of games of table football (Scotland proving again that beating the Germans at football is beyond us!!)
Made our own way to the school this morning and straight into class, like the class yesterday they were making a Marzen. Unlike yesterday most of the initial work had taken place with the water heated and grain crushed, seemingly it had something to do with a presentation later that day by some visiting dignitaries! Every step in the process is logged, how long it takes to heat the water, how long are the acid rests, the saccharification rests, how long does it take to get to the point where the rests can happen. When we homebrew we measure by gravity whereas in the school they measure by sugar content, this is also recorded at very regular intervals and iodine tests are carried out on a regular basis, again everything is recorded in detail. We had a Project Yeast meeting where we ticked all the boxes and dotted all the ‘i’s. Scottish Craft Brewers are now an ERASMUS centre! For lunch we joined the School Principal Fr Beck and Hr Deitz and Hr Pawelczak at the Restaurant Zum Fehmelbauer. In the afternoon Malcolm delivered the SCB presentation to the students. Due to the class sizes he presented it twice and spent most of the afternoon answering questions about Edinburgh, the Scottish Brewing scene and the club. The presentations were received very well and the students seemed genuinely interested in Scotland, I believe there will be a steady stream of students coming over in the next few months!
We were left to our own devices on the Wednesday so we decided it would be good idea if the students were to taste some Scottish beer. So after dinner at the excellent Greek restaurant Ratskeller we went in search of Scottish beer! Despite venturing for miles, including outside of town we could not even locate an off licence! Disappointed we returned empty handed to the Karschter Eck and to the Germany vs Poland game! We weren’t the only people disappointed that night!!
We were picked up early to travel to the small village of Krautheim where we would be visiting the Privatbrauerei Friedrich Düll which produces the excellent Krautheimer range of beers. The brewery is one the a few left which malts its own grain before milling and using it. We were given a tour by the owner Friedrich Dull. The brewery has been owned and operated by the Dull family for over 200 years and as with all German beers (those that can be brewed and called beer in Germany) it brews according to the Reinheitsgebot (German purity law). The brewery itself is classed as a ‘small brewery’ by German standards and the beer itself can be brewed by as little as 3 people such is the automation in the actual plant. The brewery produces somewhere in the region of 120,000 hectolitres per year (look it up, this ain’t no small brewery!). The brewery get its all its grain from within the region and only ever uses three varieties of hops Hallertauer, Magnum and Perle. We’ve all had brewery tours so I won’t bore you with much detail but it is huge! The beer filter must have been at least 7m long (over 20ft in old money) the bottling\kegging room was easily half the area of the Pear Tree beer garden! The mill they use is another huge piece of kit (they mill the grain when it’s wet) which directly feeds the mash tun.
Alcohol free beer is a big thing in Germany (it can contain 0.5% ABV to be called alcohol free in Germany) and in the brewery there is a machine which removes alcohol by creating a vacuum in a chamber where the beer is and it separates the alcohol. They then put normal beer back into the alcohol free stuff to make it taste better. You may think why not just put the original alcohol back in? They aren’t allowed to… once it comes out the beer it can’t go back in so it’s sold off to a lens cleaning manufacturer!
The brewery also distils its own whisky but its currently maturing in Red wine barrels and won’t be ready until 2023!
The lauter tun, mash tun, mill and boiler were all supplied as an experimental\test kit from GEA brewery systems. The automation of the brewery was also supplied by GEA systems. We visited GEA systems in the afternoon but were not allowed to take any photos due to secrecy. When we thought the scale of Krautheimer was large some of the kit they were making in GEA was jaw dropping. When we entered there was half a bottom of a mash tun which would hold 1000hl (100,000l)! Yes a big brew!! It was destined for South Korea. They were working on a big order for an American brewery based in California so there were a few BIG pieces of kit being created.
On Thursday evening we were invited out by Hr Deitz and Hr Metsger for a traditional Frankonian dinner in the countryside.
We made our way back to the school for a final time to thanks everyone for the hospitality and informative time we spent with them. We also managed to a have a quick tour round the school bottling plant.
German Homebrewers www.hausgebraut.de
Boris’ Brewpub http://braeuscheuere.de/
Restaurant Zum Fehmelbauer http://www.fehmelbauer.de/cms/index.php
GEA Brewery Systems http://www.gea.com/en/productgroups/brewery-systems/index.jsp
some pics of Karlstadt
Selfie in ‘The corner’