I’ve been in brewing for a long time and I’m no spring chicken. So, I was very excited to take my first trip to Germany. Germany, at least in my mind, is one of the great beer cultures of the world. Think of all the different beer styles that originated there, that we still brew today. Dortmunder, Kolsch, Altbier, Gose, Marzen, Rauchbier, etc. Not to mention older and nearly defunct styles like Kotbusser, Broyhan, etc. Germany’s tradition and commitment to the craft of brewing is unparalleled in the world. So, ob- viously Germany had the best beers I’ve ever had, right? NEIN! After visiting Germany, I learned that the very thing that makes them so special when it comes to beer is also the thing that seems to hold them back the most in today’s beer market—and that is their own tradition. Upon my arrival in Dusseldorf, I was, of course, excited to try the Altbiers. I had brewed sever- al Alts over the years but never had one fresh at the source. I had two at the first bar, then two more at the second bar, another at the third and so on and so on. There were some noticeable differences between Altbier from bar number one, two, five and fifty, but when it came down to it, they were all just...Alts? But that is what you drink there so when in Rome (or Dusselrome) you drink Altbier. And after 6 liters of Altbier, you start to appreci- ate the choice of variety in the U.S. You might still drink the same beer all day long, but at least you chose not to have a choice. The whole tradition and lack of variety nar- rative really hit home when a few days later I moved on to Cologne, home of Kolsch. Same situation here, Beer=Kolsch, Kolsch=Beer. I could not tell the difference between one Kolsch to the next Kolsch, especially after 8 liters in a day. But really by that time I’m not sure I could have told the difference between the Kolsch and an Altbier. But if I would have said that out loud I would have really made some German people sour. It turns out the people in Cologne don’t even recognize Alt- bier as beer at all. And vice versa for those people in Dusseldorf about Kolsch. I heard the phrase, “I wouldn’t wash my dog in that stuff they call beer.” referring to Kolsch while in Dusseldorf. Kind of harsh, I’d say. I had never encountered such “beer tribal- ism,” and it was very foreign to me. Especially since the U.S. beer market is so increasingly about variety. When asking Germans about this, they would say drinking their local style is just German tradition. Which made me wonder what exactly is American beer tra- dition. I guess my answer would have to be: it’s traditional for Americans to have no tra- ditions. My last night in Cologne I had an event at the newest and only craft beer bar in the city. The place is called “Craft Beer Corner” and is ran by a group of guys that have a real love of craft beer and want to see more choices in their city. I had sold them several kegs, and I was to do a tap takeover and a little talk about Against the Grain brewery and our brewing philosophy. As I walked around talking with people at the bar, I realized most of the customers were from outside Germany just trying to find some relief from the Kolsch culture. I also realized how the av erage age in the room was probably 20 years younger than any of the Kolsch houses I visited earlier. Obviously, there are some signs that tradition cannot hold back where the market wants beer to go. GK Chesterton wrote, “Tradition means giv- ing a vote to the most obscure of all class- es, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.” My trip to Germany really drove home the power of tradition. But I also know that the dead don’t drink. © Hundred-to-One LLC 2017. All rights reserved.