I seem to live in cities here in Germany that are closely tied to food and drink: having lived in Hamburg, I would call myself a “Hamburger.” The double meaning in this is obvious. Similarly, I live in Radeberg, where one could call its inhabitants “Radeberger.” However, most Germans will know that this really refers to its most famous export: Beer. That’s right, this small town of 18,000 is famous Germany-wide for its pilsner.
Pilsner (also known as Pils) is a type of beer. It distinguishes itself from Hefeweizen in that it ferments from the bottom up (Hefeweizen ferments from the top down). Thus, although Radeberger does sell a Zwickelbier that looks like a Hefeweizen, its brewing process has undergone a completely different process and is really a Pilsner. The Zwickelbier is only available at the brewery, in the brewery’s restaurant/hotel down the street, and on the Brühlsche Terrasse in Dresden. This is because, unlike the Pilsner which travels very well, the Zwickelbier has a very short life and must be drunk fresh, as it’s the unfiltered Pilsner.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself! While my parents were here on a visit last fall, we decided to take a tour of the brewery. My mom loves going to factories and seeing how things work (she’s always wanted to see how the postal system works, and loves going to the Tillamook cheese factory in Oregon). So we walked over to the brewery, with its imposing presence at the end of the Bahnhofstraße. For anyone coming from the train station going into town, this is pretty much the first thing s/he sees.
The tour itself was guided by a woman who had obviously memorized a script, down to her feeble attempts at making jokes. Despite her monotonous tone, we did learn a lot about the brewery. Of course, I’ve forgotten all the facts since then. However, upon some research, I discovered that they produce about 2 million hectoliters of beer a year (that’s about 53 million gallons). That’s a lot of beer. I do remember her saying that in one hour, they can bottle 40,000 bottles of beer (each 0.3 liters). Here is a video of the bottles, you can see them on their way to be filled and labeled towards the top of the screen, and then on the bottom they come out filled and covered in shiny gold foil, on their way to be sorted into cases.
The brewery claims to be Germany’s first Pilsner brewery (of its kind), after adopting Czech brewing techniques. During the GDR it was very difficult for East Germans to get their hands on the beer, as it was chiefly an export beer. Only those with contacts on the inside were able to drink it. Today, although the brewery has kept its name as export brewery, the beer is chiefly drunk in Germany; however, it’s exported to, among others, the US still. I think the guide said you can find it in Boston and Philadelphia, but I’m not sure anymore.
One other thing I remember from the tour is the control room, where the brew masters keep tabs on the huge brewing vats. I have to say my trekkie days came back to haunt me, because I thought the console looked straight out of the original Star Trek!
There’s a lot more to know about beer: its history, how it’s brewed, how it tastes best. It’s enough to devote an entire thesis on. Nevertheless, here’s my sum-up: when possible, drink beer on tap. It always tastes better. If you do find a bottled Radeberger near you, drink it of course! Just remember, you don’t like it, it may not be the beer. Our tour guide said that many things can effect the taste of beer: for example, if it’s left outside in the sun or if it was shaken around too much during transport. One thing you can do to ensure the best taste once it’s in your home is not to stick it in the freezer to cool it quickly. Temperature shocks like that exert negative effects on any alcoholic beverage. Plan ahead, and make sure you have enough beer in the fridge for you and your friends to enjoy (responsibly of course!).
Finally, when you take that first sip, make sure to toast to your friends’ health and say “Zum Wohl!” while looking in their eyes. No matter how tempting it is, toasting while looking at the glasses that are touching, or worse looking away, is not only considered rude but is “known” to be bad in other aspects of your life as well… *hem* *hem*
The Radeberger Exportbierbrauerei is located on Dresdner Str. 2, 01454 Radeberg, Germany. Tours should be scheduled, by telephone, in advance. Tel. 03528 / 4540, Fax 03528 / 454321.