Beercultur in Hamburg: 100 years of tradition and creativity
Hamburg‘s beer culture has developed in a colourful and diverse way over the past 10 years. Along with the well-known large breweries such as Astra and Holsten, more than 30 exciting breweries, brewpubs, brewing projects, beer bars, and beer shops have set up shop in the Hanseatic city. Today, you can discover Hamburg‘s beer culture by taking brewery tours and brewing courses, going to beer festivals, mini beer museum, doing beer yoga, and taking part in tasting events with over 300 different beers. Today‘s Hanseatic brewing scene is an exciting culinary and cultural world that is crying out to be explored to its fullest!
1,000 years of beer culture
Hamburg‘s beer history, which spans more than 1,000-years, goes way back to the Norsemen or Vikings, who drank an early version of our beer – a special kind of fermented ale. From the 12th century onwards, Hamburg rose to prominence as the “home of brewing for the Hanseatic League.“ No other place produced and exported beer in such lavish quantities as our medieval Hanseatic city. In total, Hamburg exported almost 600,000 hectolitres per year. The success was also due to Hamburg‘s exposed location on the water: as the harbour was an ideal place for trade and transhipment, and the Alster, which was dammed from the 12th century onwards, also provided the fresh water that was needed for brewing beer.
In the mid-16th century, Hamburg had over 500 breweries. Beer consumption per capita was over 500 litres a year (compared to today‘s 100 litres/capita). The reason for this was that beer was considered a staple food at that time and was much healthier than the water, as germs and bacteria were killed in the brewing process. The so-called “Dünnbier“ (light beer) had a moderate alcohol content of 1-2 %. It‘s a little-known fact that the first wheat beer was brewed in Hamburg, not Bavaria. And Hamburg‘s red beer, pale ale, porter, and stout were consumed well into the early 20th century. However, the 20th century wasn‘t relevant for the development of Hamburg‘s beer culture, as wars and brewery closures marked these 100 years. From the 1980s onwards, with the mass production of industrial beers, the consolidation of types of beer began, which favoured Pilsener and Lager.
Revitalising Hamburg‘s beer diversity
Since 2012, Hamburg has seen a revitalisation of its beer diversity with the “Craft Beer“ movement, which came to Germany from the USA. The term “Craft“ refers to speciality beer that is made in independent breweries. “Craft beer breweries“ tend to be breweries that distance themselves from the mega-brewery corporations and instead choose to hone their craft by brewing beer that is made with fresh, high-quality raw materials and genuine passion. For example, over the past 10 years, more than 15 small and medium-sized breweries and brewing projects have been founded in Hamburg. In the respective home breweries, brewpubs, and the breweries‘ taprooms, which often also have inviting outdoor areas, you can taste the beer brewed on-site. Beer really doesn‘t get any fresher than this!
Blockbräu is a classic brewery. This traditional brewery opened its doors on the Landungsbrücken on Beer Day, 23rd April 2012. Since then, master brewer Thomas Hundt and his team have been brewing classic beer styles, such as the naturally cloudy, finely hopped Helles or light beer, a highly drinkable wheat beer, and several seasonal brewing specialities like the light Maibock and dark Senatsbock. Here, you can enjoy a fresh beer accompanied by good, homely food from the brewery kitchen. A real highlight is the view from the 1,000 sqm roof terrace, which looks out over the entire harbour!
Bei den St. Pauli-Landungsbrücken 3
The beer paradise: Ratsherrn in the Schanzenhöfe
Since 2012, a real beer paradise has been located in Hamburg‘s listed Schanzenhöfe – The Ratsherrn Brewery. Here, you will also find the brewery‘s own pub, Altes Mädchen, which has several adjoining event halls, and the Ratsherrn shop. There are always exciting new creations to enjoy, such as the unfiltered “Hamburg Hell,“ which was launched last autumn. At the Meininger‘s International Craft Beer Award 2020, the family-run Stadtbrauerei (city brewery) won four awards: 3 gold and 1 silver. Our top tip is to plan a few hours for your visit, book a guided tour of the brewery in advance, and order a Ratsherrn “Tasting Tray“ to go with your LandWertHof organic “Mettstulle“ (minced pork sandwich) in the restaurant.
Lagerstraße 30A (Sternschanze)
Modern and creative: ÜberQuell Brauwerkstätten
The ÜberQuell Brauwerkstätten Brewpub consists of a micro-brewery, urban farm, and large outdoor terrace. ÜberQuell St. Pauli is located in the traditional Riverkasematten, which sits on the Elbe and was built in 2017. Brewmeister Tobias Hess continues to surprise his guests with new, seasonal beers. And you can get some of the best Neapolitan pizzas in town and a colourful, cultural event programme of game nights, live music, readings, tastings, and more. This is a firm favourite for anyone who wants to have a good time and enjoy good beer. The highlight at ÜberQuell is the mini beer museum!
St. Pauli Fischmarkt 28-32 (St. Pauli)
Naturally organic: Wildwuchs Brauwerk
Fiete Matthies is a real Hamburg boy from Finkenwerder who founded Hamburg‘s first organic brewery in 2014. Since 2019, the master brewer has been producing his all-natural and certified organic beers with illustrious names like “Sutsche,“ “Fastmoker,“ and “Wachmoker“ at his Wildwuchs Brauwerk in Wilhelmsburg. The best place to enjoy these organic beers is in the Wildwuchs taproom - right in the middle of the brewing kettles!
Jaffestraße 8 (Wilhelmsburg)