Until the twentieth century, Bavaria was an agrarian state with only few urban centres. In the early sixteenth century there was widespread consensus that the best beers originated from the Hansa towns, followed by Saxony and Bohemia. A little later, climate change, state intervention (Reinheitsgebot) and the absorption of the Franconian countries with their long brewing traditions and the most important hop market in Germany helped it to attain a status synonymous with good beer
After the napoleonic wars, Bavaria was the first state to enact a constitution, liberalise trade regulations and standardise weight and measurements — indispensable for the industrialisation of brewing. But the technology was relatively primitive and nowhere nearly as advanced and fine-tuned as in Britain. The widespread consensus was that the British are the very masters of brewing. They had been the first ones who practiced it with reliability and precision by applying chemistry, mathematics and physics. Differences existed also in the malting process, where British technology was unsurpassed at the time.
Bavarian malting was quite primitive and the first “English-type” malting kiln with indirect heating was installed in 1818, the first steam engine in 1840 and slowly the outdated wooden equipment was replaced with metal as far as possible. For the first time, British advances in the malting process allowed for the production of pale malt with reliability and consistency.
It took an Austrian brewmaster, Anton Dreher, to craft the first beer that was methodically bottom fermented at steady, cool temperature for maturation and storage — a requirement which gave it it’s name “Lager”, which is German for storehouse. Dreher studied in London and in Scotland and was very fond of Pale Ale and Goldings hops — a love he and his good friend Josef Groll shared in common.
It is the British Pale Ale that inspired Groll to brew the world’s first Pilsener — a feat which would have been impossible without the excellent British malting. An interesting anecdote is that Groll died at the table of his local pub in Vilshofen, drinking beer.
So there you have it. Meet the family. Meet the mother of the Pilsener: The Pale Ale.