Southern Germany brings tradition and individual talent to beer

Nathan Simington

North German breweries are rich and powerful—too commercial, many feel, for their own good. The Southern brewers, particularly those of Munich, are at once elder statesmen and thoroughgoing individualists in comparison. Individuality, though, need not and cannot, in a style decades or centuries old, mean eccentricity. Rather it is the high refinement of a very precise product, a genre unto itself. Wheat winterbocks are spicy, hearty, and sweet—think Christmas pudding or fruitcake. Aventmus, from Schneider and Sohn of Munich, is one of the finest exponents of this style. In Schneider’s version, called a “Weizenbock” because of its Hefe-Weizen roots, this beer is produced as an ale (top-fermented with no lagering.) Aventmus is absolutely hedonistic—smooth, full, and complex. Its texture is creamy with a very full head; mine took several minutes to settle. Its flavor includes floral and citrus notes, but what floored me was its caramel-and-molasses body, and the banana in the aftertaste. For all that it’s a bock style, it’s not heavy or soggy.

The famous Ayinger brewery produces a winter bock just north of Munich. Drinking Ayinger is a lot like eating pumpernickel bread. It’s spicy and on the thick side. Its bitterness gives way to syrup and a lot of fruit, with raisins dominant. This beer is about as thick as Guiness, but it hangs heavier in the mouth. I suggest drinking it with the darkest, bitterest chocolate you can find.