Thanks to a collaboration between Beda’s Biergarten and the Doc’s Cellar custom brewery in San Luis Obispo, authentic Altbier and Kellerbier arrived on the Central Coast in conjunction with the 2018 BedaFest event. The newest Beda’s Bier, UrBeda Bock Bier, debuts October 18 at Beda’s Biergarten.
Bier: Not Just a Beverage
Bier (or beer) is more than just a beverage in Germany. It marks history, it defines cities—and it connects people.
Like Beda and Helga Schmidthues, owners of Beda’s Biergarten in San Luis Obispo, who met over a glass of their favorite bier in one of their favorite breweries in Germany.
Helga grew up in Düsseldorf, home to the Schumacher Brewery that was founded in 1838. One of its signature biers is Altbier. “Alt” means “old” in German, referring to Altbier’s “old” style of top fermenting bier.
“Naturally, Altbier is Helga’s bier,” says Beda. “The bier I grew up with is König Pilsener from the brewery in Duisburg-Beeck. But once I started working in Düsseldorf, Altbier became my favorite beer, too.”
While Beda and Helga had known each other in school, they had lost touch.
During Latzenbier, a special event held only one night a year, they were both at Schumacher Brewery and saw each other.
That was 1978, and they’ve been together ever since.
“We both love the Schumacher Altbier,” said Helga. “When we later we found out that the Shumacher Brewery was the first to coin the name Altbier, it made it even more special that we reconnected there.”
Beda’s Biergarten Knows Biers
Beda and Helga moved to San Francisco in 1984, and they started Beda’s Biergarten in 2015.
The restaurant offers many great German biers, including Beda’s beloved König Pilsener and several others.
“But we couldn’t find an Altbier in the US that we liked,” he said of the bier that’s similar to an ale—very drinkable and light, with good flavor. “Some American brewers are making it as a craft bier, and they’re not bad, but they are not what we associate with an authentic Altbier, especially one from Schumacher.”
The only Altbier they could import from Germany was Uerige Altbier, but it was brewed for the US market, with more malt and higher alcohol content.
Kellerbier is another rare bier they couldn’t find, which dates back to the Middle Ages in Franconia, Bavaria. It’s named after the cellaring (keller means cellar in German) process used to brew the bier at cool temperatures (originally in caves) during its slow maturation.
It’s All About the Timing
“People who know me also know I’ve always said I personally didn’t want to brew bier,” said Beda. “There are so many good biers available that I have no interest in making my own.”
But just like they created Beda’s Biergarten to share something they missed from their home country—in this case the gemütlichkeit, or the welcoming spirit, of their favorite pubs—they began to wonder if there was a way to share their favorite biers.
While Helga and Beda began playing with ideas, a new business was brewing just a few blocks away.
Doc’s Cellar started as a craft fermentation supply company in 1991 and since then, had established itself as the go-to place for both equipment and advice for home brewers, craft breweries, boutique winemakers, and kombucha makers.
“When Aaron Smith from Doc’s Cellar approached us with their new custom brewing operation, we knew the time was right,” said Helga.
“We saw an opportunity,” said Beda. “We might be able to introduce something to our clientele that we grew up with. Something that connected Helga and I many years ago and that can now connect us with our customers.”
He added, “When we introduce something, it’s with our customers in mind. In this case, we had ourselves in mind, too, because we love these biers and want to share them.”
After a few conversations, Aaron became the official Braumeister for Beda’s Biergarten.
A New Idea Brews
While Aaron has been in food and beverage manufacturing for years, as well as a talented homebrewer, he always said he didn’t want to open a brewery because he didn’t want to market and sell his beer.
“Instead, my business partner and I came up with the concept of doing custom brewing,” he said. “That way, we can make great quality beer for customers who can sell it and let them fly.”
Doc’s Cellar received its brewing license earlier this year. Their clientele will start with restaurants like Beda’a Biergarten who want a signature bier and smaller breweries, with plans to expand as demand grows.
“Brewing these beers for Beda and Helga is a dream come true for me,” he said. “They’re a style of beer that I personally love.”
Authentic Recipes and Process
Aaron knew the styles and parameters of these biers, so he started researching recipes.
“I found the actual Altbier recipe from the Schumacher Brewer in one of my old books,” he said.
For the Kellerbier, he did a couple sample batches with input from Beda and Helga to arrive at the result that is every bit as good as the Kellerbiers from Bavaria.
In addition to using authentic recipes, both biers are made according to the Reinheitsgebot purity law, introduced in 1516 by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria. It requires that German biers contain only four ingredients: hops, barley, and water. Later, yeast was approved as an ingredient.
A small batch of the first custom biers will debut at BedaFest, an afternoon of family fun hosted by Beda’s Biergarten on August 19 at La Cuesta Ranch in San Luis Obispo.
Aaron will be helping pour and is happy to answer questions about these new styles he’s excited to be making.
“If people like them, we will make them for the restaurant,” said Beda.
What about future biers?
“I’m not going to brew a pilsner or a dopplebock or a lager,” said Beda. “Why would we try to compete with such great biers like König Pilsener or Weihenstephaner Doppelbock?
But they may consider a single Bockbier.
“If we do a Bockbier, it will go back to the original Einbock and be on the lighter side. Not a heavy, high octane bier, but a good strong, but light-tasting bier. I want to keep them drinkable.”
Another Helping of Hospitality
The decision to brew custom biers with Doc’s Cellar is just another way Beda and Helga continue to share their hospitality and warmth with their Beda’s Biergarten family of customers.
To that, we say danke schön! And prost!
Ready to sample the Beda Biers? Thirsty (or hungry) for more about Beda’s Biergarten and BedaFest? Here are a few more articles to explore:
More information and online tickets site for BedaFest 2018
BedaFest – Your Best Fest for Fun in San Luis Obispo
Beda’s Biergarten: SLO’s Home for Gemütlichkeit