Themed Week Flexibility: Brewery giants shake up the craft beer market

Brewery giants shake up the craft beer market
© Mareike Hasenbeck

We’ve all heard of creative brands like Craftwerk Brewing, Ratsherrn, and Brauerei im Eiswerk, but what most beer connoisseurs don’t realize is that these are in fact another face of huge brewing corporations. The likes of Bitburger, Radeberger, and Paulaner demonstrate that they have the incredible flexibility to extend their domination to the specialty beer scene too.

In the wake of the success of the international craft beer movement, the traditional beer sector is building up its courage and we are starting to see more creativity and variety as a result. But it’s not just the smaller breweries that are boldly stepping out into the new world of beer and enriching the market with their weird and wonderful beer creations. The brewery giants we all know are jumping on the specialty beer bandwagon at an increasing pace along with some brave traditional breweries. Some of these companies, such as Becks and Köstritzer, are currently adding to their product range under their existing brands, while others are forming creative subsidiaries, so that their efforts to bring joy to the new craft scene don’t end up alienating their existing customer base.

Radeberger, Bitburger, and Paulaner–market repositioning with craft beer

Marc Rauschmann is one of the pioneers of the craft beer scene in Germany, having co-founded “Die Internationale Brau-Manufacturen GmbH,” or “Braufactum” for short, around seven years ago. A master brewer himself, Rauschmann had been developing his own unique specialty beers all along, although they hadn’t come to be that well known in Germany. If you do a bit of digging, you’ll find that the “Braufactum” brand is in fact a creative subsidiary of the Frankfurt-based Radeberger Group. Marc Rauschmann even managed to spark a whole new trend with the specialties he has created under the Group’s umbrella. Rather than just having his range stocked in special drinks stores, Rauschmann also had his beers put on display in dedicated fridges in supermarkets. His aim is to position beer on the same level as wine, which explains why the special Braufactum creations are also now available in selected wine shops.

Known for specializing in Pils, Bitburger, too, has its own modern sister brand that goes by the name of Craftwerk Brewing. Head master brewer Stefan Hanke works with his team to keep developing new specialties, which have already won a number of awards. Last year, the brewery released a sweet stout called “Dark Season,” which joined firm favorites in the range, including a single hop pale ale called “Tangerine Dream,” an American India pale ale called “Hop Head IPA⁷,” and a Belgian Tripel called “Holy Cowl.”

Even Munich-based brewery giant Paulaner has established a notable creative offshoot in the form of “Brauerei im Eiswerk.” A small team worked in an external microbrewery, taking ancient styles of beer, some of which had been long forgotten, and giving them a modern twist. The house special is Bock beers, which can have an alcohol content of up to 22 percent and come in bottles with special designs. Among them is a limited-edition, chestnut-brown “Eisbock” beer in a 250-ml bottle that has almost achieved cult status on the craft beer scene already.

Traditional German beer with an international twist

The Nordmann Group is also taking a flexible approach to new markets. In 2013, the brewery opened up its own creative subsidiary in Hamburg in the form of the “Ratsherrn” microbrewery, which is headed up by a former developer and master brewer of Boston-based Samuel Adams Brewery, one of the most renowned pioneers of craft beer in the US. Ian Pyle now pours his expertise into creating new styles of beer for Ratsherrn. Alongside its new take on the Pils, the team at Ratsherrn also brews India pale ales, Witbier wheat beers and porter ales. And practically every single one of their creations has already bagged some awards.

Over the past year, even Becks has stunned the craft beer community by launching four new premium drinks, including an amber lager, a Pils based on recipes from 1873, a pale ale modeled on the English tradition, and a red ale featuring a quota of freshly toasted barley. And recently Germany’s oldest black beer brewery, Köstritzer, has even been experimenting with the brewing kettle. They’ve boosted their existing range with an impressive Belgian Witbier, which boasts subtle citrus notes and has already managed to collect several awards, and much more.

Brauhaus Riegele, based in Augsburg and founded in 1368, is an exception among the traditional breweries, having hand-crafted more than 20 specialty beers now. Bayreuth is home to Brauerei Maisel, which, with its adventurous and experimental approach, is leading the pack when it comes to the innovative medium-sized candidates. Jeff Maisel founded the creative pillar “Maisel & Friends” almost three years ago now, enabling them to create unusual beers that are “in line with the pulse of the times” (according to Maisel himself). The busy pioneer sees the combination of old and new as an exciting opportunity for the future as far as all medium-sized companies within the brewery industry are concerned.

drinktec – the meeting point for traditional and creative breweries

This blending of the traditional and modern will also be on show at the upcoming drinktec event. In the place2beer beer section in Hall B1, creative breweries will be presenting their specialties and will be more than happy to explain why age-old styles of beer are being reinterpreted and given a modern twist. In addition, current and historical beer typologies are now important categories at the European Beer Star, one of the most renowned beer competitions in the world. The public tasting session at the awards, to be held on September 12, will offer every drinktec attendee the opportunity to test and rate top-quality beers from around the world.

place2beer supporters:

  • Barth Haas Group
  • Bayerische Brauerbund
  • Brewing, Food & Beverage Industry Suppliers Association (BFBi)
  • Deutscher Brauerbund
  • Gebo Cermex
  • KHS
  • Sahm GmbH
  • The Brewers of Europe
  • William Reed Business Media


Mareike Hasenbeck

Mareike Hasenbeck is a freelance journalist with her own craft beer blog (Feiner Hopfen), she is also a beer sommelier and an international expert for beer sensory certified by the DLG (German Agricultural Society).