The beer of the Ruhr area
In spite of regressive figures beer is still the beverage of first choice in the Ruhr area. The town Dortmund was a beer metropolis of Europe. Today it is mostly a location for information, technology and logistics. Only one of the numerous breweries still exists today. However, the reputation as the beer town has stayed.
Heinz Zühlke was a barkeeper in Herne for more than 50 years and lives behind his bar, today. After his last sudden feeling of faintness his doctor reminded him that he ought to drink more. His answer was typical for the generation of miners in the Ruhr area: “What? I’m drinking half a crate minimum a day”, “Yes, Mr. Zühlke, but I am taking about water”, said the despaired doctor. Heinz did not know the difference between water and beer until then. “You are drinking Export (editor’s note: a type of beer) and nothing else in the Ruhr area” is his credo. Zühlke is not an individual case.
The German national beverage
And beer is a part of it. 1266 was its first documented reference in the chronicles of Dortmund. Today beer is still an important economical sector of the town. The beer metropolis number one got more popular worldwide through the Dortmunder Export, its own beer, than through coal and steel. In the year 1968, 57 per cent of the Germans drank Export beer. It was less dry than Pils, which just reached 19 per cent, and longer storable.
The beer culture in the Ruhr area is of course not only limited to the beer town. Here in Essen the Stern-Brauerei from 1872 is considered to be iconic, even after it closing in 1989. It belongs to the Funke family und took over small breweries in the 40ies in order to expand. Among them was also the steam beer brewery “Krone-Brauerei” in Essen-Borbeck. Today this is a part of the Route of Industrial Culture. The brand name “Stern” has been preserved in the range of products for the Private Brewery Jacob Stauer in Altenessen (editor’s note: a district of Essen).
Also Bochum was and still is a brewery town. The Brewery Schlegel existed 130 years until it was demolished. Their equipment is now supporting the DAB (editor’s note: Dortmunder Actien Brauerei). The Private Brewery Moritz Fiege still exists today and is now well known in Germany and abroad. The brewery is a popular destination for tourist’s day trips. Not to forget to mention is, of course, the König Brauerei in Duisburg, which belongs to the Bitburger-Group nowadays.
Breweries disappearing and increasing of micro breweries
The small micro breweries are left behind due to new technologies. The big refrigeration systems were simply too expensive. And so the number of breweries in Dortmund shrunk from 74 to 28. In spite of this Dortmund took a leading position of the beer production in Europe in 1972 with 7.46 million hectoliter. In the 80ies the mine closings led to a high number of job cuttings. The miners who drank their after work beer at the kiosk became fewer since the people had simply no money. The 34 types of beer in Dortmund had been produced by only two breweries and only one – DAB – is still existing. The other breweries in the surrounding area had the same problem, Dortmund served only as an example. Heinz Zühlke does not understand the world anymore.
Today the trend is – thankfully – towards the small micro breweries, again. Technology and electronics are so far advanced that continuous brewing is also possible with smaller systems. Especially in an area which is famous for its beer culture. In the end we are proud that we took part in establishing this trend. And Heinz is jealous that this was not his own idea.