Day 28 and our next candidate has a storied but checkered history which reflects on the quality of the beer I tried. The Warsteiner Brewery is a family business that has been in the hands of the Cramer family since its founding in 1753. Based in Warstein in the Soest district in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the brewery follows the path of the Köthener Brewery (which brews the Sachsen Krone Pils), where the business was started in the old town before moving to the outskirts of town in 1972. The brewery took advantage of the railroad, which made exporting the beer to faraway places easier. It arrived in 1884 and served as a connecting line between Cologne and Kassel. Despite its location in a rural setting with barley fields, the production of pilsener beers did not start until 1928, making the beer one of the youngest of its kind in Germany. In addition, the brewery produces herbal flavored pilsener, radler, three sorts of fruit concoctions and a winter beer for the German market. Worldwide, Warsteiner exports beer to 60 countries.
Despite all this, Warsteiner has suffered gravely due to scandals affecting the brewery. Two major ones include reports on its affiliation with a scientology cult in 1994, where Warsteiner denied through newsstories and interviews that year and again in 1997. In the second major scandal in 2013/14, bacteria was found in the groundwater and river, resulting in 165 people being hospitalized for pneumonia and three of them dying from it. The source of the bacteria was the water filtering facility at the brewery, and Warsteiner was forced to pay millions of Euros in damages and modernize the facility, its canals and water system within the brewery complex. With that plus legal action by the antitrust commission for price fixing, its image has not presented a good light to the beer drinkers, especially despite the brewery’s attempts of cleaning it up with their marketing campaigns.
But what about the beer? And in particular, the pilsener that I tried on this day? Have the scandals damaged the quality of the beer? Maybe. But one thing is for sure, the image and the final product go together like bread and butter. If the image is bad, chances are, the product is not good either.
And this is how I look at the beer at the moment. While the beer’s appearance is typical and lively- a clear amber-colored color with a persistent head, high excess of carbination and a fair body, the flavor and aroma of the beer were relatively weak. In particular, the aroma of bread malt and earth hops was really faint, thus making it difficult to determine how nice or off it really was. As far as the flavor is concerned, it was a bit too bitter for the taste, for while grain and bread malts as well as herbal hops were noticed, the balance shifted way too much to the bitter end, creating the impression that the taste is off. When drinking it for the first time, it seemed to be too chalky and astringent. However as one progresses, the taste gets better. It is what Germans call it “Gewöhnungsbedürftig.” Yet overall, the quality of the pilsener definitely needs work, especially in light of the problems with the watering system the brewery has faced since the bacteria was found in the groundwater in 2013.
Grade: 3,3/ C- There are many reasons why Warsteiner has lost large numbers of beer-drinking fans since the scientology scandal came to light in 1994, yet the aforementioned scandals should serve as a chance to improve the quality of the beer products- in particular, this pilsener. While the brewery has been improving its image through its own marketing, it should do the same with the beer, even as they modernize and improve the watering system at the facility. Should they be successful and if there is another test in 5-10 years time, chances are likely that the ratings will improve and Warsteiner will compete with the likes of Wicküler, Ur-krostitzer and Jever, just to name a few. But until this happens, there is a lot of work to do. Remember, if the product improves, the image will improve. 🙂