In the Bavarian city of Augsburg, cafés and bars line cobblestone streets where German waiters serve up crisp, tall glasses of Riegele beer.
Americans no longer have to travel to another country to get a taste of an award-winning Riegele beer, after Springboro businessman David Klass started importing the brewery’s products. The Augsburg-based brewery consistently ranks top for prestigious brewing prizes in Germany, most recently winning the Bundesehrenpreis federal award of excellence last month.
“It’s one of the oldest breweries in the world,” Klass said. “It’s family-owned, very local. Every beer has its own yeast. It’s a really unique operation.”
Now, the brewery’s beers are served at Dayton establishments like Archer’s Tavern in Centerville and Mudlick Tap House, and even in other states too.
Klass, who is a self-described “wine guy,” said the beer piqued his interest when he visited Augsburg with the Dayton Sister City Committee. The committee bridges a partnership between Dayton and Augsburg, allowing city leaders, students and citizens from both places to gain a better understanding of each other’s cultures.
“David Klass is a great ambassador for the Dayton region to Germany,” said Chris Kershner, executive vice president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. “David has made strong business connections and personal connections that have helped strengthen the region’s ties to Germany.”
The partnership between Klass’ business LuXe Brands and Riegele adds another tie to an already intertwined relationship between the two cities, he said. He is the only U.S. importer of Riegele products.
Beer lovers shouldn’t expect to see Riegele on tap at bars across the United States — Klass has struck a golden deal with the brewery. Sebastian Priller-Riegele, beer sommelier and head of Riegele Brewery, told this news organization that their focus is always on quality and never mass expansion.
The brewery often turns down deals to export to different countries, China for example, because it isn’t the right fit. But other places, like the tiny island of Fiji, serve the beers in local restaurants.
“It’s insane,” Priller-Riegele said. “On this random island, people are drinking Riegele. But, life is too short to have a bad beer.”
The family-owned brewery sits in a central area of Augsburg, with kegs of beer stacked in the middle of a complex of buildings. There’s the Riegele WirtsHaus, a white and yellow restaurant with traditional Bavarian architecture where customers can dine for lunch or dinner at long, wooden tables, or just grab a drink at the bar. Next to the WirtsHaus, workers diligantly prepare speciality beers that are shipped all over Bavaria.
“What’s the secret to good beer? Passion, knowledge, education,” he said. “We always try to think, tomorrow we need to be a little bit better.”
Thirsty customers can also head to the outdoor biergarten at Riegele, which is open much of the year. There, they sip on different Riegele beers like the Commerzienrat Riegele Privat, the Augsburger Herren Pils, the Alte Weisse or the Hefe Weisse. The brewery also has vintage and special edition beers.
In Germany, Das Reinheitsgebot — the German Beer Purity Law, as referred to in English — is taken just as seriously as the country’s beer drinking culture itself. The regulations, which have been in place for more than 500 years, stipulate how beer can be brewed. Only water, hops and malt as ingredients can be included under the order.
Priller-Riegele and his father took a trip through the U.S., stopping at large and small breweries along the way — learning how the Americans innovate in brewing. While Riegele does its classic beers better than anyone in the business, he said their trip helped them gain a new perspective from the Americans.
“We learned the spirit of experimentation,” he said. “Americans, they’re trying crazy things. There are all types of beers, cucumber beers, fruit beers, and they all have these odd names — ‘Stinky Donkey Beer’ and so on.”
One of Riegele’s fastest growing products is somewhat surprising for a brewery: alcohol-free beer. The product, which they started dabbling in about a decade ago, has become a staple for German communities. While beer is engrained in society, working hard is even more important to the Germans.
“Germans live to work. Drinking a beer a lunch or at a business meeting isn’t so acceptable anymore,” Priller-Riegele said. “It’s for the people who like beer, but don’t like alcohol.”
Brewing alcohol-free beer took years of tinkering, but now the brewery even pours an alcohol-free IPA beer. Klass said he hasn’t imported any alcohol-free beer because there isn’t a niché for it in the U.S. market for now.
In the tree-covered biergarten at Riegele, customers drink large steins of beer while traditional German music plays softly through speakers. Thousands of miles away, bartenders in Ohio are serving pours of that same beer to thirsty Americans. The connecting effect is the same.
“Beer brings people together. Drinking a beer is an invite. It says: ‘Come take a chair. Join us,’” Priller-Riegele said. “It is liquid happiness.”
Reporter Kara Driscoll is reporting from Berlin, Germany during her Arthur F. Burns Fellowship. The fellows work for two months in a host media organization of their choice, learning about news operations in a foreign setting and, in effect, serving as foreign correspondents. Readers can expect to see stories in the next two months about German topics that have an impact on the Dayton region.
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