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A cellar full of possibilities

The first time I saw him was at a regional craft beer festival, where he was showcasing his Hartl Bräu in company with numerous small and larger breweries. Helpless and unable to decide, I was standing in front of his selection together with a friend, until Volker Hartl took pity on us. He recommended us to try his “Mandarina Pale Ale”– and I was persuaded. My co-tester proved to be advice-resistant and ordered a smoky wheat beer – also a wise decision, as it turned out. So I became curious to know more about this brewer from Hainsacker near Regensburg. And now our paths have crossed again, since as the proprietor of a highly successful microbrewery Volker Hartl has quite a tale to tell.

Volker Hartl, what is it about brewing that fascinates you so much?

Thanks to the many different types of malt and hops available, I am able to unlock my creativity and produce beers in a huge range of different flavours. Whether it’s malty, hoppy, fruity, tangy, smoky, balanced – there’s no limit to the possibilities.

What’s more, it’s simply enjoyable creating something by yourself, knowing for sure exactly what the end-product contains.

Where do you get your raw materials from? And how important is that for you?

I buy almost all my hops from the surrounding region or from Hallertau, some of my malt from Regensburg County and above all from Bamberg.

I attach great importance to knowing where I’m getting my hops and my malt from. This is essential if I am to offer my customers my beers with a clear conscience.

 Did you teach yourself the art of brewing by trial and error? Or did you have a mentor?

I taught myself brewing by reading the appropriate books, participating in internet forums and by making numerous trial brews. I started brewing beer as a hobby in about 2003. At that point, I was an active member of Regensburg’s mediaeval re-enactment group Evocatio Ratisbonensis, which has dedicated itself to recreating bourgeois life as it was c. 1470. My remit in the group included recreating a mediaeval brewery – this is also where I got Brewer Herttel from, who appears on the label.

I started off with a 10-litre pot in the kitchen. I then progressed to a modified automatic preserving vessel all the way to a wood-fired 100-litre laundry tub – quite similar to the one shown in the historical picture.

But to enable me to register my business officially, it was now necessary to buy a brewing system made of stainless steel.

To whom have you been selling most of your beers so far? Do you also notice the enthusiasm for craft beer that we’re seeing in the USA?

As I’ve only been brewing as a small business since the beginning of this year, I don’t have a large customer base yet. Sales are so far restricted almost entirely to beer-lovers from the surrounding region. But I’ve also had orders for my beer from the north of Germany.

My Hartl Bräu page on Facebook has fans from all over Germany, all the way to Denmark. I’m still waiting for inquiries from far-off continents …. 🙂

Do you brew your beers at home, or have you meanwhile got too big for that?

My brewing equipment is accommodated in the cellar of my house. Unfortunately, I’ve come up against the limit of my capacity; there’s no space down there to expand any further.

I do all the brewing myself. My wife helps me out with labelling and all the bureaucratic stuff.

What goal have you set yourself for your brewery? Do you want to get any bigger?

At the moment, I’m totally satisfied with this small brewery.

I’m not in the brewing trade to maximise my profits. My goal is to make fine-tasting beers in a diversity of attractive flavours from top-quality ingredients.

I would only consider expansion with a business partner who shares my enthusiasm and my ideas.

And what’s your own favourite beer?

I don’t really have a particular favourite. I enjoy trying new craft beer varieties that have just been launched.

When I’m on holiday, what I really like is trying the beers from the local breweries.

Of my own beers, my current favourites are the Export and the Mandarina Pale Ale. But I repeatedly try to brew new beers, and to always improve on last time.

Is it still exciting for you to taste the first beer of a brew? Or are you already quite blasé about it?

Since I try out new beers very often, it’s still exciting, of course, to taste the first beer of a brew.

When it comes to my “standard beers”, though, that isn’t quite as exciting any more.

Is there a beer you haven’t yet ventured to make, but would definitely like to try some time?

Since I also possess some beehives, I intend to try out a honey beer some time. This, I expect, will taste a bit unusual. I’m really looking forward to that!

Anyone who’s interested and would like to try a Hartl Bräu beer is recommended to take a look at the Facebook page, which always also lists the beer varieties currently on offer – from classic beer types like wheat beer, Märzen, dark beer or bock to exotic craft beer varieties. The brewery doesn’t have its own website yet, but Volker Hartl can be reached by email: hartl.braeu@web.de

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