Yes, I am back in Houston, Texas from my three month stay in Cologne Germany. I loved my time in Germany and I made a lot of great and wonderful friends, but I am also glad to be back home. Now that I am back I'd like to take a post to write about my thoughts on my stay. Be patient as this will be a bit of a stream of consciousness effort.
My overall assessment is that I continue to be amazed by the variety of beers that German Brewers put forth, from the unique Rauchbier, to Black Lager, and finally the home town Kolsch. All very different beers, but all uniquely German. One of the things that I love about German and to an extent all most of Europe is the regional brews. Cologne of course has Kolsch, Dussledorf has altbier, Bavaria has their bock's, and weizen's, Easter Germany has their bohemian style pilsners. I love that about Germany as each region puts their soul into their regional beer, as its the closest I have seen of beer making matching the terrior that oenophiles talk up so much about in wine. Whereas here in the States no one region has a beer to call their own. The closes is what some have called California Pale Ale's after the style of Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale, but that really isn't' the same as what occurs in Germany.
One last comment on German beers in regards to Hefeweizens. I have not always been a fan of this style in the states, but the ones that I was able to drink in Germany were absolutely amazing, full of banana and cloves. I couldn't figure out why the German versions in the states weren't as good until one day I was talking to one of my German friends. The hefeweizens that are imported into the states are all pasteurized. The thermal treatment of these beers kills some of the flavor profile thereby creating (in my mind) a blander beer. All this means is that I will have to start looking for American versions that aren't baked to dullness.
During my stay I also had the opportunity to become more familiar with Belgium Beers. In this day and age of globalization its difficult to find beers that you can't get over here in the states, but I did my best and think I succeeded.
All in all this was an amazing opportunity for me, both professionally and personally and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of beer experiences.