What is the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage in the world? Beer!
In Germany, it’s quite popular to have a beer while sitting in the sun with friends in a park. I’ve done it many times. Coming from a country like Australia, the public drinking laws in Germany are amazing, as long as you don’t go crazy there should be no problems. For students, it’s perfect just to pick up a few beers and find somewhere in the sun to relax, talk and unwind. For tourists, the choice of beer is overwhelming, walking down the isles of the supermarket trying to choose a beer is one of the hardest choices of your day.
Germany has one of the best reputations for beer in the world, no matter where you go people will tell you about how good German beer is. For my friends from Germany who travel and ask the bar tender what local beer is good, they tend to get very similar answers to “none, but we do have [insert German beer]”. Germany has a law that regulates the brewing of beer throughout the country which means that no matter what German beer you get it will always have the same ingredients and won’t cost you an arm and a leg (looking at you London!).
The Reinheitsgebot, translated to ‘purity law’, first created in Munich, Bavaria, during 1487 to regulate the beer breweries and in 1516 it was pushed on the whole region of Bavaria to unify the state. This law regulated the ingredients (barley, hops and water), the price, placed a limit on the profits and enforced confiscation of impure beer. In 1906 the law was adopted across Germany as a whole creating a unified country until certain events occurred.
Types of beer.
Although the history has regulated beer it has also enabled many breweries to explore different methods of making beer. This has resulted in many different types of beer, some types brewed country-wide and others only brewed in specific places such as Kölsch.
Let’s have a look at the main different types of beer:
Kölsch — Only made in the region of Cologne and typically sold in small glasses, 200ml. Pale and light-bodied. Usually served in a Kranz where people will buy rounds for each other.
Berliner Weisse — Obvious from the name, this beverage originates from Berlin, usually served with a flavoured syrup (raspberry or woodruff) and and is the perfect summer drink.
Pilsener — Pale lager, one of the most popular brews of this wondrous beverage and my personal favourite. This one is drunk all year round, you can find plenty of different breweries making a pilsener from all over Germany.
Helles — Malty pale lager. Also, largely popular in Bavaria, widely popular until the 1960s when Pilsener type of beers begun taking over Germany.
Weizen — Essentially a white beer, although the name is translated to wheat beer. The typical Bavarian beer, picture the women wearing a Dirndl, traditional Bavarian clothing, carrying 10 Steins through a crowd.
Dark beer — can be anywhere from dark brown to pitch black, many different types such as Schwarzbier which has more of a chocolate flavour and Dunkel which is a dark lager to name a few.
Craft beer — These are becoming more popular around the world with their microbreweries starting up anywhere and everywhere. The craft beer scene has been expanding throughout the world and Germany is no exception, whilst mostly concentrated in Hamburg and Berlin, Braustil started this trend with a microbrewery in Frankfurt am Main brewing beers with strong aromas and locally sourced ingredients.
Mixed beer — Mixing beer with other soft drinks or juices is quite popular and can make a nice light, summer drink when a regular beer may be too heavy on your stomach. Typical mixes include Sprite (Alster), Fanta (Radler) or Cola (Diesel) mixed with a pilsener, Weizen mixed with banana juice or the ever popular Berliner Weisse which come with a variety of flavours.
Smoke beer — This is a special type of beer only brewed in Bamberg, Bavaria, known to the Germans as Rauchbier. It has an extremely distinctive smoky flavour due to the barley being dried over an open flame.
How to drink?
Beer can be consumed in many forms, 200ml glasses with Kölsch in Cologne to massive steins at Oktoberfest in Munich. A quick guide to help you understand what type of glass is needed for your beer. Bowl shaped glasses are used for Berliner Weisse, Weizen is typically served in a tall glass, lager in a beer glass, short glasses for dark beer, Kölsch in small narrow glasses, Bavarian half litre stein is similar to the lager beer glass and the rounded glasses are for Pilsener.
Proper German beer goes with a proper German meal. We can spend all our time talking about German beer and the culture around it but we will always end up talking about food eventually. Germans tend to drink a beer with a big lunch usually consisting of meat, potatoes, cheese and vegetables of many varieties. My personal favourite is some type of Wurst (sausage), Sauerkraut and mashed potatoes — similar to the picture above.
Where to drink?
Anywhere, literally, ANYWHERE! Germany is one lucky country with very relaxed drinking laws it’s simple to enjoy a nice cold beer whenever you feel the need to do so. Corner pubs are popular with the older generations whilst drinking a beer at home or in the park with friends is much more common with the younger generations, not to mention it’s usually cheaper to buy beer from the supermarket. Keep in mind the drinking age is 16 in Germany. At the time of writing most beers you find in German supermarkets cost up to €1 for the bottle and don’t forget you can return the bottles to get your Pfand back or leave the empty ones next to the rubbish bins as a way to donate to the homeless.
Now you know the differences between the types of German beers and the type of glasses you should be drinking them from it’s time to head out into the world to taste all of those wonderful German beers. Let me know your experiences, favourite types of beers or any beer related stories you have in the comment section below.