The World of German Beer
The biggest cliche about German beer is that you can have any type of beer you like in Germany as long as it’s lager. This is far from the truth. There may not quite be the 1800 varieties of beer that there are of sausage, but there is plenty of choice when it comes to the frothy stuff. Everything from a malty Helles light beer to a Dunkles dark beer, or a Doppelbock stong beer or Märzen seasonal beer. What they all have in common is tradition and excellence.
German-style beer is probably more celebrated than German cuisine. The fundamental categories of German beer are “light” and “dark.” Craft beer is not as big in Germany as in other countries (although that is changing), but traditional beer styles have enough variety to satisfy any connoisseur of German-inspired brewing culture.
The classic German beer in the eyes of the world is the bottom-fermented Helles light beer. This is the universally loved crisp, clear amber beer that is the global icon of German beer.
But there is more to Germany’s world-renowned beer culture, with a wide variety of styles and flavors that appeal to beer enthusiasts of all kinds. German beer is a product of centuries of brewing tradition, with each region of the country producing its own unique style. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular varieties of German beer.
German beer is typically brewed in accordance with the “Reinheitsgebot”, the famous beer purity law first enacted in Bavaria in 1516. This stipulates that beer can only be brewed from essential ingredients: water, barley (or wheat), and hops (yeast was later added when its role in the brewing process was discovered). This law has helped to preserve the high quality of German beer, which is known for its purity, consistency, and full flavor. The purity law applies equally to all beer brands: Bock beers, summer beer, dark lager (a Munich speciality), top-fermented or bottom-fermented beer.
One of the most popular styles of German beer is Helles, a type of lager that originated in Munich. Helles is characterized by its golden color, malty sweetness, and light body. It is a refreshing beer that is perfect for warm summer days, and is therefore the classic beer of our famous Bavarian beer gardens. Helles is made using a combination of Pilsner and Munich malts, which gives it a balanced flavor that is neither too bitter nor too sweet.
Another popular German beer is Hefeweizen, a top fermented wheat beer that is brewed using a larger proportion of wheat than the usual malted barley. Wheat beer is classified as an ale, and is immediately recognisable by its cloudy appearance and its characteristic flavors of banana and clove, which are produced by the yeast used in the brewing process. Hefeweizen is a refreshing beer that is perfect for warm summer days. While also a popular choice in beer gardens throughout Germany, it is very much associated with Munich and Bavaria.
There are many different types of wheat beer, including Hefeweizen, Weizenbock, and Kristallweizen. Weizenbock is a stronger version of Hefeweizen that is brewed using a higher concentration of malt, while Kristallweizen is a clear version of Hefeweizen that is filtered to remove the yeast.
Schwarzbier, or black beer, is another popular German beer style that is characterized by its dark color and malty flavor. Schwarzbier is brewed using dark malts, which give it a roasted, slightly bitter flavor that is reminiscent of coffee. Despite its dark appearance, Schwarzbier is a relatively light beer that is easy to drink. It is a popular choice during the colder months of the year, when its malty warmth is especially appreciated.
A variety of Schwarzbier is Rauchbier – a “smoky beer” the distinctive flavour of which is achieved by drying the malted barley over an open flame. For the most famous regional variety of this, travel a few hours from Munich to the beautiful old Bavarian town of Bamberg. This is the home of Rauchbier, which has been stored underground in the cities catacombs for centuries. Bamberg’s Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier is legendary, one of the most celebrated German beer brands among afficionados.
Malty flavors are a common feature of many German beer styles, and are often produced by the use of Munich or Vienna malts. These malts give the beer a sweet, caramel-like flavor that is balanced by the bitterness of the hops. Some German beer styles, such as Bock and Doppelbock, are known for their especially malty flavor.
Doppelbock is a strong, dark beer that is brewed using a high concentration of malt, which gives it a rich, full-bodied flavor. It is often served in small glasses, as its high alcohol content makes it a potent brew. The traditional time for srinking high alcohol content strong beer is Lent, the season of fasting before Easter, when Munich’s old traditional beer halls have their annual “strong beer festivals.” The most famous Starkbierfest is in the huge Paulaner am Nockherberg.
In additional to beer types, Munich is famed for its beer brands. We are the home of the seven centuries old Augustiner-Bräu, of Hacker-Pschorr, of Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu and Spaten Oktoberfest beer.
In conclusion, German beer is a diverse and complex beverage that is beloved by beer enthusiasts around the world. Whether you prefer a light, refreshing Helles or a rich, malty Doppelbock, there are Bavarian-style beer types to suit every taste. From the cloudy goodness of Hefeweizen to the dark roastiness of Schwarzbier, German beer is a testament to centuries of brewing tradition and expertise. And nowhere in Germany can the full variety of traditional beer be experienced in all its glory than in Munich.