Explore the world of German beer...

German Beer – a long history of a traditional beverage of Germany!

A horse cart of the German Oktoberfest in München, Bavaria.

Germany has a long history of beer. The Oktoberfest of Munich, Bavaria, is very famous throughout the entire world. But Germany has more beer culture to offer…

Beer has a very long tradition in Germany, where documents confirm the brewing of beer in the Donau region right back to the year 766. In the meantime, this beverage had many centuries to evolve, resulting in a huge amount of beer types with their very own special brewing methods in present. In the Middle Ages; beer brewing in Germany was almost entirely linked to monasteries, where monks bypassed the prohibition of food during the fasten time by drinking nutritious and well-tasting beer. There is a saying in Germany, stating that beer is “bread in liquid form” / “Flüssigbrot”. This particular saying may be one of the reasons why many people in Germany assume that beer is a fattener and thus unhealthy. It doesn’t have to be!

The German Purity Law of 1516: quality issues for German beer… Or was it Bavarian?!

Thinking of German beer, many of you will probably instantly think of the German Purity Law which was established many centuries ago in 1516. This law was more or less the first law in history, ensuring quality to the consumers and forbidding the addition of poor quality ingredients. The German Purity Law of 1516 is referred to in Germany as the Deutsches Reinheitsgebot von 1516. But, it was actually developed and enforced in Bavaria. It stated that beer shall only contain hops, barley and water. Eventually, the Bavarian Purity Law became the German Purity Law and many breweries in Germany were happy to use this law as a marketing tool to promote their beer brands internationally. Additional ingredients, such as yeast, were now also open for use. So is every German beer brewed according to the Deutsches Reinheitsgebot von 1516? Well, no!

The wide range of German beer types…

Although Germany is not the top ranking beer exporting country in the world – in fact, China holds the first position – hardly any country has so many different beer types and beer brands to offer as Germany. Surely, the history of German particularism also contributed to the huge variety of beer, like local features in different parts of Germany, which became a national state not until 1870/71. In general, the most important German beer types are:

Four German Beers

Many good German beers are brewed in other regions, not only Bavaria. Veltins is from North Rhine-Westfalia, Hansa and Flensburger from Northern Germany, while Rothaus Pils Tannenzäpfle is brewed in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald).

 

There are two main categories for beers which depend on the brewing procedure. There is “untergäriges Brauen” and “obergäriges Brauen”. Translated this means that (not only) German beers are either brewed bottom-fermented with bottom yeast, or top-fermented with top yeast. In addition to the above mentioned beer types, regardless of the brewing process, there are many more special beer types in Germany which often do not comply with the German Reinheitsgebot, respectively the Bayerisches Reinheitsgebot. That does not matter at all, as they do not essentially taste less good than beer brewed in accordance with these limitations. However, special beer types are usually not that well-known and are mostly only available in particular regions of Germany or smaller breweries.

German beer: the German law defines different beer categories.

The history of beer has always been linked to regional laws and politics. Beer was an important product not only in Germany and it still is today. Consequently, there were even beer riots in Munich during the late 19th century when the beer price was increased slightly. And do not forget that beer has always been a decent income source for every tax system, just like any alcoholic beverage! The beer categories in Germany are:

  • Einfachbier (original wort: 1.5% – 6.9%)
  • Schankbier (original wort: 7.0% – 10%)
  • Vollbier (original wort: 11.0 – 15.9%)
  • Starkbier (original wort: 16% and more)

 

When regarding the values above, please consider that the percentage of original wort directly influences the resulting alcohol content of the beer after the brewing process has been completed. Usually, an original wort of 2% – 2.5% (2 – 2.5 grams of sugar in 100 grams of original wort) will result in alcohol of 1% contained within the ready-to-drink beer. That is quite some alcohol to cope with, when looking at the original wort of a Starkbier! Until 1993, German laws forbid brewing beer with original worts in between those in the list. However, the so called Lückenbier is now allowed to be brewed in Germany. This is another example that laws are not always compatible with common sense. At least, tax jurisdiction proved to be more sensible from 1993 on, thus enlarging the variety of German beers.

German beer is continuously evolving with an increase in beer variety!

In Cologne you will many find a beer called Kölsch. It is top-fermented and is served in small beer glasses of 0.2l capacity. The waiter is normally called "Köbes" and likes to joke around with his guests. He wouldn't understand, if you were to order a Bavarian wheatbeer...

In Cologne you will many find a beer called Kolsch. It is top-fermented and is served in small beer glasses of 0.2l capacity. The waiter is normally called “Köbes” and likes to joke around with his guests. He wouldn’t understand at all if you were to order a Bavarian wheatbeer…

German breweries are always interested in finding new brewery products which satisfy the taste of an internationally increasing beer market. Many consumers have higher demands and expectations regarding beer – and this of course has effects on German beer developments, too. The subsequent list just names a few new innovations with respect to German beer and other German beverage products:

  • Non alcoholic beer (i.e. alcohol free Wheat Beer / Weizenbier)
  • Gluten free beer (i.e. Neumarkter Lammsbräu)
  • Revival of old beers (i.e. Gose Beer from Goslar respectively Leipzig)
  • Mixed-drinks (i.e. beer mix drinks, Biermischgetränke to cover the bitter taste of beer)

 

As you can see, German beer has a long tradition and many tastes to provide. It is certainly not outdated and German breweries are constantly working on new beer products to match the taste of their (potential) consumers. Take a trip to the world of German beer with German-Beers.com and learn more about this great beverage. We are sure you will find your new favorite beer among one of the 5.000 to 6.000 German beer brands. Especially when keeping in mind that great German beers are not necessarily brewed in the federal state of Bavaria / Bayern. Take a swig of German beer and enjoy!