Some people might say what a waste it is for ME (someone who does not drink beer at all) to live in Germany, and especially in Bavaria. If there weren’t so many other incredible reasons to love Germany, I might have to agree. They do love their beer; they are famous for brewing it, drinking it and celebrating it!
While living in Germany from 2008-2012, my husband said we can’t live here without doing Oktoberfest at least once! We went, but for someone who doesn’t drink beer, going to Oktoberfest is kind of like someone who doesn’t like coffee hanging out at Starbucks for a full day! But I agree it’s an experience everyone who lives in Germany should do at least once, and although beer is not my thing, just like all the other things the Germans are really good at, I’m astounded by their ingenuity and commitment to excellence.
THE TEN BEST? REALLY?
I see YouTube videos and social media posts touting “the ten best German beers”. How can anyone possibly identify just ten of “the best” in a country that has more than 7,000 varieties brewed at more than 1300 breweries (one 5th of which are located in Bavaria)?
In Bavaria, beer is actually categorized as “a food”! And there’s hardly any place in Germany that doesn’t sell beer! Seriously, the ice cream shops serve beer, which explains why there’s a long line in front of all the ice cream shops. I always wondered how there can be that many people seeking ice cream at 10:30 or 11:00 AM. But then I noticed as many people at those shops are drinking wine, not eating ice cream! And of course, there are some that are doing both at 10:30 AM! However, I’m pretty sure it’s most often consumed with lunch/dinner, or in bars, often paired with another German tradition, salted pretzels.
The Germans are known to the whole world as a true beer-loving nation, but they aren’t just good at drinking it (largest beer consuming country according to 2020 statistics) they are also well recognized for their brewing of it. They are about as serious about brewing beer as they are about football (soccer to Americans).
Germany took the science of brewing so seriously that it resulted in what was perhaps Europe’s first food purity law, passed by Duke William IV of Bavaria in 1516, and is still enforced today. The law states that only barley, malt, hops and water are allowed in the beer-making process!
Why is beer so important in German culture? Is it based on history or habit, climate or culinary preference, quality or quantity — or all of the above?
(Resource: GermanFoods.org) The Germans did not invent beer. 13,000 years ago, even before the agricultural revolution, some folks in the Middle East discovered that roasted grain soaked in water made a fine-tasting, nourishing, slightly alcoholic drink. Recent archeological excavations in the area of Haifa, Israel, discovered the remnants of an ancient brewery. Eventually, slightly alcoholic, ‘liquid bread’ became a staple drink in nearly all cultures around the globe.
German monasteries have been producing beer for mass consumption since around the end of the first millennium, the year 1000. The beer-producing monasteries were predominantly located in Southern Germany, and some of them are still around today, such as Kloster Andechs, St. Gallen, Weihenstephan, or Weltenburg. Drinking beer back then was safer than drinking water. Beer was regarded as safe, nutritious and caloric, even good for small children (and it kept them quiet, too). Beer became increasingly popular in Germany, especially after the enactment of the Beer Purity Law.
The 19th century witnessed a beer revolution in German-speaking nations, from the creation of Pilsner to the introductions of Bock and Export beers. German emigrant brewers created beer empires in the Unites States, China, Japan Mexico and Africa. Until the 1980s, Germany had by far the greatest number of breweries in the world.
Germany has set global standards for distinct types of beers. Although limited by the Purity Law’s three main ingredients, they differ profoundly in flavor, aroma, body, and froth. Following is a list and the origins of the major beer styles.
Pilsner – from Pilsen in the Austrian-German region of Bohemia (today’s Czech Republic)*
Helles or Dunkles Lager – from in Dortmund and Munich
Export Lager – from Dortmund and Munich, but big in Bremen
Koelsch and Alt – the local heroes of Cologne (Köln) and Düsseldorf on the Rhine
Weißbier (Wheat Beer) – a Southern German favorite, malted wit barley and wheat
Berliner Weisse – a Weißbier from Berlin
Schwarzbier – originated in the Eastern German states of Thuringia and Saxony
Starkbier/Bockbier – originally created in Einbeck, near Hannover, but popularized in Bavaria
Märzen/Oktoberfest Beer – a Helles Lager beer with a bit more alcohol, originally from Bavaria
Gose – A flavored wheat beer from Goslar, popular in Saxony
Naturtrübe Biere – unfiltered, unpasteurized specialty beers with lots of nutrients from Northern Bavaria
Rauchbier – Barley malt smoke over beechwood, a specialty from Bamberg in Bavaria
* And even though Pilsner originated in Czech Republic and is name after a town in the country, it is the most popular type of beer in Germany.
Of all the types of alcohol, beer is by far the most popular. One of the reasons for that is you can consume a lot more beer than other harder alcohol before getting drunk, and it’s said to be cheaper than a bottle of water in many parts of Germany!
Check out this list of Top 50 MOST POPULAR GERMAN BEVERAGES; some might surprise you!
Fortunately for me, Germany is also known for its’ magnificent Wines/ Glühweins, Jagermeister, Dooleys, Rüdesheimer Kaffee and Schnapps! Check out this list of Top 50 MOST POPULAR GERMAN BEVERAGES; some might surprise you (I never knew Jägerbombs originated in Germany with coffee rather than Red Bull!) I think I’m going to have to look for that XUXU stuff! Sounds yummy! And the Jagertee sounds like a great alternative to Glühweins during the winter! BTW, there’s also no need to wait till 5 o’clock to enjoy a good German wine or Rudesheimer Kaffee!!
We once took the train from Landstuhl to the Neustadt Wine Festival, boarding around 8 AM. We were so surprised to see the train car filled with German women who had full glasses of wine and several empty bottles already! They were getting a head start and having so much fun!
You aren’t likely to hear the term “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere” in Germany (or probably anywhere in Europe) like you do in the U.S.
Another attribute of the German culture is drinking close to home, walking, biking, and taking the train when attending Oktoberfest or other wine/beer fests. That's why there are beer pubs in EVERY community regardless of how small it is. Drinking and driving is not "a German thing"!