Germany’s most popular beers
Pilsner or wheat? Germany is seen as the country of good beer. Here are the regional specialities.
By far the most popular type of beer in Germany is pilsner, generally known as ‘Pils’. The light-golden beer with the dry hoppy aroma is very popular in the North, West and East. The name goes back to the Czech town of Pilsen. The quality of the beer there was so bad in the mid-19th century that a group of “citizens with brewing rights” decided to build a brewery in the town. They appointed Josef Groll from Bavaria as master brewer. He arrived in Pilsen with a new recipe for bottom-fermented beer which his father had developed. In this brewing method slow alcoholic fermentation takes place as the yeast cells collect at the bottom of the fermenting liquid. Originally, top fermenting yeast was used, where the yeast settled near the surface. Pilsner is typically served in a classic glass, the stemmed ‘beer tulip’.
The summer hit is wheat beer
Wheat beer, also known as white beer, has gradually made its way up from the south to the north of Germany. It is seen as the most Bavarian of all beers, and enjoys a long history. Wheat beer was already popular in Bavaria in earlier centuries, but things changed suddenly when the ruling dynasty prohibited beer brewing there in 1567. The reasons were very flimsy: it was supposedly a “useless beverage” that “only animated people to drink”. But the real reason was that the valuable wheat should not be used for brewing beer. Later, the Bavarian electoral princes created a very profitable source of income for themselves by granting special brewing rights. Nowadays, every brewery can produce wheat beer. Thanks to its full fruity flavour and relatively high carbon dioxide content it is especially popular in the summer months. It is served in a tall, gently curved glass. Pouring wheat beer is an art in itself.
In the south of Germany, especially in Bavaria, lager – or export beer is still very widespread. It is known as “Bavarian light beer”. It contains less hops, tastes slightly sweet, and is filtered clear. That is why it is called “light”.
The Rhineland has two beer specialities to offer: Kölsch from Cologne and Alt from Düsseldorf. According to the “Kölsch Convention” of 1986, only 24 breweries from Cologne and the immediately surrounding area are allowed to brew Kölsch. Alt beer is brewed and drunk mainly in Düsseldorf. The name refers to the old traditional brewing method which uses the top fermenting type of yeast. The dry-tasting, amber coloured beer is very delicious.
In Berlin Berliner Weisse is coming back into fashion again. This zesty, slightly tangy speciality dates back to the 16th century. It is served with raspberry or woodruff syrup and drunk through a straw.
Beer fans definitely need to try the individual creations of the young German Craft Beer Breweries.
Craft beer made in Germany
Craft beer is the talk of the town these days. In Germany, more and more innovative brewers are producing outstanding non-mainstream beers.
It gives off a delicious aroma of chocolate and fruits of the forest, and with an alcohol content of 7.5 percent is so strong that even men are more than happy to indulge in this supposed “women’s beer” – and this despite the fact that it is served in wine glasses and comes in rather glamorous bottles adorned with pink labels. At the end of the day, a good beer is a good beer. Indeed, what the four young female master brewers from Upper Franconia have brought out as a winter edition of their “Holladiebierfee” (a beer targeted specifically at women) is even more than just a good beer: it is an excellent example of a trend that has now also taken root in Germany – craft beer.
Craft beer is brewed in small quantities and is anything but run of the mill – based on recipes that are sometimes old but always special, traditional brewing techniques are used and the beers are generally produced in independent breweries. More than 90 percent of the 1,339 breweries in Germany are independent, giving rise to a huge diversity of beers. This is because it is precisely small, regional producers which do not have to take the tastes of the masses into account and can afford to give free rein to their creativity. Like the Riedenburger brewery in Germany’s Altmühl Valley, for instance, which switched to organic brewing back in 1994 and enriches the beer world with speciality beers made from einkorn, emmer and spelt. Since 2013, the brewery has also produced “Dolden Sud”, an organic India Pale Ale – a hip variety of IPA that is very much on the up.
It’s not only in the south of Germany and in rural regions that craft beer is gaining in popularity, however – unique beers are being brewed with a vengeance in the country’s major cities, too. Berlin in particular is increasingly establishing itself as the capital of the German craft beer movement – it is home for example to the Vagabund brewery founded by three American teachers in the city’s Wedding district, and to Johannes Heidenpeter, an artist who brews and serves his beer in the basement of Kreuzberg’s “Markthalle Neun”. His customers’ favourite is “Thirsty Lady”, a fruity, blond and light beer.
This is another special feature of the new beers – they have character and a taste of home. What is more, they offer something one would not have thought down-to-earth German beer capable of: glamour, eccentricity and the heady aroma of rebellion.