Beer in Germany is not just a national drink. This is something more – philosophy, lifestyle, state of mind. German beer is considered the very standard to which all producers of beer should strive. No wonder that in Germany they have been producing malty drinks for a very long time. It is quite difficult to understand the types and varieties of German beer — there are so many types that even a native German can’t memorize them all. Let’s try to figure it out.
10 best German beers to drink in 2021
1. Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier / Wheat Ale /5.4% ABV / 16.9oz bottle: from $3.99, drizly.com
2. Erdinger Kristall Wheat Beer / Kristallweizen /5.3% ABV 16.9oz bottle: from $3.49, bottlerover.com
3. Spaten Oktoberfest / Marzen / Oktoberfest /5.9% ABV / 12.0oz bottle: from $2.29,
4. Aecht Schlenkeria Rauchbier / Smoked Beer / Rauchbier /5.5% ABV / 16.9oz bottle: from $6.49, instacart.com
5. Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock / Doppelbock /7.9% ABV / 12.0oz bottle: from $2.49, drizly.com
6. Schneider Weiss Tap 6 Aventinus / Weizenbock /8% ABV/ 16.9oz bottle: from $4.49, totalwine.com
7. Mahrs Hell / Helles Lager /4.9% ABV /16.9oz bottle: from $3.19, davidsonsliquors.com
8. Gaffel Kolsch / Ale /4.8% ABV / 6 pack: from $13.99, drizly.com
9. Ayinger Brau-Weisse / Wheat Ale /5.1% ABV / 12.0oz bottle: from $3.39, townwine.com
10. Radeberger Pilsner/ Pilsner /4.8% ABV / 6 pack: from $10.99, drizly.com
Features of German beer
According to some sources, the history of malty alcohol in Germany begins in the 8th century. It was then that the first mention of beer brewed in Bavaria was discovered. However, many historians believe that the technology was mastered much earlier.
It is believed that German beer is an “invention” of monks from numerous abbeys in Germany. They came up with the famous beer formula, which to this day underlies even large-scale production – malt + hops + water. Later, not only monks began to brew beer. The popularity of the drink grew exponentially.
The so-called law on the purity of beer (Reinheitsgebot), adopted in 1516, became decisive for the entire German brewing industry. The main postulate is that there should be nothing but malt, hops and water in a real foam. The fourth component — yeast was allowed only in 1881.
Many centuries have passed since then, but many German brewers still follow the basic principle of the once adopted law. This is the main feature of the beer from Germany — not to deviate one step from the classics of brewing. Following the traditions, coupled with the meticulousness and diligence of the Germans, makes the drinks unique. Buying beer of a proven brand, you can be sure that the manufacturer did not accelerate the ripening period and did not add anything “superfluous” to the composition.
Types and varieties of German beer
There is a real beer etiquette in Germany. Each style of German beer has its own glass and snack. Probably, there is no such attitude to this drink in any country in the world.
There are a lot of varieties of German beer, as well as their classifications. Drinks are divided according to the method of fermentation, and by the dominant raw material, and by color, and by the area of production. There are about 1,500 large and small breweries in Germany. Everyone will certainly have their own answer to the question “What is high-quality beer?”.
On average, there are about 40 varieties of beer from Germany. However, many believe that the classification is overblown, and combine some types of drinks into larger categories. In any case, there is no consensus on this.
To make it easier to understand the types of German beer, we will designate their most popular varieties (styles):
This light variety of beer comes from the Czech Republic, but the Germans, not without reason, consider it their own. It was them who “brought to mind” the original recipe for the drink. The first Pilsner was produced in Germany in 1871. This is a low-fermentation beer.
The drink brewed in the south of Germany is called “pilsner” — it tastes softer. Northern drinks are called differently – “pilsener” (or “pils”). The local beer has pronounced bitter hop notes.
In all pilsners, a floral savor is felt in the taste. The average alcohol content is from 4 to 6%.
Weizenbier (or Weissbier)
The famous wheat beer is brewed according to the technology of top fermentation. As a rule, light unfiltered, but dark filtered varieties can also be found. The average alcohol content is from 5 to 5.5%.
For the production of wheat Weizenbier, a specific type of yeast is used, which gives the drink the taste of spices. This variety is especially loved in the south of Germany.
The Weizenbier category can also include some other varieties of German wheat beer — for example, Kristallweizen and Weizenbock. The first one is crystal clear, the second one has more alcohol content. But more often these varieties are distinguished as separate because they have their own, incomparable taste.
Beer of a pleasant brown-amber color, which began to be brewed in Dusseldorf many centuries ago. This variety is often called a hybrid of classic lager and ale. The fact is that the drinks are fermented with ale yeast and additionally kept at a reduced temperature, like regular lagers.
In the taste of Altbier, there are certainly pronounced malt and hop savor. The average alcohol content is from 4.5 to 6%.
Dark and light lager of increased strength and density. This variety needs much more time to mature, so it begins to be brewed in strictly defined months. Bockbier plays with rich caramel and fruity savor. The alcohol content is not distinguishable – only at the end, a pleasant bitterness comes into play.
The dark bock has an average alcohol content of 6.3-7.2%. Light bock is lighter in alcohol and softer in taste.
The Bockbier category often includes some other varieties of strong German beer. These are, for example, Doppelbock (up to 13%) and Eisbock (up to 14% ).
Light, lager beer of top fermentation, which according to the existing norms should be brewed only in Cologne. It is famous for its refreshing, slightly bitter aftertaste. It contains only barley. But in some breweries, the recipe is supplemented with wheat. Average alcohol strength is from 4.5 to 4.8 %.
The drink is poured into special cylindrical glasses “Stange” (usually with a volume of 200 ml) — it is believed that it does not allow the beer to “erode” quickly. And it is important that the Kölsch is served exclusively at a temperature of 8-10 °C so that its bouquet opens in all its glory.
This sour low-alcohol wheat beer has been produced since the 16th century. According to the existing rules, it should be brewed only in Berlin. The drink used to be called “champagne from the north”. Beer has a characteristic sour taste. The average alcohol content is up to 3.5% vol.
Berliner Weisse is served in large cups, which allow you to form a lush foam head when pouring. And to drown out the sour taste, beer is often supplemented with syrups.
This dark lager is loved not only in Germany but also all over the world. It has a soft caramel-malt aftertaste, and a very light fruit note is felt in the aroma. Many people believe that the drink is an example of an ideal dark beer.
The average alcohol strength is from 4.5 to 6%.
This variety has nothing in common with Belgian beer of spontaneous fermentation. Although the pronunciation is similar. Drinks are mainly produced in the Leipzig area. The composition is mostly wheat. Many brewers introduce additional ingredients into the composition — for example, coriander and salt. That gives a certain sourness to the taste.
Historically, Gose was left to ferment in bottles with a thin high neck. Now, to attract the attention of gourmets to beer, they use a similar container.
The average alcohol strength is 4-5%.
Previously, the variety was brewed only in Munich. This is a classic light lager with a refreshing taste and characteristic savor of toasted hops at the end.
The average alcohol content is up to 5.5%.
This is the so-called smoked beer of medium alcohol strength of 5%. According to legend, the drink appeared in the Middle Ages after a big fire in a German town. The fire almost did not damage the malt, which was stored in the barn. But the grain has acquired the characteristic aroma of smoke. It was then used for brewing beer. And everyone liked the result.
The drink has a pleasant burnt caramel color. Has a savor of smoke, soot, burnt leaves and smoked ham.
The average alcohol strength is 5-6%.
What other varieties of German beer should gourmets pay attention to? These can be the following ones: Roggenbier, Export, Märzen, Schwarzbier, Weihnachtsbier, Zwickelbier.
What are the best beers to try in 2021?
So, we learned a little bit about types and varieties of German beer, now it is time to give actual examples and short information about them:
1. Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier
Weihenstephaner Hefe weissbier is a light wheat beer made in the German tradition, one of the samples of the style brewed by the oldest brewery in the world. The beer is a hazy golden yellow color with persistent white beer foam. The subtle aroma reveals notes of spices, wheat, citrus, yeast and banana. The taste of beer is refreshing, rich, balanced, with a rich malt base and subtle savor of cloves, bananas and tropical fruits.
2. Erdinger Kristall
Real German beer lovers highly appreciate the Bavarian beer Erdinger and consider it the standard of German wheat beer.
Erdinger Weissbier Kristall is a crystal clear wheat beer with a delicate taste, acquiring its appearance due to a particularly long filtration process, known in the industry as “fine filtration”. The color is golden, transparent. Good, moderately stable beer foam. Erdinger Kristall has the aroma of grain, malt, wheat straw tones, spice (cloves), slightly fruity (bananas, apples) and lemon zest. Brewed according to traditional Bavarian recipes, in accordance with the German beer purity law. The perfect wheat beer for warm summer days.
3. Spaten Oktoberfest
The world’s first brand of beer, specially brewed for the Oktoberfest beer festival, which began in 1810, when the Bavarian prince had to arrange a big holiday to please his courtiers and marry a Prussian princess.
Spaten Oktoberfest is a drink of pure amber color, medium alcohol strength, with an impeccable, varied flavor range and a great combination of fine hop bitterness with the aroma of roasted malt. It should be especially noted that this brand is not produced all year round, but only by the beginning of the opening of the festival. Therefore, it is not always possible to try Spaten Oktoberfest.
4. Aecht Schlenkeria Rauchbier
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier is a dark Marzen beer with a fumy and smoked flavor. In its production, barley malt is used from Schlenkerla’s own malt house, which is pre-smoked on beechwood logs. The beer has a caramel-brown color, a pronounced smoky aroma with notes of smoked meat and a balanced taste with tones of chocolate and bonfire.
5. Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock
Salvator is a doppelbock from one of the oldest breweries in Bavaria, Paulaner Brauerei, with a rich history and traditions. The name of the beer translates as “Savior”. It was first brewed in Munich, by the monks of the monastery of St. Francis of Paula. The beer has an amber color with creamy beer foam, a complex aroma with notes of caramel, honey, brown sugar and dried fruits. The aftertaste of the beer is malty and sweet.
Full, rich, harmonious taste; subtle, delicate bitterness; magnificent aroma – these are the
characteristics that most fully reflect the bouquet of this original variety of beer.
6. Schneider Weiss Tap 6 Aventinus
Rich and noble – for special occasions and relaxing in front of the fireplace
A unique variety, first brewed according to an improved recipe by the widow of Georg Schneider III. Dark ruby wheat double bock with a creamy dense beer foam cap. Distinct notes of ripe banana, raisins and plums are combined with the aromas of liqueur and roasted malt. A rich and warming beer with a perfectly balanced and soft enveloping aftertaste. The oldest wheat double bock in Bavaria (1907).
Fermentation of the drink in open tanks gives it a unique flavor, and re-fermentation due to the second addition of yeast to bottles and kegs provides the freshest beer on your table and anywhere in the world as if it were brewed yesterday.
7. Mahrs Hell
Mahrs Hell has the pleasant grain sweet, pure aroma of pilsner malt. Moderately weak spicy aroma of noble hops. Beer has the color from medium yellow to light golden, transparent, with thick white beer foam. The taste is slightly sweet and malty. The taste of grain and pilsner malt, with a hop bitterness from low to medium-low, reinforces the malt taste. The spicy taste of noble hops is moderately weak. The final taste and aftertaste remain malty. The taste is pure with fruity savor.
8. Gaffel Kolsch
Gaffel Kolsch is a special fresh Cologne beer brewed according to a family recipe created several centuries ago in strict accordance with the Bavarian Law on beer purity (1516) and the law “On Cologne Beer” (1986). Light beer with a traditional golden color has a pleasant and unusual soft hop bitterness with rich flavors, a characteristic feature of Gaffel Kolsch and at the same time is the distinctive feature of the variety from other brands of the Kolsch beers.
9. Ayinger Brau-Weisse
Ayinger Brau-Weisse is a classic type of top-fermented beer of bright golden tones with intense gentle beer foam.
A soft bouquet of top yeast and a typical banana flavor is characteristic of this cloudy yeast light wheat beer. When you first try this beer you will note it has a velvety softness in taste and it is accompanied by a fresh sparkling, similar to sparkling champagne wines. The full taste of this beer is replaced by a delicate fruity aftertaste with citrus hints.
10. Radeberger Pilsner
Radeberger Pilsner is a famous premium German beer that has been brewed since 1872. This beer was the favorite drink of the Saxon King Frederick Augustus III and Otto von Bismarck. Today, for its exceptional taste, beer is regularly included in the top ten German beers. Its balanced taste is ensured by the harmonious combination of bitter and aromatic hops in the recipe. The taste of Radeberger is fresh and pleasant, with a gradually opening bitterness, slightly remaining in the aftertaste.