From Oktoberfest to the Reinheitsgebot, Germans are extremely serious and passionate about their beer. This dedication to the art of beer production has made Germany into one of the foremost beer countries of the world, accounting for around 10% of the world market volume. There are around 1200 breweries in Germany, producing 5000 to 6000 types of beer. With a history that dates at least 2000 years, German beer is some of the oldest and best loved beer in the world.
Beer has long been an integral part of German society, and as such has been subject to various laws and rules about its taxation and production. However, the most famous of these German beer rules is the brewing law known as the Reinheitsgebot, or Purity Law. This beer law is the oldest food law in the world, dating back to 1516. The law states that beer should only be produced from barley, hops and water. Of course, yeast is now added to beer, but everything else about this law remains the same. That is why German beer is so clear and well made, and is one of the market leaders in brewing.
One of the most common types of beer in Germany is the Altbier, or ‘Old beer’. These German beers are light to medium in body, and are well rounded and not too bitter. Originating from Dusseldorf, the best example around today is probably Diebels. Altbiers go well with strong tasting foods like oily fish and cheese.
Another extremely popular German beer type is Weisse, or wheat beer, originating from Berlin. It is fairly unique, and is sharp and tart in flavour. Weisse beers have low alcohol content, and are extremely refreshing. Often referred to as the Champagne of beers, Berlin Weisse beers are often served with fruit syrup to balance out their sour taste. If you want to try one of these uniquely flavoured beers, then the best ones to opt for are Berliner Kindl Weisse and Schultheiss Berliner Weisse.
German Bocks are some of the greatest beers in the world, and as their strong name suggests they pack a punch. They are generally dark, full-bodied beers with a high alcohol content and a rich, malty taste. The lightest of all the bocks is Helles bock, which is more of an amber coloured beer. Doppelbock is stronger, with a dark, malty flavour similar to English stout. The strongest of all bocks Is Eisbock, which is chilled until ice crystals are formed. Once the crystals are removed, what is left is an uncompromisingly rich and strong beer. There are a great many good bocks to choose from, although Franziskaner is definitely one of the best around.
German lager beers
There are many styles of German lager beer available, although the two most common are Dortmunder and Pils. Made in Dortmund, Dortmunder lager beer is strong and pale with a crisp, refreshing finish. Good choices include the Dortmunder lagers brewed by the Henninger and Royal Furstenberg breweries. German Pils, short for Pilsner, is often mistaken for the similarly named Czech beer. However, German Pils is quite different, being hoppier and less malty than its Czech counterpart. Pils is a simple and easy to drink lager beer, with breweries like Holsten and Astra producing some of the most popular examples.
Of all the German beers, perhaps the most interesting type is Rauchbier. Rauchbier is unique because the malts are dried over beechwood, giving the beer an interesting smoky flavour. Brewed in Northern Bavaria, Rauchbier is not particularly easy to find. However, if you get an opportunity you should try one of these highly interesting beers, with a good example being Heller-Trum Aecht Schlenkeria Rauchbier. This beer is dark and sweet; with little bitterness and a beautiful smoke flavour.
Although German beers can be found all around the world, the best place to sample these amazing brews is in Germany itself. Of course, the best time to experience all of these beers is the Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest in Munich is the largest beer festival in the world, with some 6 million litres of beer served every year. Beers from all around Germany and the world are on offer, and the festival is known for its social atmosphere and beer marquees with long tables. If you love beer, then drinking German beer at the Oktoberfest cannot be beaten.