A Better Brew: A History of German Beer

It’s no secret that Germans love their beer and the good times that ensue with it! According to Statista, on average, Germans drank 99.7 liters of beer per person in 2019. Now that’s a lot of beer! So let’s dive into a history of German beer today.

German Beer: Glasses of light and dark beer on a pub background.

German Beer 101

Now beer itself is a well-known classic, but just how classic is it? This may come as a shock, but it was not the Germans who invented this delightful drink. Around 15,000 years ago, it was first made in the Middle East! The grains that had been roasted and soaked in water created a pleasant aroma. Not only that, but it tasted fantastic too! This drink trickled its way down and found its place in the heart of Germany. However, they had a certain regulation called ‘Reinheitsgebot’ which in literal translation meant “purity order”. This meant a simple recipe made up of water, barley, and hops. Of course, over the year, adaptations were made to give us the stunning variety we know today to be German beers! 

Years later, this is now the choice drink of people all around the world.

The Types Of German Beer

Now, there isn’t simply one type of beer, and it’s not just light or dark beer either. There are tons of varieties that we can see in Germany today. Beers can be simplified into two main categories: Ale and Lager. 

Ales are typically sweeter, lighter, more full-bodied, and more complex than Lagers. Lagers are lighter, smoother, and overall go down easier. However, the main difference is how they are fermented. Lagers are made with bottom-fermenting yeast at cold temperatures, and Ales are the opposite; they are made with top-fermenting yeast and done so in warm temperatures. 

Today though, there are over 7,000 varieties! Let’s narrow it down to the most popular and beloved among the people. 

Weihenstephan Hefe Weissbier may be a mouthful to say but it is a light and refreshing beer that is a touch sweeter than most beers. 

On the opposite spectrum, Spaten Oktoberfest is brewed in March well in advance for Oktoberfest. This beer tastes a roasted flavor with a mild malt taste and a crisp sweetness that is perfect for fall.

Now going a bit outside the box, we’ve got Schneider Weisse Aventinus Eisbock. This is a highly-concentrated beer resulting from removing a portion of water during the brew and discarding it. Because of this, the flavors are much more pronounced, and the alcohol and body are as well. This delicious beer is a heavy brew with notes of caramel, nuts, rich malt with just a dash of ripe plum you’ll catch a whiff of on the way down. Many say it pairs well with chocolate or creamy, sharp cheese such as gouda or brie. Who needs wine when a beer will pair just as nicely at brunch time!

German Beer: 2 Tall Glasses of Light Beer with a blurred bar background

German Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations

Let’s take a look at some of Germany’s popular holidays that are celebrated to the fullest! 

Maifest (May Day) – May, 1

A bright and cheery holiday to celebrate spring and how nature is coming alive again after a dreary winter. As expected, this day is celebrated with beer, wine, and plenty of delicious food!

Weinfests in Germany – July, August

This may come as a shock, but Germans love wine almost as much as beer and have 2 months of festivals dedicated to it!

Sankt Nikolaus Tag (St. Nicholas Day) – December, 6

The perfect holiday to whet your appetite when you can’t wait for Christmas any longer. On St.Nicholas Day, children place boots in front of their doors to be filled with delicious sweets from Nikolaus at nighttime. 

Oktoberfest – October

Now, It’s no secret that Munich’s Oktoberfest is on the bucket list of travelers to Germany, but there are so many festivals and opportunities to celebrate German culture and to satiate your desire for beer. Oktoberfest is known for its large crowds, but this may be a turn-off for those who simply prefer to savor over sweat. Take a trip to Straubing in mid-August for the second-largest festival, “Gäubodenvolksfest”. With carnival rides, parades, and plenty of specialty brewed beers, you won’t be disappointed. 

Kulmbach Beer Week – Last Saturday In July

A bit farther away from all of the noisy rides that could upset your stomach, try food-focused Kulmbach Beer Week. With lovely live music and traditional Franconian cuisines such as brezne (soft pretzels) and kalterbraten (cold roast pork), it’s certainly an experience to remember! Not to mention how there are four different breweries that only offer their festival beers during this week-long event!

Berlin Beer Festival – First Week of August

If you’re looking for an event that is a bit less family-friendly and is more mainstream and trendy, then head straight to the capital of Germany for the International Berlin Beer Festival! Berlin is the scene for avant-garde art, many vegan-friendly cafes, and techno music to create the perfect atmosphere for earth-loving party goers! This festival celebrates beer to the max with almost 350 breweries from around 90 countries and offers approximately 2400 different beer specialties! No matter which of these festivals or celebrations you decide to attend, know you’ll be having the experience of a lifetime!

German beer being poured into a glass from a tap

Customs, Traditions, and Gift Giving for German Beer

We’ve looked at the history of beer, German specialty beers, and talked about some major festivals surrounding beer. But let’s narrow the field down to the customs, traditions, and overall culture surrounding the gift-giving of beer in Germany. When giving a gift in Germany, it is essential to remember that it’s not what you bought, but the thoughts and intentions behind it. Perhaps this even means including a small handwritten note, or taking the time to wrap the gift yourself as these will speak volumes. If we are discussing giving gifts in a personal setting it’s best to follow these guidelines. If you have been invited over to someone’s house, do not show up empty-handed! Flowers, chocolates, or even something homemade will do nicely. 

However, how do these gift-giving etiquettes compare in the business world? Gifts are not generally associated with business, but there is certainly nothing wrong with doing so. For business meetings, stick to professional, neutral gifts such as liquor, beer, or even pens. If you have the honor of being invited over to their home, bring something that represents where you are from! Perhaps it is your country’s specialty chocolates or wine or maybe even a small bouquet of flowers. When giving flowers in any situation, make sure to have them in uneven numbers but never thirteen, have them unwrapped, and avoid red flowers of any kind. But don’t stress too much; they are just happy to have you over!

You’ve learned a ton about German Beer. Now what?

Germany is a wonderful place to visit, for the people, the food, and of course the beer. This country is full of friendly people who will welcome and invite you to experience their culture first hand. Even if you can’t travel there, you can still bring the taste of Germany right to your door. With a variety of German beers to choose from a beer staycation is only a click away.

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