Beer-Guide #1 - German beers

To help you keep track of the countless beer varieties, here is the ultimate beer guide. This article will start with the "classic" German beers.

von Revier Südost • 26. May 2021
Germany is a beer nation. And although there are already so many different types of beer, more and more new creations are being added all over the world. In Germany alone, there are now over 6,000 different beer brands, making the beer market in this country more varied and diverse than in any other country in the world.
To help you keep track of the countless beer varieties, here is the ultimate beer guide. This article will start with the "classic" German beers.

Basically, beer can be divided into two groups: "Ale" and "Lager", in German, top-fermented and bottom-fermented beer. The difference can be explained quite simply on the basis of the brewing method. Top-fermented beers are brewed with top-fermenting yeast. This means that the yeast works at higher temperatures (15 - 20 degrees Celsius) and converts the sugar into alcohol.
Bottom-fermented beers are brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast, which feels comfortable at low temperatures (approx. 5 - 15 degrees Celsius) and can ferment in a natural way.

Altbier (often just called "Alt") owes its name to the old traditional art of brewing by which it is produced. It is a dark red-brown beer, rather tart, with a malty nutty note. Today, Altbier is drunk mainly in Düsseldorf, Krefeld and Mönchengladbach and has become something of a landmark.

Berliner Weisse
Berliner Weisse, as the name suggests, comes from the capital Berlin and is a wheat beer. The name is also protected, which means that only breweries from Berlin are allowed to call their beer Berliner Weisse. Berliner Weisse is a rather sour wheat beer, which is why in the 1920s Berliners started mixing that beer with green woodruff or red raspberry syrup to drown out the sourness. Napoleon, by the way, called Berliner Weisse the "Champagne of the North".

Like Berliner Weisse, the beer variety Gose is a sour beer and is often drunk with a shot. The Gose originally comes from Goslar and is named after the flowing river Gose. The perceived home, however, is in Leipzig, because for a long time it was only brewed there. The special thing about the Gose is the salty note. Originally, this came from brewing the beer with the water from the Gose, which gave the beer its distinctive taste. Today, extra salt and coriander seeds are added during brewing.

The term "Kölsch" is protected, so only breweries from the Cologne area are allowed to call their beer by that name. Kölsch has a very mild and slightly sour taste and comparatively less gas. This makes it light and easy to drink, and its relatively low alcohol percentage makes it suitable for any occasion.

Weizenbier, Weizen, Hefeweizen and Weißbier are all names for the same type of beer. Wheat beer comes from southern Germany, which is still the stronghold of the beer. The cloudy light variant is called Hefeweizen and the clear variant Kristallweizen. The fruity, spicy taste remains present in both variants. In order for a beer to be called wheat beer, it must contain at least 50% wheat malt. Due to the large amount of carbon dioxide and the fruity-spicy, typically sweet banana and clove aroma, wheat beer is very refreshing and popular.

Bock beer
Bock or bock beer is today often a collective term for strong beers with an alcohol content of 6-7%. Traditionally, it is a dark beer and tastes malty-sweet. Bock beer originates from the north of Germany, namely from the Hanseatic city of Einbeck. The different varieties of bock beer are the Weizenbock, the light Maibock and the so-called Eisbock, which has a higher alcohol content due to less water.

Export beers have a long shelf life due to the bottom-fermented brewing method and could therefore be exported beyond the city limits in the past. They come in the form of Pils, Weizen, Alt or Helles and thus can be any color. The beer is rather tart, bitter and has a higher alcohol content, which is why it used to be stretched with water after delivery. The most famous export beers are the Vienna Export, the Dortmund Export and the Munich Export.

The name "Helles" comes from the light yellow color of the lager. It usually tastes malty, mild and slightly sweet. The origin, of course, is in Munich, and to this day the Helle is popular especially in southern Germany. But even beyond the borders of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, the cool blonde is still the popular beer in beer gardens around the world.

Märzen is the perfect summer beer, usually served in mugs. It is golden to amber in color and is a malty beer, with higher alcohol content than other lagers such as the Pils or a Helles. Märzen was traditionally brewed in the month of March and that is where the name comes from. In Bavaria, there was a ban on brewing between April 23 and September 29, due to increased fire danger. Therefore, a stronger beer was produced, which could be stored and drunk well over the summer. In September, the last barrels of the beer were drunk at the Oktoberfest, which is why the Märzen is also called Oktoberfest beer by some Munich breweries.

Pilsner, Pilsener or Pils is probably the best known and most popular beer in Germany. Pilsner originated in the Czech city of Pilsen, where it was invented by the Bavarian brewmaster Josef Groll. The beer has a golden yellow color and a rather bitter, sometimes fruity taste. However, the term "Pilsner" describes only the type of beer, not its origin. The original Pilsner from the city of Pilsen is called "Pilsner Urquell".

The basis of the Rauchbier is usually a Märzen beer. The unmistakable taste, often reminiscent of smoked bacon, is created by the smoked malt, which is fired with beech wood on the kiln. Originally, the smoky beer comes from Franconia, more precisely from Bamberg, and is amber to dark brown in color.

As the name suggests, Schwarzbier is a very dark to black beer. The color is created by the use of dark special malts or roasted malts. The taste is malty and sweet and the aromas are slightly reminiscent of coffee or chocolate. Black beer originated in Thuringia and Saxony and the most famous black beer brewery is Köstritzer

Zwickl & Kellerbier
The name Zwickl comes from the "Zwickelhahn", with which the brewers used to take the first samples from the barrel. A Zwickel beer is drunk directly after the secondary fermentation process and is not stored. As a result, the beer was tapped more or less directly from the cellar and is therefore also called cellar beer or Kellerbier. Due to the lack of filtration, the natural suspended solids remain in the beer, so that the beer is particularly full-bodied, but also has a shorter shelf life.


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