German beer

German beer

Beer in Germany is an important part of Germany's culture. There are around 1,300 breweries in Germany, more than in any other country except the United States which has 1,500. [cite web | title= Don't Fear Big Beer | url= | accessdate=2007-10-20] The German beer market is somewhat sheltered from the rest of the world beer market by the German brewers' adherence to the "Reinheitsgebot" ("purity order") dating from 1516 (and most recently updated in the Vorläufiges Biergesetz of 1993), according to which the only allowed ingredients of beer are water, hops and barley-malt. This law also requires that beers not using only barley-malt (such as wheat and rye) must be top-fermented. [cite web | title= Vorläufiges Biergesetz | url= | accessdate=2007-09-04]

The Germans are behind only the Czechs and the Irish in their "per capita" consumption of beer.Source, unless otherwise noted: [ Beer consumption] ,]


The Reinheitsgebot (literally "purity order"), sometimes called the "German Beer Purity Law" or the "Bavarian Purity Law" in English, is a regulation concerning the production of beer in Germany. In the original text, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley, and hops.

After its discovery, yeast became the fourth legal ingredient, though for top-fermenting beers the use of sugar is also permitted. In part because of this law (which since 1988 has not applied to imported beer, but is still compulsory for German brewers), beers from Germany have a reputation for high quality.

The law originated in the city of Ingolstadt in the duchy of Bavaria on 23 April 1516, although first put forward in 1487, ["Bavaria"; Bolt, Rodney; Globe Pequot Press; Connecticut; 2005; pg 37.] concerning standards for the sale and composition of beer. Before its official repeal in 1987, it was the oldest food quality regulation in the world. [,1518,549175,00.html/]


There is a variety of different types of German beer, such as:

*Top-fermenting beers
**Altbier — a dark amber, hoppy beer brewed around Düsseldorf and Lower Rhine. 11-12° Plato, 4.5-5% ABV.
**Kölsch — pale, light-bodied, beer which can only legally be brewed in the Cologne region. 11-12° Plato, 4.5-5% ABV.
**Weizen/Weißbier — wheat beer 12-12.5° Plato, 5-5.6% ABV.
**Weizenbock — strong, dark, wheat beer. 16-17° Plato, 6.5-8% ABV.
**Berliner Weisse — a pale, very sour, wheat beer brewed in Berlin. Usually drunk with the addition of fruit syrup. 9° Plato, 2.5-5% ABV.
**Leipziger Gose — an amber, very sour, wheat beer brewed around Leipzig. It disappeared between 1966 and 1985, when it was revived by Lothar Goldhahn. 10-12° Plato, 4-5% ABV.
**Roggenbier — a fairly dark beer made with rye, somewhat grainy flavour similar to bread, 4.5-6% ABV.

*Bottom-fermenting beers
**Helles — a pale, malty lager from Bavaria of 11-12° Plato, 4.5-5% ABV
**Schwarzbier — a bottom-fermented, dark lager beer with a full, roasty, chocolatey flavor. 11-12° Plato, 4.5-5% ABV.
**Pilsener — a pale lager with a light body and a more prominent hop character. 11-12° Plato, 4.5-5% ABV. By far the most popular style, with around two thirds of the market.
**Export — a pale lager brewed around Dortmund that is fuller, maltier and less hoppy than Pilsner. 12-12.5° Plato, 5-5.5% ABV. Germany's most popular style in the 1950s and 1960's, it's becoming increasingly rare.
**Spezial — a pale, full, bitter-sweet and delicately hopped lager. 13-13.5° Plato, 5.5-5.7% ABV.
**Dunkel — dark lager which comes in two main varieties: the sweetish, malty Munich style and the drier, hoppy Franconian style
**Rauchbier — usually dark in color and smoky in taste from the use of smoked malt. A speciality of the Bamberg region. 12-13° Plato, 5-5.5% ABV.
**Bock — an amber, heavy-bodied, bitter-sweet lager. 16-17° Plato, 6.5-7% ABV.
**Dunkler Bock — a strong, full-bodied lager darkened by high-coloured malts. 16-17° Plato, 6.5-7% ABV.
**Maibock — a pale, strong lager brewed in the Spring. 16-17° Plato, 6.5-7% ABV.
**Doppelbock — a very strong, very full-bodied lager darkened by high-coloured malts. 18-28° Plato, 8-12% ABV.
**Eisbock — a freeze distilled variation of Doppelbock. 18-28° Plato, 9-15% ABV.
**Märzen — medium body, malty lagers that come in pale, amber and dark varieties. 13-14° Plato, 5.2-6% ABV. The type of beer traditionally served at the Munich Oktoberfest.

Many of the kinds of beer are also available with the alcohol content reduced or added.


German beer tradition includes leaving some beers unfiltered.


Kellerbiers are unfiltered lagers which are conditioned in a similar manner to cask ales. Strength and colour will vary, [cite web
title=Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter - Beer Styles: Kellerbier
] though in the Franconia region where these cask conditioned lagers are still popular, the strength will tend to be 5% abv or slightly higher, and the colour will tend to be a deep amber, but the defining characteristic is the cask conditioning. Kellerbier is German for "cellar beer". [ Kellerbier] -]


Zwickelbier is German for "sampling beer". Originally a sample amount of beer taken by a brewery boss from the barrel with a help of a special pipe called a "Zwickelhahn". Zwickelbiers are unfiltered lagers like Kellerbier, though with a slightly different conditioning process which gives the lager more carbonation. Zwickelbiers tend to be younger, lower in alcohol and less hoppy than Kellerbiers. [ [ Zwickelbier] ] A very similar beer is Zoiglbier. [ [ Zoigl] ]

A few breweries in the USA will use the term Keller or Zwickel to market an unpasteurised lager.


German wheat beers (Weissbier) are available in unfiltered form (Hefeweizen) or filtered (Kristallweizen).

Brands and breweries

While the beer market is weaker but more centralized in northern Germany, the south has lots of smaller local breweries. Almost half of all German breweries are in Bavaria [Source: quoted in Sonntag Aktuell Newspaper (Stuttgart), 28.09.2008] . In total, there are approximately 1300 breweries in Germany producing over 5000 brands of beer. The highest density of breweries in the world is found near the city of Bamberg, in the Franconia region of Bavaria. The Benedictine abbey Weihenstephan brewery (established in 725) is reputedly the oldest existing brewery in the world (brewing since 1040).

The biggest German brands in volume terms (millions of hectolitres) are Oettinger (6.7%) followed by Krombacher, Bitburger, Warsteiner, Beck's and Veltins [ German website quoting the Süddeutsche Zeitung. 28.09.2008] .

Alcohol content

The alcohol content is usually between 4.7% and 5.4% for most traditional brews. Bockbier or Doppelbock (double Bockbier) however can have an alcohol content of up to 16%, making it stronger than many wines.


The Munich Oktoberfest is well known for the quantity of beer drunk as well as the friendly, social atmosphere created by the massive marqees with long tables and bench seating. More than 6,100,000 litres of beer are served every year at the festival.

ee also

*Reinheitsgebot, German Beer Purity Order



*"Prost!: The Story of German Beer", Horst D. Dornbusch, Brewers Publications (1997), ISBN 0937381551
*"Good Beer Guide Germany", Steve Thomas, CAMRA Books (17 May 2006), ISBN 1852492198

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