The Most Popular German Beer (Beer Jerman) Styles in the World
When you think of Germany, you can’t help but think of beer. The country’s beer culture is so deeply rooted and renowned that Oktoberfest, a worldwide celebration, is synonymous with German tradition. Beer holds a significant place in Germany, showcasing a wide variety of brews, ranging from Helles to Hefeweizen.
- Oktoberfest has evolved into the ultimate international symbol of German beer culture. Each autumn, this festival highlights some of Munich’s most iconic breweries, drawing crowds from all corners of the globe.
- Oktoberfest and Märzen refer to the same type of lager beer and it was traditionally brewed in March and served during October, as the name suggests.
It’s no surprise that Germany ranks third globally in terms of beer consumption, with each person consuming an impressive 106 litres per year, a testament to its cultural importance. The famous beer purity law, the country’s favorite beer styles, renowned breweries, and the growing trend of craft brewing in various German cities all contribute to the richness of Germany’s beer heritage.
If you’re interested in delving deeper into the world of German beer (Beer Jerman) and its popular styles, this is the perfect guide for you.
Beer in Germany’s Culture
German beer is a style of beer that is already deeply rooted in German culture. Whether you’re gearing up for a trip to Bavaria or simply browsing the German section of your local bottle shop, having a grasp of this beer-loving nation’s major beer categories can come in handy. Germany, the birthplace of lager, is renowned for its lively and flavorful brews. Interestingly, the term “lager” refers to the method of cold storage used in brewing, rather than a specific beer style.
While the Germans didn’t invent beer, they held it in high regard, as evidenced by the German Beer Purity Law. With over 1,300 breweries producing a staggering 5,500 different beer varieties, it’s no wonder that this golden elixir is considered the national drink and plays a central role in the country’s cultural fabric.
The Germans take their beer seriously, to the extent that they even have a special term for it, “Bierernst,” which translates to “beer serious” and signifies the deep respect for this beverage.
Oktoberfest has evolved into the ultimate international symbol of German beer culture. Each autumn, this festival highlights some of Munich’s most iconic breweries, drawing crowds from all corners of the globe. Yet, Oktoberfest is more than just a tourist attraction; it’s a celebration deeply rooted in tradition. Visitors often sport traditional costumes such as the Dirndl and Lederhosen, adding to the festive ambiance alongside the picturesque Alpine landscapes of Theresienwiese. Besides Oktoberfest, numerous other cities host their own beer festivals and events throughout the year, adding to the rich tapestry of German beer culture.
Also read: An Introduction to The World of Craft Beer
History of the German Beers
Beer holds a rich history spanning over 12,000 years, with its origins tracing back to Mesopotamia. Referred to as “liquid bread” due to its fermented nature, beer became a widespread beverage across various cultures worldwide. In Germany, historical records show that monasteries started brewing beer for public consumption as early as the year 1000 AD.
Bavaria’s brewing legacy, along with that of continental Europe, can be traced back to 800 BC. Archeological findings revealed tall clay jugs, or amphorae, that were used to store “beer-like” liquids, marking the early stages of brewing in the region.
Many of the beer-producing monasteries were located in southern Germany, and some of them, such as Weihenstephan, founded in 1040, continue to operate to this day. They obtained a brewing and selling license and have a documented history of brewing that dates back to 768 AD, with the first recorded mention of hops at the monastery. The Church began collecting 10% of the yearly hop produce from a nearby hop farm as a tax.
While brewers use various starchy grains like barley, emmer wheat, rye, spelled, and maize as a base for malt, most German brewers adhere to the Deutsches Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law), which outlines the use of only four ingredients.
Introduced in 1516 by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria, the Beer Purity Law initially restricted Bavarian beer to be made only from malt, hops, and water, with no additives allowed. In the 19th century, yeast was added to the list of permitted ingredients after German and French scientists discovered its vital role in the fermentation process. The law gradually gained adoption throughout the country and has been the primary regulation governing beer brewing since 1906. Not only does the law preserve traditional craft techniques, but it also stands as the world’s oldest food law still in effect today.
A Wide Range of Styles of German Beer
Did you know that there are over 1300 breweries in Germany and more than 7000 varieties of beer in that country? Of course, we won’t talk about each one of them. But today, we will talk about several different styles of German beer. Some of the beer styles in Germany are already popular and you can find it easily anywhere.
When it comes to ales, Germany is renowned for its wheat beers, with Hefeweizen being the most popular. This type of beer is typically served in tall, narrow glasses that resemble flower vases. Its cloudy appearance is due to the unique top-fermenting yeast used during brewing, giving it a distinctively rich taste and intense clove-like aromas.
Hefeweizen is known for its incredible refreshment factor. In many ways, it can be considered the original hazy beer, characterized by its unfiltered and yeasty nature. The fermentation process often produces ester-y flavors like banana or even bubble gum, adding to its unique appeal.
Darker variations of this ale are referred to as dunkelweizen, meaning “dark wheat.” Dunkelweizens offer a delightful combination of caramelly and dark-fruit flavors, reminiscent of the taste of liquid banana bread for some beer enthusiasts.
Pilsner and Helles
German Pilsner is a light and crisp lager inspired by the Czech version of the same name. Brewed primarily from barley malt, it boasts a balanced flavor profile, with a flowery, herbal, and spicy hop bitterness harmonizing with a moderately malty base.
The concept of German Pilsner emerged in the 1870s, stemming from the original Czech Pilsner developed by Bavarian brewer Josef Groll. While the style originated in the Czech city of Plzeň, the German version was refined post-World War II with the introduction of modern brewing techniques and the utilization of local hops.
All-malt pilsners come in two variations: Czech (or Bohemian) and German. Both exhibit a pale yellow hue and culminate in a sharp bitterness accompanied by spicy, floral hop notes. German pilsners are generally lighter in body, drier, and slightly more bitter than their Czech counterparts, although both are designed to be refreshing and easy to drink.
Helles, another German take on the pilsner style, was developed as an early variation. Unlike the more hop-forward Czech pilsner, Helles leans toward a malt-driven profile, often presenting a sweeter taste experience.
Märzen or Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest and Märzen refer to the same type of lager beer and are often used interchangeably. This style of beer is most famously associated with Munich. Initially, it was called “Märzen” because it was traditionally brewed in March and served during October, as the name suggests.
The roots of this style can be traced back to the 1500s when Bavarian authorities banned brewing beer between April and September to ensure better quality. The warmer months posed a risk of allowing wild yeast and bacteria to thrive, resulting in spoiled beer.
Märzen lagers typically have an amber color. In the classic Märzen style, you won’t find much hop aroma or flavor, but rather a focus on showcasing malt flavors reminiscent of toast or bread crust. A subtle bitterness balances the brew and prevents it from tasting overly sweet. With its smooth malty character, Märzen is a delightful beer often enjoyed in large steins at lively beer halls.
Dunkel is a traditional style of dark lager from Munich, known simply as “dunkels,” which means “dark” in German. This type of beer is closely associated with Bavaria and Munich. It typically ranges in color from copper to dark brown, deriving its characteristic caramel-like and toasty flavors from Munich malt.
Dunkel beers usually have a dark amber to dark brown appearance. They are known for their smooth, medium-bodied texture, making them easy to drink without being too heavy. The brews in this category offer a subtle sweetness that is not overpowering. The flavor profile is distinctly toasted, often with hints of nutty and chocolate-like malt sweetness. The mouthfeel tends to be rich and slightly thick, while a mild bitterness or slight astringency may also be present. Some dunkels may have subtle buttery notes, although they are not the dominant flavor.
One of the most beloved German beer styles is a wheat-based ale, commonly enjoyed in Southern Germany. This top-fermented beer typically contains 5-5.8% alcohol, offering a refreshing and lively flavor. It is often served in tall, slender glasses.
German weissbier must be brewed with a minimum of 50% malted wheat, although many breweries use more than the required amount. These beers are fermented with specific yeast strains that contribute to their characteristic aromas of clove, banana, smoke, and sometimes even bubble gum. Weissbiers generally have a malty and subtly bitter taste. While traditional bottle fermentation was common, it has become less prevalent in modern brewing practices.
It’s important to note that Weissbier is distinct from Berliner Weisse, as it lacks the pronounced acidity and sourness of the latter. However, Weissbier does often exhibit a phenolic (clove-like) and estery-fruity (banana) aroma resulting from the yeast used during fermentation.
If you come across a beer featuring a goat on its label, chances are it’s a Bock. These beers can vary in color and are generally stronger than Pilsners, typically ranging from 6.3 to 7.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). They often exhibit a sweet, bready-yeasty flavor, which can be attributed to the Munich malt used during the brewing process.
The origins of Bock beers can be traced back to the town of Einbeck, which lent its name to these brews. The term “Bock” is a playful nod to this, as the pronunciation of “Einbeck” in German sounds similar to “Ein Bock,” which translates to “a billy goat.”
The Doppelbock is a stronger and maltier version of the Bock beer. Hailing from Munich, this potent brew can be thought of as the imperial counterpart to the standard Bock. Its roots can be traced back to the days when it was affectionately called “liquid bread” by the Friars during periods of fasting. These robust and malty beers often boast alcohol by volume (ABV) exceeding 10%, showcasing flavors reminiscent of candied fruits and minimal hop influence.
Initially crafted by the monks at the Paulaner brewery in Munich, the Doppelbock boasts a rich and indulgent taste, characterized by caramel and a sugary flavor profile. Some variations of this beer may even exhibit hints of chocolate or fruit, making it an excellent choice for unwinding after a long day.
Weizenbock is a classic German beer style renowned for its unique blend of bock beer and wheat beer qualities. It features a robust malt flavor, often accompanied by subtle hints of banana and clove, which arise from the specific yeast used during fermentation. Essentially, it can be thought of as the “wheat” version of Bock and Doppelbock, combining the best of both worlds.
Traditionally, Weizenbocks are presented as dark, weighty beers that bring together the delightful wheat and yeast flavors of a Weissbier with the rich maltiness characteristic of a German Bock variety. Some experts view the modern Weizenbock as a fusion of Weissbier and Doppelbock, with a significant portion of wheat in the grist and the use of top-fermenting Weiss yeast, resulting in a rich maltiness akin to a bottom-fermented doppelbock.
Brewed with a substantial amount of wheat malt, Weizenbocks boast a full-bodied, creamy texture that sets them apart. They often contain higher alcohol content compared to regular wheat beers, making them a bold and flavorful choice for beer enthusiasts.
Originating from Cologne, Germany, Kölsch-style beer provides a refreshing and crisp drinking experience that caters to both casual beer enthusiasts and seasoned connoisseurs.
Kölsch beer is known for its light-bodied and crisp nature, featuring a delicate hint of malt sweetness and light hop bitterness in a well-balanced manner. It shares some similarities with Pilsner beer but distinguishes itself with a light, subtle fruitiness in its flavor profile. In essence, Kölsch is a bit smoother and more nuanced in its taste.
Gose is a type of beer that originated in Goslar, Germany. It is a light wheat beer that is usually the color of pale straw and has a cloudy appearance. Unlike most beers, it didn’t use yeast in the fermentation process. Instead, the mixture was cooled in open-air vats, exposing the grain to bacteria in the air for spontaneous fermentation. Today, gose is made with warm-fermenting yeast. The addition of lactobacillus bacteria creates its characteristic sour flavor. At least half of the grain used for gose is usually malted wheat. It also includes coriander and yeast, making this beer something of a rule breaker.
Gose has a distinctive salty and sour flavor that’s not to everyone’s taste. It has a lemon sourness, an herbal characteristic, and a strong saltiness (the result of either local water sources or added salt). It’s medium-bodied with low levels of bitterness. Modern versions of gose often include fruit-flavored syrups to balance the sourness.
You can easily find German-style beer in grocery stores or bars, but most of them are mass-produced. You might feel that something is missing when you drink them. How about trying German-style craft beer in Indonesia?
Consider Canard Brewing Co.’s craft beer selection, which includes Strawberry Gose, Kölsch, and Weizenbock. You can experience the authenticity of good craft beer with Canard’s commitment to quality. We only use the best ingredients, the most authentic processes and recipes, and the highest standards of packaging to serve the best craft beers in Indonesia. Try our best-brewed beer here.