German beer needs no introduction. The stats say Germans are second only to the Czechs when it comes to per capita beer consumption. There are over 1,300 breweries in Germany, offering more than 5,000 types of beer.
Due to Germany’s ancient Beer Purity Law, which specifies that only barley, hops, water and yeast can be used for fermentation, these chemical-free brews are all delicious and won’t give you a hangover, as locals say.
Germany’s major beer varieties include the following.
Pils: Invented in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and further developed by Bavarian refrigeration methods, Pils was the first beer to be chilled and stored, thus allowing bottom fermentation, better clarity, and a longer shelf life. You might notice, that German Pils tends to have a drier, more bitter taste than what you might be used to.
Helles: Hell is German for “light”, but when it comes to beer, it refers to the colour rather than the alcohol content. Helles is a crisp Bavarian pale lager with between 4.5 % and 6 % alcohol. It was developed in the mid-19th century by a German brewer Gabriel Sedlmayr, who adopted and adapted some British techniques. Löwenbräu, Weihenstephaner, and Hacker-Pschorr are all classic Bavarian beers.
Dunkelbier: The dark, reddish color is a result of the darker malt that is used in the brewing. Regardless of the suspicions aroused by the stronger maltier taste, in fact, Dunkelbier contains no more alcohol than Helles. All the major Bavarian breweries produce a Dunkelbier in addition to their Helles.
Bock: Just like Dunkelbier, Bock also has a dark color and a malty taste, but it is a little stronger. Bock often has a sweeter flavor, and is traditionally drunk on holidays. There are also subcategories, like Eisbock and Doppelbock that are refined to make the beverage stronger.
Kölsch: The traditional beer of Cologne is a mild carbonated beer that is good as light refreshment. The major Kölsch brands include Gaffel, Früh, and Reissdorf.
Hefeweizen (Weissbier or Weizenbier): Hefeweizen is essentially wheat beer, originally brewed in southern Bavaria. It has a distinctive taste and cloudy colour. With an alcohol content of more than 8 %, it’s much stronger than standard Pils or Helles.
Germany also keeps an excellent cellar of wine and spirits.
The most celebrated wine regions in Germany are those of the Rhine and Mosel valleys. Most areas produce wines that are dry (trocken) or medium (halbtrocken), though there are also some sweet (lieblich) wines.
Three-quarters of German wines are white (Weisswein), usually Rieslings, which at their best are light and elegant, almost floral. Silvaner wines have more body, and Gewürztraminers boast of the intense and highly aromatic flavour. The German Grauburgunder is better known in English as Pinot Gris.
Famous reds (Rotwein) are Spätburgunder, a German Pinot Noir, rich in colour, smooth in taste, and Trollinger, a light fresh wine that is delicious in summer. Rosé (Roséwein) is less common.
Schnapps spirits come in a range of regional flavours. Common varieties include cherry Schnapps (Kirschwasser), and corn Schnapps (Doppelkorn). Whether digestif, aperitif or simply a short, Schnapps is served in 2 cl measures.
Find out more about traditional German beverages from the video below.