Beer is a significant part of German culture. Germany has the distinction of having one of the world’s highest per-capita consumption of beer. At 107 liters per person, it stood 2nd in beer consumption per-capita in 2010 just after the Czech Republic. More than 1200 breweries are currently functioning in Germany, many of which brew several kinds of beer.
Almost every town of Germany has a brewery. For several decades, German beer was brewed according to the German Beer Purity Law or Reinheitsgebot. The Law permitted water, malt and hops as the only ingredients of beer. Later it allowed yeast as the fourth ingredient. It required non-Reinheitsgebot beers to be top-fermented. In 1993, it allowed more ingredients only in top-fermenting beers. Most Germans are loyal to the Reinheitsgebot beers.
There are several types of beer created by the several breweries across Germany. The range and class of German beer types is worth exploring. Here are the most popular of the German beers.
Kolsch – Kolsch beer is protected by law such that only the beers brewed in the region of Koln can bear the name Kolsch. It is very light, pale and clear in appearance. The taste is refreshing, fruity and a little sweeter. It is served in tall, straight and cylindrical glasses called Kolsh-Stange.
Marzen – Marzen is characterized by a medium body and malty flavor. It comes in pale, amber and dark-brown varieties. Marzen beer derives its name from the month of March(Marzen). It dates back to pre-refrigeration days. The only way to achieve cold temperatures for bottom-fermenting at that time was to brew in winter and stop brewing before the month of March. Then, the beers were kept in icy cave mountains to be consumed in Autumn festivals like the Oktoberfest.
Pilsener – This is the most popular type of German beer representing around two-thirds of the market. It is pale, light straw to golden yellow in color and has an earthy or bitter taste. The light color is due to lightly toast malts.
Altbier – It stands for ‘Alt’ or old beer. It is one of the oldest beers. It is copper-bronze in color and bitter to taste with a dry finish. It is mostly manufactured in the breweries around Dusseldorf. It is mostly served in straight, cylindrical 200ml glasses called Becker. Becker is similar to Kolsch glass but broader and shorter.
Dunkel – Several types of dark beers are known as the Dunkels. They are characterized by their malty flavor. Three basic types of Dunkels are well known. Munchner is a lightly hopped dunkel that is popular in Munich. Frankonian dunkles is a heavily hopped dark beer that is popular in Frankonia. Schwarzbier is a dark, opaque beer with distinct flavor found in Saxony and Thuringia.
Rauchbier – It is a ‘smoked’ beer. Malt is usually dried by suspending it over fire and allowing smoke and heat to pass over it. Hence, a smoky flavor is obtained. This flavor is surprisingly rich in taste.
Berliner Weisse – This is a pale, sour beer brewed in Berlin. The flavors are very cleansing and refreshing. The sour and tangy taste is due to the addition of woodruff and raspberry syrup to the fermented wheat. It is top-fermented and bottle-conditioned.
Hefeweizen – It is the Bavarian variety of wheat beer. ‘Hefe’ stands for yeast and ‘Weizen’ stands for wheat. It is a top-fermented wheat beer with a significant yeast sediment. The yeast gives it a cloudy appearance. It is quite sweet and fruity to taste, since it is very lightly hopped.
There you have the main types of German beer. If I forgot anything, let me know in the comments.