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German Beer

In Germany, beer is large part of the culture. There are over 1300 breweries in Germany, the most in any country in the world. Beer produced in Germany must adhere to the Reinheitsgebot (German purity law) which dictates what ingredients can be used. The only ingredients allowed are “Wasser, Hopfen, und Gerstenmalz” or water, hops and barley-malt in English. Cultured yeast was also included in the law after its invention. Today, most breweries from around the world have incorporated the Reinheitsgebot into the production of their own beer. Because of this purity requirement, which was law until 1988, German beers are recognized for their quality. There are many types of German beer. A few of the styles of ale include Altbier, Koelsch, Rauchbier and Weizen. German lagers include Helles, Maerzen, Bock, Pilsener, Schwarzbier and Dunkel. The colors, aromas and flavor of each type can vary widely, but all are drunk in large quantities: only the Czechs and Irish drink more beer per capita than the Germans.

Altbier, primarily drunk in the Lower Rhine region of Germany is a dark ale that is top-fermented. Its name, sometimes shortened to Alt, means simply “ancient beer”. Koelsch is locally brewed in Cologne. It is yellow in color with a distinct flavor of hops. Rauchbier, meaning literally “smoke beer” is said to have a smoky flavor and color. Weizen is an ale made from malted wheat that is mild in flavor and has a light color.

Helles is a lager brewed in southern Germany, primarily in Munich and surrounding Bavaria. The name Helles, or Hellbier means “light beer” and has a light yellowish color. Maerzen beers are traditionally brewed for the well-known German celebration of Oktoberfest and are traditionally a dark reddish-brown with a sweet malt flavor. Bock is a very strong-flavored beer dark in color, brewed in Munich during the winter. Pilsener, or Pils, is the most familiar of German beers, its flavor being slightly more hoppy and less malty than that of Helles. It was first brewed in the Bohemian city of Pilsen. Schwarzbier, meaning black beer, is a bottom-fermented lager with a chocolate flavor and dark color. Finally, Dunkel, or “dark beer” is a dark lager with a smooth flavor.

There are many companies in Germany that produce its over 5000 brands of beer. Some of the larger breweries in the north of the country include Beck’s, St. Pauli Girl, Bitburger, Oettinger, Warsteiner and Krombach. The south has a higher concentration of breweries, but most are smaller, locally owned and operated. The Benedictine abbey Weihenstephan in southern Germany is supposedly the oldest brewery in the world: it started producing beer in the year 1040!

Oktoberfest is an annual festival held in Munich, Germany in the state of Bavaria. It starts in late September and goes on for two weeks into early October. Here, people from around the globe travel to celebrate German beer. Over six million attend the event annually. Only local breweries from Munich are allowed to serve their beers in the large tents (Bierzelt). These six breweries are Loewenbraeu, Hofbraeu, Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Paulaner and Augustiner. Other cities worldwide mimic this honest and hold their own versions of Oktoberfest. Some major cities in the U.S. that hold Oktoberfest celebrations include Appleton, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Ohio, Hickory, North Carolina and Campbell, California.

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to beer-guides.com/ Beer

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