Germany is known all over the world as both a primary producer and consumer of beer. More than 1,000 breweries exist within the nation’s borders, and German beer brewing is a source of national culinary pride, regarded by many beer enthusiasts worldwide as the regional pinnacle of beer creation.
The German Beer Purity Law
Beer is taken seriously in Germany. Like the production of sausage in Thuringia, beer production is regulated by a “purity law” that stipulates the only permissible ingredients in beer made in German breweries.
The specifics of the German Beer Purity Law were set down in 1516 by the rulers of the Bavarian region, known then and now as one of the foremost beer-producing regions. According to the law’s requirements, any lager beer must only be made from barley malt, yeast, hops and water, and cannot contain any sugars, spices, unmalted grains or chemicals. Ales are also regulated, but are allowed to contain grains such as wheat and rye, as well as sugars or sugar-derived coloring agents.
German Hefeweizen and Other German Wheat Beers
Beers classified as hefeweizen, which may also be called weissbier or weizen, are required to contain 50 percent or more of malted wheat, and the remainder of the beer is usually malted barley. The resulting beer is refreshing, flavorful but not bitter, and may have slight fruit flavors underneath the surface. Wheat beers pair well with lighter dishes, including seafood, chicken and mild-flavored cheese.
Hefeweizen, and wheat beers in general, are often replicated in the work of commercial United States brewers. The resulting beers have been met with mixed reception by beer enthusiasts, some well-liked and others dismissed. Additionally, the common U.S. tradition of serving wheat beers with slices of orange or lemon is not a German tradition, since the acidity of such fruits is believed to dilute the beer’s natural flavors.
Other Famed Beers of Germany
Some of the other popular German beers include the following styles:
- Bock: This term is applied to any stronger beer, generally more than 6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Popular at Christmas and during other festive occasions.
- Dunkel: German for “dark,” this term refers to any dark-colored lager brewed entirely with malted barley. Variations include the dunkelweizen, which introduces wheat into this darker beer.
- Oktoberfestbier: Originally referring to beer specifically brewed for, and served at the Munich Oktoberfest, this term now often describes beers brewed to celebrate the fall season.
- Pilsner: Named for Pilsen, the city of its origin, this hoppy and slightly bitter but immensely refreshing beer is now arguably the most popular German brew.
It is most prominent in the eastern, western and northern areas of Germany, often served alongside the cuisine of the Thuringia region in the east.