German Beer: The Beer Heroes' Guide

10 Jan 14

The Beer Heroes' Guide to German BeerPart 1: Introduction

The Germans are well known for their love of beer, and the integral role it plays in their culture. The country has over 1, 200 breweries. Within this there are over 60 styles of German beer.

One factor in Germany's history has had a major influence on its beer. The German "Beer Purity Law" (Reinheitsgebot) was first established in the early 1500's and forms the basis of German beer tradition. According to this law German beer may contain only water, hops and malted barley (yeast was not mentioned, nor understood at the time). It was meant to protect wheat stocks, ensuring food security for the citizens. Other ingredients such as chemicals, preservatives and other starches such as rice and corn were thus also prohibited.

While the Reinheitsgebot no longer stands as law, many German beers still adhere to it, brewing wholesome and flavourful beer. These tend to be effervescent and rich in protein, which gives them a good head too. The myriad of German beer styles is vast and ranges from blond ales to black beers, light Pilsners to heavy Dunkles, and more.

While regions have developed local styles there are some styles which stand out due to their popularity and distribution. They can roughly be divided into these categories:

Pale beers:

One of the most popular categories of beer in the world today.

  • Kölsch (Koelsch) (a very pale ale from Cologne/Köln)
  • Pils (AKA Pilsner or Pilsener)
  • Bock (strong lager)
  • Dortmunder Export
  • Märzen

Wheat beers:

Summery beers generally from the South of Germany, made with at least 50% wheat malt.

  • Weizenbier and Weißbier
  • Berliner Weisse
  • Leipziger Gose
  • Hefeweizen
  • Kristallweizen (a filtered Hefeweizen)

Dark beers:

Generally smoky roasty, dark and strong.  These are generally winter beers, brewed in autumn.

  • Altbier
  • Schwarzbier
  • Dunkles
  • Rauchbier

Follow our series in the coming weeks to find out more about these individual styles of beer!