Pale Beer: The Beerheroes’ guide to German Beer

14 Feb 14


Marzan Glass_Blog

In the third of our series on German beer styles, we’re looking at one of the most popular categories of beer in the world today: pale beers. Most are light lagers, brewed to bring out their pale colouring.

Kölsch (or Koelsch)

Kölsch beer is native to the town of Cologne, also known as Köln. It is noted for its delicacy, with a light to medium body, soft palate and a delicate dryness in the finish. Usually brewed with pale barley malt, the beer sometimes has wheat added too. It’s a refreshing, clean tasting beer -with a dryness and acidity much like wine- and a faint fruitiness. 4.5-5% ABV

Pils (or Pilsner, or Pilsener)

Pilsner is named after the town of Pilsen although brewing of this style has spread around the world and it is now the most popular style of beer globally. Light to medium in body, pilsners range in colour from light to medium gold. German pilsners are pale and dry with a crisp hoppy bitterness and a floral, medium hop bouquet.  4.5-5% ABV.


Bock is a full-bodied, bitter-sweet lager with an amber colour. It is generally strong in alcohol with a malty sweetness, often including chocolate undertones. A light hoppiness balances the malt. Originally from the town of Einbeck and then further developed by the monks of Munich, the Bock style is often represented by goats (“bock” is the German name for these animals). It’s historically associated with special occasions and religious festivals, hence Lentenbock is served at Lent. The style has been adapted to make various versions such as Helles Bock (with a lighter coloured malt), Doppelbock (a stronger and maltier version) and Eisbock (a much stronger version made by partially freezing the beer and removing the water ice that forms). 6.5-7% ABV.


Dortmunder, also known as Export, was Germany's most popular style in the 1950s and 1960s; although today it is increasingly rare. It’s fuller, maltier and less hoppy than a pilsner, with a pale to medium gold colour. A well balanced beer with neither malt nor hops dominating, a sip reveals a touch of sweetness and a subtle biscuit taste. The hardness of the water in Dortmund, combined with a special maltings process, makes for a unique taste and a smooth yet crisply refreshing beer. 5-5.5% ABV


Märzen is the original Octoberfest beer. This amber to deep copper-coloured beer was originally brewed in Munich for the Octoberfest, although brewing would begin in March (“Märzen” means “March” in German). Through the hot summer months the beer would be stored in cold, insulated caves and then be brought out for drinking come the October sunshine. Märzen is medium bodied with an assertively malty sweetness and a toasted malt flavour; balanced by a short, sharp hop bitterness. 5.2-6% ABV.


What are your favourite South African pale beers? Share your picks of the local brew scene by tweeting us at @MyBeerSA!