Beer in Germany

Beer is a major part of German culture. German beer is brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, which permits only water, hops, and malt as ingredients and stipulates that beers not exclusively using barley-malt such as wheat beer must be top-fermented.[2][3]

In 2012, Germany ranked third in Europe in terms of per-capita beer consumption, behind the Czech Republic and Austria.[4]

Kranz Koelsch
A Kranz (wreath) of fresh Kölsch beer that is typically carried by a server ("Köbes"), containing traditional Stange glasses and, in the center, larger modern glasses.[1]


The Reinheitsgebot ("purity decree"), sometimes called the "German Beer Purity Law" or the "Bavarian Purity Law" in English, was a regulation concerning the production of beer in Germany.

In the original text, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley, and hops, which had to be added only while the wort was boiling. After its discovery, yeast became the fourth legal ingredient. (For top fermenting beers, the use of sugar is also permitted.)

There is a dispute as to where the Reinheitsgebot originated. Some Bavarians point out that the law originated in the city of Ingolstadt in the duchy of Bavaria on 23 April 1516, although first put forward in 1487,[5] concerning standards for the sale and composition of beer.

Thuringians point to a document which states the ingredients of beer as water, hops, and barley only, and was written in 1434 in Weißensee (Thuringia). It was discovered in the medieval Runneburg near Erfurt in 1999.[6] Before its official repeal in 1987, it was the oldest food-quality regulation in the world.[7]


Wheat beers

Hefeweizen and kristallweizen
Filtered and unfiltered German wheat beers
  • Weizenbier and Weißbier are the standard German names for wheat beer – "Weizen" is German for "wheat", and "weiß" is German for "white".[8]
  • Weizenbock is the name for a strong beer or bock made with wheat. 16-17° Plato, 6.5-8% ABV.
  • Roggenbier – a fairly dark beer made with rye, somewhat grainy flavour similar to bread, 4.5-6% ABV.
  • Berliner Weisse – a pale, very sour, wheat beer brewed in Berlin. 9° Plato, 2.5-5% ABV. The beer is typically served with raspberry or woodruff flavoured syrup.
  • Leipziger Gose – an amber, mildly sour, wheat beer with an addition of salt, brewed around Leipzig. 10-12° Plato, 4-5% ABV.
  • Hefeweizen – an unfiltered wheat beer. "Hefe" is German for yeast.[9]
  • Kristallweizen – a filtered wheat beer. Characterized by a clear appearance as opposed to the cloudy look of a typical Hefeweizen.
  • Kottbusser – an heirloom style originating in the city of Cottbus, typically containing oats, honey and molasses in addition to wheat and barley malts.[10]

Pale beers

  • Export — a pale lager brewed around Dortmund that is fuller, maltier and less hoppy than Pilsner. 12-12.5° Plato, 5-5.5% ABV. Germany's most popular style in the 1950s and 1960s, it is now becoming increasingly rare.
  • Helles — a malty pale lager from Bavaria of 11-12° Plato, 4.5-5% ABV.
  • Kölsch — pale, light bodied, top fermented, beer which, when brewed in Germany, can only legally be brewed in the Cologne region. 11-12° Plato, 4.5-5% ABV.
  • Maibock — a pale, strong lager brewed in the spring. 16-17° Plato, 6.5-7% ABV.
Märzen at Oktoberfest, served in the traditional 1-litre Maß.
  • Märzen — medium body, malty lagers that come in pale, amber and dark varieties. 13-14° Plato, 5.2-6% ABV. The type of beer traditionally served at the Munich Oktoberfest.
  • Pilsener — a pale lager with a light body and a more prominent hop character. 11-12° Plato, 4.5-5% ABV. By far the most popular style, with around two thirds of the market.
  • Spezial — a pale, full, bitter-sweet and delicately hopped lager. 13-13.5° Plato, 5.5-5.7% ABV.

Dark beers

  • Altbier — a top fermented, lagered beer. It is brewed only in Düsseldorf and in the Lower Rhine region. Its origins lie in Westphalia, and there are still a few Altbier breweries in this region. Tastes range from mildly bitter and hoppy to exceptionally bitter. About ten breweries in the Düsseldorf region brew Altbier at 5%-6.5% ABV.
  • Bock — a heavy bodied, bitter-sweet lager that uses dark coloured malts. 16-17° Plato, 6.5-7% ABV.
  • Doppelbock — a very strong, very full bodied lager that uses dark coloured malts. 18-28° Plato, 8-12% ABV.
  • Dunkel — a dark lager which comes in two main varieties: the sweetish, malty Munich style and the drier, hoppy Franconian style.
  • Schwarzbier — a bottom fermented, dark lager beer. 11-12° Plato, 4.5-5% ABV.

Unfiltered beer

Eichbaum Kellerbier 2007 just beer
A glass stein of unfiltered Eichbaum Kellerbier

Kellerbiers are unfiltered lagers which are conditioned in a similar manner to cask ales. Strength and colour will vary,[11] though in the Franconia region where these cask conditioned lagers are still popular, the strength will tend to be 5% ABV or slightly higher, and the colour will tend to be a deep amber, but the defining characteristic is the cask conditioning. Kellerbier is German for "cellar beer".[12]

Zwickelbier was originally a sample amount of beer taken by a brewery boss from the barrel with the help of a special pipe called a "Zwickelhahn". Zwickelbiers are unfiltered lagers like Kellerbier, though with a slightly different conditioning process which gives the lager more carbonation. Zwickelbiers tend to be younger, lower in alcohol and less hoppy than Kellerbiers.[13]

A very similar beer is Zoiglbier, which in the Upper Palatinate's brewing practice is advertised with a "Zoiglstern" (i.e., sign) — a six-pointed blue-and-white symbol made from wooden slats, similar to a Star of David.[14][15]

Brands and breweries

While the beer market is weaker but more centralized in northern Germany, southern Germany has many smaller, local breweries. Almost half of all German breweries are in Bavaria, [16] where the seven main breweries produce 158 million gallons [17]. In total, there are approximately 1,300 breweries in Germany producing over 5,000 brands of beer.

The highest density of breweries in the world is found in Aufseß near the city of Bamberg, in the Franconia region of Bavaria with four breweries and only 1,352 citizens.[18] The Benedictine abbey Weihenstephan brewery (established in 725) is reputedly the oldest existing brewery in the world (brewing since 1040). In 2004, Oettinger replaced Krombacher as the best selling brand in Germany.[19]

Top ten best-selling German beer brands in million hectolitres
Brewery Location Output in 2012 [20] Output in 2015 [21]
Oettinger Oettingen 5.89 5.39
Krombacher Kreuztal 5.46 5.49
Bitburger Bitburg 4.07 3.84
Beck's Bremen 2.78 2.59
Warsteiner Warstein 2.77 2.34
Hasseröder Wernigerode 2.75 2.25
Veltins Meschede 2.72 2.79
Paulaner Munich 2.30 2.42
Radeberger Radeberg 1.91 1.90
Erdinger Erding 1.72 1.80

Alcohol content

The alcohol-by-volume, or ABV, content of beers in Germany is usually between 4.7% and 5.4% for most traditional brews. Bockbier or Doppelbock (double Bockbier) can have an alcohol content of up to 16%, making it stronger than many wines.



An ornate stoneware beer stein.


A common half-litre Humpen mug.


A Weizen beer glass.

Warsteiner glass

A Pilsner beer glass

Lemke dunkel beer in glass

Dunkel, pictured here in a Stange glass.

Drink augustiner beergarden

A Maßkrug is the style of glassware featured at German beer festivals, especially in Bavaria, such as Munich's Oktoberfest.


A German bierstiefel (beer boot).


A Berliner Weisse glass.

Weizen glass

A glass of Weizen

A Weizen glass is used to serve wheat beer. Originating in Germany, the glass is narrow at the bottom and slightly wider at the top; the width both releasing aroma, and providing room for the often thick, fluffy heads produced by wheat beer.[22] It tends to be taller than a pint glass, and generally holds 500 millilitres with room for foam or "head". In some countries, such as Belgium, the glass may be 250 ml or 330 ml.

Wheat beers tend to foam a lot, especially if poured incorrectly. A customary manner is to swirl around a bit of (preferably cold) water in the glass to wet it and afterwards pouring the beer slowly, holding the glass in an angle of approximately 45 °.

Beer stein

A beer stein (or simply a stein /ˈstaɪn/ STYNE) is an English neologism for a traditional type of beer mug. Steins may be made of stoneware (rarely the inferior earthenware), pewter, porcelain, silver, glass, or wood. They may have open tops or may have hinged pewter lids with a thumb-lever.

Steins usually come in sizes of a half litre or full litre (or comparable historical sizes). Like decorative tankards, they are often decorated in nostalgic themes, generally showing allusions to Germany or Bavaria.

It is believed by some that the lid was implemented during the time of the Black Plague to prevent diseased flies from getting into the beer.[23]


The Maß (pronounced [mas]) is a term used in German-speaking countries for a unit of volume, now typically used only for measuring beer sold for immediate on-site consumption. In modern times, a Maß is defined as exactly 1 litre. As a Maß is a unit of measure, various designs are possible: modern Maßkrugs (Maßkrüge in German) are often handled glass tankards, although they may also be in the form of steins. At the Octoberfest beer is available in Maßkrug or half litre 'Halb' .

Stange and Becher

A Stange (stick or rod) is a cylindrical glass that is traditionally used for Kölsch beer. A Becher (tumbler), traditionally used for Altbier, is similar to a Stange but is slightly shorter and much thicker. Stangen are carried by placing them into holes in a special tray called a Kranz (wreath). In Cologne Stanges are usually served by traditional waiters called Köbes.


Radler Pils Unterschied 01 (RaBoe)
Traditional German Pilstulpen

The Pilstulpe ("Pilsner Tulip") or Biertulpe ("Beer tulip") is the tradition glass for German pilsner beers. Sizes are typically around 300 millilitres (11 imp fl oz; 10 US fl oz), but can be as large as 500 millilitres (18 imp fl oz; 17 US fl oz). When used in restaurant settings, a small piece of absorbent paper is placed around the base to absorb any drips from spilling or condensation.

Beer boot

Beer boots (Bierstiefel in German) have over a century of history and culture behind them. It is commonly believed that a general somewhere promised his troops to drink beer from his boot if they were successful in battle. When the troops prevailed, the general had a glassmaker fashion a boot from glass to fulfill his promise without tasting his own feet and to avoid spoiling the beer in his leather boot. Since then, soldiers have enjoyed toasting to their victories with a beer boot. At gatherings in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, beer boots are often passed among the guests for a festive drinking challenge. Since the movie Beerfest appeared in 2006, beer boots have become increasingly popular in the United States. Glass beer boots are either manufactured using a mold or from mouth-blown glass by skilled artisans.

In Germany, beer boots usually contain between 2 and 4 litres and are passed from one guest at the table to the next one clockwise. When almost reaching the bottom of the boot, it suddenly starts bubbling. By some accounts, drinker who caused the bubbling has to order the next boot. There are also boots known with 6 and 8 litres. That being said, beer boots are almost never seen in Germany, even among friends who do drink as much and more beer on an evening out together; normal glasses are preferred.

Beer festivals

Inside a tent at Munich's Oktoberfest - the world's largest beer festival

Oktoberfest is a 16- to 18-day festival held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, running from late September to the first weekend in October. Only beer which is brewed within the city limits of Munich with a minimum of 13.5% Stammwürze (approximately 6% alcohol by volume) is allowed to be served in this festival. Upon passing this criterion, a beer is designated Oktoberfest Beer. Large quantities of German beer are consumed, with almost 7 million liters served during the 16-day festival in 2007. Recently in 2015 the festival officially served 7.3 million liters of beer.[24]

Other festivals include

In many cases, the beer festival is part of a general funfair or volksfest.

See also


  1. ^ "Kölsch Beer Glasses". Lee Valley Tools. 2018. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  2. ^ "Vorläufiges Biergesetz". Archived from the original on 9 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-04.
  3. ^ "492 Years of Good Beer". Archived from the original on 2011-05-11. Retrieved 2011-05-26.
  4. ^ "Kirin Beer University Report, Global Beer Consumption by Country in 2012". Table 3.
    See also: List of countries by beer consumption per capita
  5. ^ "Bavaria"; Bolt, Rodney; Globe Pequot Press; Connecticut; 2005; pg 37.
  6. ^ [1] Archived March 20, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "492 Years of Good Beer: Germans Toast the Anniversary of Their Beer Purity Law - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News". Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  8. ^ "Weissbier". German Beer Institute. Archived from the original on 24 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  9. ^ M. Gibson (2010). The Sommelier Prep Course: An Introduction to the Wines, Beers, and Spirits. John Wiley and Sons. p. 364. ISBN 9780470283189. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  10. ^ [2] Archived April 24, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter - Beer Styles: Kellerbier". Beer Hunter. Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  12. ^ Kellerbier Archived 2008-06-21 at the Wayback Machine German Beer Institute
  13. ^ "Zwickelbier". Archived from the original on 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  14. ^ "Zoigl-History - What is Zoigl?". Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  15. ^ "Pronunciation and definition of Zoiglbier". Archived from the original on 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  16. ^ Quoted in Sonntag Aktuell Newspaper (Stuttgart), 28.09.2008
  17. ^ "Beer Tour Alert: The 5 Best Brewing Hotspots in Bavaria for Your Craft Beer Trip (No, They're Not in Munich)". HuffPost. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  18. ^ World's Best Beers: One Thousand Craft Brews from Cask to Glass by Ben McFarland
  19. ^ Cited news from Financial Times Germany on
  20. ^ Table Statista, 2013.
  21. ^ " Bierblog". Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  22. ^ Wright, Chris (2007). The Beer Journal. Morrisville. ISBN 9781430312468.
  23. ^ Gary Kirsner (1999). "A Brief History of Beer Steins". Archived from the original on 3 June 2009. Retrieved June 19, 2009.
  24. ^ "History of Oktoberfest - How It Began in Munich Germany". Retrieved 2016-07-07.

Further reading

  • Prost!: The Story of German Beer, Horst D. Dornbusch, Brewers Publications (1997), ISBN 0-937381-55-1
  • Good Beer Guide Germany, Steve Thomas, CAMRA Books (17 May 2006), ISBN 1-85249-219-8

External links

1612er Zwickelbier

1612er Zwickelbier, is a Zwickel (Or Zwickl) beer made in the same tradition as Kellerbiers: unfiltered, served straight from the cask or conditioning tank, and naturally cloudy in the glass. 1612er Zwickelbier has an alcohol content of 5.3% abv and was first brewed by Hofbräuhaus Traunstein in 1612, when the Bavarian Duke Maximilian I founded a brewery solely for producing Weissbier. Today however, the brewery range also includes a Pilsner and a Dunkel. Hops for 1612er Zwickelbier come from the brewery's own farm in the Hallertau area, whereas the malt is sourced locally. 1612er is currently only available in the brewery's restaurants and beer halls.

Beer Stein Marker

Beer Stein Markers were puppets of knitted wool used by Bavarian beer drinkers to clearly identify their tankards when sent back for refilling. The puppets were usually about 10cm high and fixed to the thumbpiece on the lid. Traditionally they were caricatures of politicians of the time, both popular and unpopular. The custom was particularly to be seen at the Löwenbräukeller in Munich during the 1890s. In his 1897 article on beer-markers George Dollar wrote that the "beer-marker" custom has been known to Munich for many years, and that it has been adopted in nearly all of the German cities and towns. In the Löwenbräu Keller the markers are sold for fifty pfennige, or sixpence, each, by an old woman who goes round amongst the beer-drinkers with a basket. She is a well-known character in Munich, and knits the figures herself.

A more modern solution is to affix a brightly coloured plastic token to beer bottles at social gatherings and thereby to prevent confusion.

Brau und Brunnen

Brau und Brunnen AG ("Brew and Spring") was a German brewing and beverage group which was formed as "Dortmunder Union-Schultheiss Brauerei AG" in 1972 through a merger between Schultheiss-Brauerei and Dortmunder Union-Brauerei. It was renamed Brau und Brunnen in 1988. It owned a number of formerly independent breweries, including Einbecker Brewery. Until the early 1990s, Brau und Brunnen was the largest beverage company in Germany, but its market share steadily declined throughout the 1990s. An additional cause for the decline was the company's purchase of Bavaria – St. Pauli Brewery and Jever for an estimated 800 million DM, although these purchases were later estimated to only be worth closer to 250 million DM. Other companies engaged in a series of mergers and acquisitions, and by 1999, it had sank to the fourth-largest beverage company and was continually losing money. After unsuccessful internal reorganizations, the company was purchased by Dr. August Oetker KG and integrated into its subsidiary Radeberger Gruppe.

Brauerei Gebr. Maisel

Brauerei Gebr. Maisel KG (Maisel Bros. Brewery) is a family-owned brewery located in Bayreuth, Germany, best known for their wheat beer. It is the fourth largest producer of wheat beer in Germany, with annual production of around 410,000 hectolitres (350,000 US bbl), employing 160 workers.


Braugold Vertriebs GmbH & Co. KG was a brewery in Erfurt. It was one of the largest breweries in the state and was for a time the market leader in Thuringia.

Dairy in the New Garden

The Dairy in the New Garden was built to plans by the master builder, Carl Gotthard Langhans, on the shore of the Jungfernsee lake at the northernmost tip of the New Garden in Potsdam, Germany. Construction was carried out from 1790 to 1792 by Andreas Ludwig Krüger.In the course of laying out the landscape garden and building the Marble Palace under Frederick William II of Prussia, a dairy was built to supply the royal court. Cows grazing on the surrounding land produced milk for the manufacture of butter and cheese.

In 1843/1844 Frederick William IV. had the building extended. To a design by the architect Ludwig Persius a second storey was added under the direction of Ludwig Ferdinand Hesse and the southwest corner was enhanced with a tower. Battlements run along the edges of the roof and give the building a Norman character.

A second expansion was carried out in 1857 with the engine or pump house, which was built to water the New Garden. The high, slender chimney is part of that technical modification. The upper basin for the supply of water is nowadays located within the Belvedere on the Pfingstberg.

In 1928 a restaurant was established in the building that became one of the most popular destinations for day trippers in Potsdam until the Second World War.

Its occupation by the Red Army at the end of 1945 and the destruction by fire of part of the building ended its gastronomic function. The dairy was still in this ruined condition when the Berlin Wall was built in 1961.

In 1991, after the Wende, renovation and restoration measures were carried out on the old building and, in 2003, it was able to re-open as a brewery and restaurant (Gasthausbrauerei).

Ernst Barre Private Brewery

The Ernst Barre Private Brewery (German: Privatbrauerei Ernst Barre GmbH) is a brewery in the East Westphalian town of Lübbecke in the north-western German district of Minden-Lübbecke. It was founded by Ernst Johann Barre in 1842. Along with its immediate competitor, the Herforder Brauerei, it is one of the largest breweries in East Westphalia (based on beer production), and is thus of regional importance. The brewery is located at the southern end of the pass over the Wiehen Hills (Bundesstrasse 239) between Lübbecke and Hüllhorst, at the base of the Reineberg hill, and has been in the same family for generations.

Familienbrauerei Bauhöfer

Familienbrauerei Bauhöfer GmbH & Co. KG ("Bauhöfer Family Brewery) is a brewery company in Renchen-Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, established in 1852.

The company is a Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (GmbH, limited liability company) and a Kommanditgesellschaft (KG, limited partnership).

Fucking Hell

Fucking Hell is a German Pilsner or pale lager with an alcohol content of 4.9%. It is named after the village of Fucking in Austria; hell is the German word for 'pale' and a typical description of this kind of beer. The beer's name was initially controversial. Both the local authorities in Fucking and the European Union's Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office initially objected to the name. It was eventually accepted and the lager is now sold internationally.


Helles or Hell is a traditional German pale lager beer, produced chiefly in Southern Germany, particularly Munich. The German word hell can be translated as "bright", "light", or "pale".

Hofbräuhaus Traunstein

Hofbräuhaus Traunstein is a beer brewery in Traunstein, southeastern Bavaria, Germany.

Hop Research Center Hüll

The Hop Research Center Hüll (Hopfenforschungszentrum Hüll) is a research institution focussing on advances in hop breeding, hop harvesting, and hop chemistry. It is located in the Hallertau, the largest continuous hop-planting area in the world, in the German state of Bavaria. The institute is run by the German Hop Research Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Hopfenforschung) and the Bavarian state.


The Köstritzer brewery, founded in 1543, is one of the oldest producers of Schwarzbier (black beer) in Germany. It is located in Bad Köstritz, which is close to Gera in Thuringia.

During the Cold War, Köstritzer was one of the few breweries in East Germany that manufactured beer for export. From 1956 to 1976, the beer was exported to West Germany. The brewery has been owned by the Bitburger Brauerei since 1991. The total output of the brewery increased from 145,000 hectoliters in 1991 to 910,000 hL in 2004.

One of the most famous drinkers of Köstritzer Schwarzbier was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who sustained himself on black beer from Köstritz when he was unable to eat during a period of illness.

Köstritzer produces the following types of beer:

Schwarzbier (4.8% ABV)




Bibop (a mixture of cola and beer)


Pale Ale


List of brewing companies in Germany

This is a list of brewing companies in Germany. Beer is a major part of German culture. For many years German beer was brewed in adherence to the Reinheitsgebot order or law which only permitted water, hops, yeast and malt as beer ingredients. The order also required that beers not exclusively using barley-malts, such as wheat beer, must be top-fermented.Since 1993, the production of beer has been governed by the Provisional German Beer Law which allows a greater range of ingredients (only in top-fermenting beers) and additives that have to be completely, or at least as much as possible, removed from the final product.

Oktoberfest tents

There are a series of tents (often called beer tents) at the Oktoberfest, which are operated by different Wiesn-hosts and in which some come from a long tradition. Some tents belong to the local breweries. The set up work for the tents often begins three months before the start of the festival.

Privatbrauerei Wittingen

Privatbrauerei Wittingen GmbH ("Wittingen Private Brewery") is a German brewing firm based in the Lower Saxon town of Wittingen. In 2013, the brewery had 104 employees and produced 432,550 hl of beer.According to the firm's statements it has been a family business since 1429, and is therefore one of the oldest private breweries in Germany. The firm has 100 employees and produces about 365,000 hectolitres (64,200,000 imp pt) of beer per year. It delivers to customers in North Germany within a radius of 150 km. In addition, there is a division that dispatches beer throughout Germany.

At the creditors' meeting of another brewery, the Herrenhäuser Brauerei, on 20 October 2010 it was agreed that it could be purchased by Privatbrauerei Wittingen.

Radeberger Group

Radeberger Group is the largest brewery group in Germany. It is headquartered in Frankfurt am Main and produces beer and non-alcoholic beverages at 16 different locations. With an approximate annual production volume of 13 million hectolitres (11 million US beer barrels), the group accounts for approximately 15% of German beer production.


The Reinheitsgebot (German pronunciation: [ˈʁaɪnhaɪtsɡəboːt] (listen), literally "purity order"), sometimes called the "German Beer Purity Law" in English, is a series of regulations limiting the ingredients in beer in Germany and the states of the former Holy Roman Empire. The best-known version of the law was adopted in Bavaria in 1516, but similar regulations predate the Bavarian order, and modern regulations also significantly differ from the 1516 Bavarian version.

St. Erhard (brewery)

St. Erhard (officially typeset St. ERHARD) is a German craft brewery from the region of Bamberg in Bavaria. The beer positions itself as a luxury brand and is predominantly exported to Asia.

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