Beer lovers have plenty of reasons to celebrate these days. The Oktoberfest celebration held annually in Munich, Germany, is a massive party where more than 6 million visitors gather to enjoy the oldest of sparkling drinks. Although other cities around the world also celebrate their own Oktoberfest on these dates, the yearly event in Germany arouses global attention.
Germany is considered the country with the largest brewing tradition in the world. In fact, this drink was already consumed from the 6th century B.C. by some tribes in the South, and when the Romans arrived, they found that its inhabitants drank some kind of concoction consisting of mead mixed with beer.
In the year 766, the first beer company in the world was established in the monastery of St. Gallen, in Geisingen, on the banks of the Danube. The standards of purity for German beer, currently enforced, were approved in the 16th century, in the time of Prince William IV. These standards, which clearly indicate that, in its preparation, you cannot use anything other than water, barley, hops, and yeast, have been followed from 1906 throughout the German Empire.
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German beer varieties are numerous with about 5,000 different kinds. Here are some of the most popular:
Its name comes from the city of Pilsen, Bohemia. It’s a pale and somewhat bitter beer with fewer hops than other national brews, containing not more than 5 degrees of alcohol. Pilsener beer is available in almost all of Germany.
The Weizenbier beer is produced by subjecting the yeast to very high temperatures. Its flavor is fresh and has a slightly fruity aftertaste. It is typical of southern Germany, although its consumption is gradually increasing in the North.
Alt, which in German means old, aged or mature, defines this beer, characterized by abundant foam. The Altbier tends to have the strong bitter taste of hops and is a favorite of the citizens of Düsseldorf and Nordrhein.
Helles beer, also known as clear beer, tends to have a content of malt and hops between 11 and 13 percent, as well as an alcohol content of 4.5 to 6 degrees. It has a clear color and is extremely popular in Bavaria.
In German, schwarzbier means “black beer”. Therefore, this beer owes its name to its dark color, although nowadays some variants come in lighter hues. The fermentation is low, and the taste is strong but pleasant. The alcoholic content oscillates between 4.8 and 5 degrees. It is usually found to the East of Germany.
Its name comes from the German town of Einbeck in Lower Saxony. It usually has more than 6.25 degrees of alcohol and its color can be golden (“lager”) or brown. Its degree of alcohol varies. There are various kinds of Bock, and there are very local specialties that can only be tasted in particular regions.
The Dunkel beer is older than the “Lager” and takes its name from its brown or black color. It is produced in Bohemia and Bavaria. It is mild-flavored, and in its manufacturing, a bigger amount of hops is used to soften the bitter taste of malt. Its alcohol content is around 5 percent. All the German beer companies tend to have at least one Dunkel among their varieties.
The Rauchbier or smoked beer, which comes from the town of Bamberg, enjoys a strong tradition. Its malt is dried to the fire, giving it a refined smoky flavor.
The Kellerbier, which in German means cellar beer, is not filtered. Its alcoholic strength is variable, and there are many types. These are usually local beers, but there are also breweries such as St. Erhard, which focus their production in the international gourmet market.
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Anywhere in the world, you will find these varieties since Germany—together with the Netherlands— are the biggest beer exporters on the planet. You can find them in bars, supermarkets and select gourmet stores in the United States, Latin America and the rest of the world. ■