Greetings from Germany, or, as they say here, “Guten Tag.” I have been in Deutschland for over two weeks now, and I have tried as many different beers as I can. Because it isn’t very easy to get most German beer in the ol’ U.S. of A, I’m not going to review a few specific beers. Instead, I’m going to share what I have learned about German beer so far.

Photo by Kendall Rock
Photo by Kendall Rock

“Beer Fest,” to my deep surprise, was not an accurate portrayal of German drinking habits. Not all Germans are blond-haired, blue-eyed, Lederhosen-wearing, drinking machines; however, they probably drink more with meals than we do in the States. To my surprise, I learned children can purchase beer at the tender age of 16. In law and in practice, Germans are much more comfortable than Americans with drinking.

I was also surprised at the lack of beer variety in most bars. Bars tend to have a significant beer list, but not a lot on tap. You are likely to find more (and better) beer on tap at a good Colorado bar.

In my limited experience, Germans also tend to favor lighter styles of beer. A bar might offer quite a few beers, but only one dunkel, German for “dark.” You should avoid some of the lighter beers at all costs. My host brother tells me that Astra is the German equivalent of Bud Light.

If you want to choose from a variety of beers, go to the supermarket. There are aisles upon aisles devoted to reasonably-priced beer.

I have tried, and enjoyed, dunkels, bocks, and schwarz beers, although, as an aficionado of U.S. microbrews, it took me a while to get used to German beer. American microbrewers tend to be very bold with their beers. They favor powerful flavors and heavy doses of hops. German brews tend to be much more subtle. This is not to say German beers are lacking—just that American craft brews are very different from traditional German brews.

I have also found some very interesting styles here. For instance, I have never seen a dark hefeweizen or a schwarz beer in the U.S., but they are fairly popular in Germany. My host father’s favorite beer is a dark hefeweizen, Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel, brewed in Munich by Franziskaner Brewery. Franziskaner has a bit of a tradition; they have been brewing since 1363. Their Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel is really damn good. If you ever see this in the States, buy it.

Another beer I enjoyed was the König Ludwig Dunkel; coincidentally, it is brewed in Bavaria—like Franziskaner. My host father, who is Bavarian, told me that all the best beers are brewed in Bavaria. Oktoberfest is held in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, so I just might believe him. Until next month, auf Wiedersehen.

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