Beer, Booze, Enjoyment

Six of the Best – Common Types of German Beer

Comments Off on Six of the Best – Common Types of German Beer 04 May 2010

By: Bob Brightside

Germany is renowned as the world’s most prolific beer-producing nation, and, in the same way that various styles have evolved to cater for differing tastes, the country’s breweries have devised a number of styles which have become known around the world. The following are descriptions of some of the most popular ones:

Close in appearance to a traditional British bitter, altbier is the speciality beer of the Rhine region, and especially the northern industrial city of Dusseldorf. It is also arguably the oldest continuously brewed beer style in the world, with records suggesting that the regions Celtic and Germanic tribes began brewing ale from wild grains at least 3,000 years ago.

Around its native area it is often served from wooden casks, and has a respectable alcohol content of 4.7 to 5 per cent.

Commonly associated with Bavaria, this style of dark-coloured lager is today, however, widely available across Germany and beyond. Given its colour by the use of dark malts, it is regarded as the beer style from which most others evolved. It is made distinctive from paler lager beers by the use of darker malts for colour and a richer flavour.

If Altbier belongs to Dusseldorf, Cologne can rightly call Kolsch its native brew. While in Britain pale ales were an offshoot of the originally more common brown ales, so it is with Alt and Kolsch. Despite being pale, its brewing method is different from that of lager, and its fruity tastes give it more in common with a British pale ale than a lager.

Lager (bier) or Pils
The one we all know. But rather than describing the style of beer, lager traditionally has more to do with how a beer is matured, rather than how it is produced. The word is the German word meaning to store. The common associated term Pils describes a clear, moderately fizzy lager. The type was first produced in the Czech city of Plzen (Pilsen) in the 19th century, and 160 or so years ago, adopted by the Germans before being reinterpreted around the world.

Translating from the German literally as smoke beer, this is another Bavarian style. Its name comes from the use of malts which have been smoked in much the same way as they often are in Scotch whisky production over an open wood fire. The finished beer contains extra hops to balance this smokiness, and has a very deep, assertive flavour.

Literally wheat beer, in which the malt comprises at least 50 per cent, and often up to 70 per cent, wheat. Along with the use of a distinctive yeast type, this produces a beer which has notable tastes of cloves, banana, spices, and even bubblegum. In order to keep this complex flavour, hops are only added sparingly. The distinctive foamy head of many bottled Weissbiers is produced by adding live yeast to the bottle, so that the beer continues to ferment. It is the remains of this yeast which also gives many Weissbiers their cloudy appearance.


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