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A Glossary of German Beer

By Rachel Nash

Posted: 25th July 2014 12:38

There are over 1,200 breweries in Germany that supply an immeasurable amount beer to an innumerable amount of pubs.  Whether it is a vintage Bavarian beer garden or a crammed Cologne beer hall, Germany offers one hell of a pub crawl.  It is therefore difficult to know where to start, so to help you on your way we have put together a handy glossary of German beer types –along with the best ones to try – in order to make sure you fully sample this nation’s most cherished cultural pillar.

Pils – A safe choice.  A classic lager that is crisp and refreshing, found up and down Germany.  Not strictly a German beer type, Pilsner originated in the Bohemian city of Plzen (or Pilsen) in the mid-19th Century, and is also referred to as Pils or Pilsener.  The light colour of the beer results from the use of lightly toasted malts in contrast to the darker malts previously used in beer.  The Germans shortened the name to Pils when the Czech brewers from Pilsen took legal action.

Prima Pils – Heaps of hops are hiding under the full, frothy head of this elegant Pils.  All German malt subtleties linger beneath a long dry finish of this classy quencher.

Tannenzäpfle – The brewery is based in the beautiful south of the Black Forest and was founded  in 1791, elegant, strong, clean and tangy beer with a finely balanced distinctive hop aroma.

Braumeister Pils - Expect dry, quenching character as the often subtle, sometimes assertive signatures of great hop varieties lead this brewer’s quartet.

Holsten Pil – Holsten pilsener has clear richness of barley and sweetness to it, with a distinct bitterness that gives a lingering after-taste.

Schwarzbier (Dark Beer) – Schwarzbier means "black beer" in German.  It is a medium-bodied, malt-accented dark brew, very opaque and deep-sepia in colour, with a chewy texture and a firm, creamy, long-lasting head.  In spite of its dark colour, it comes across as a soft and elegant brew that is rich, mild, and surprisingly balanced.

Bayer-Bräu Schwarzes Röslein –Dark chestnut colour; creamy head.  Light aroma of roasted malt.  The mouthful is sweetish and round; there is some caramel flavour, light chocolate, coffee. 

Oechsner Schwarzbier – Pours dark brown with a lacing head.  Aroma is toffee, vegetables and some yeast.  Thin and watery.  Lightly roasted flavour with some hints of toffee and grass.

Köstritzer Schwarzbier – Dark brown to black with a thumb sized, foamy head that holds very well and is a light, tan brown colour with some lacing on the sides.

Oechsner Schwarzbier – Flavour kicks off with light sweetness, a touch of caramel and toffee highlighting the start.  Some roasty, bitter qualities are also evident, adding positively to the mix.

Kölsch - By law, this top fermented beer (similar to Pils) can only be brewed in or around Cologne.  The name Kölsch is, like champagne, Appellation Controlée, protected by law so that only beers brewed in and around Köln can bear the name.  The anglicised spelling is sometimes given as Koelsch.  The appearance is like a Pilsner: pale straw-coloured and clear.  The taste is delicate and refreshing, less bitter than a Pilsner, gently fruitier and a little sweeter, often with a delightful biscuitiness.

Früh Kölsch – Clean, crisp, refreshing malts and no bitter aftertaste.  A light mouthfeel, this is the perfect beer for a hot summer day.

Dom Kölsch – Clean, lightly fruity, slight sweet malt, mild sugary grass.  Effervescent, and goes down easily.

Gaffel Kölsch –This Koelsch is competent enough: crisp and refreshing, good maltyness, almost no skunk despite clear bottle, and pushed all the right buttons for the earthy herbal hoppiness.

Sion Kölsc – Clear hay colour, small white head.  Light fruitiness (apple), clean malt, floral hops.  Medium bitterness, bread, light malt, some metallic notes.

Weissbier (Wheat Beer) – A German classic and popular in the south, it is a wheat beer that is fruity and spicy.  Weissbier means “white beer” in German.  The name derives from the yellowish-white tinge that is imparted by the pale malted wheat from which the brew is made.  According to German law, all beer that is labelled Weissbier or Weizenbier must be made with at least 50% malted wheat.  Most Bavarian Weissbiers contain 60 to 70% malted wheat.  The rest is malted barley.

Erdinger Weissbier – Erdinger Weissbier is not only the undisputed classic in the Erdinger product range, it is also quite simply the wheat beer par excellence.

Löwenbräu LöwenWeisse Hefe-Weissbier –Taste is slightly spicy what malt, banana and yeast, hints of citrus, rather dryish finish.  Mouthfeel is smooth medium with abundant carbonation.

Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen –The live yeast gives bottle "conditioning" guaranteeing a refreshing fruity flavour.  The yeast sediment also leads to the "cloudy" nature of the beer.

Maisel's Weisse – Original upfront there is a light to moderate flavour of wheat followed by stronger flavours of banana and light flavours of clove.

Alkoholfreies Bier – AVOID AT ALL COSTS (Non-alcoholic beer).