What Germans reveal about themselves through the beer they drink
Something for everyone
The beers André Gifkens and Robyn Anderson of Berlin selected for their specialty store Lager Lager cover a wide range of styles, strengths and flavors. Not all of them conform to the Purity Law, which is why the word "beer" is missing from some labels. Some of them are produced by big companies; others are craft beers brewed by entrpereneurs without corporate backing. All of them are delicious.
Weisse: a tart treat from northern Germany
We start on the tangy, low-alcohol, refreshing side. Weisse is a wheat beer dating from the 17th century and often drunk with fruit syrup. What gives the drink in its pure form a characteristic sourness is the addition of lactobacillus. Friedrich the Great of Prussia learned how to brew it, and Napoleon allegedly dubbed it the "champagne of the North."
Fruit ale: more than just the basic four
One reason for the Purity Law implemented in 1516 - which limited the make-up of beer to just water, hops, barley, and yeast - was to stop unscrupulous brewers from putting poison in the brew. But there's no intrinsic reason not to add natural ingredients like fruit. Berlin craft brewery Heidenpeter's uses raspberries to create a delectable German take on a Belgian fruit ale.
Gose: a salty salute from the past
Beer is a thirst-quencher, so the last flavor you might think you'd want in it is salt, but that's indeed one of the key ingredients in the eastern German specialty, gose. The other is coriander. Combine them with lactobacillus and top-fermenting yeast, and you get a drink that's salty, but doesn't leave you parched.
Pale ale: beers hopping borders
It took a long time for the craft beer movement to get to Germany, but when it did, it exploded, eradicating national boundaries. German brewers no longer always focus on bottom fermenting, filtered pilsners and lagers. Innovative breweries like Berliner Berg are exploring Anglo-American styles like pale ales in all their many varieties.
Altbier: innovation and tradition
Despite the prominence of lagers, specialized regional ales go back a long time in Germany. One is Kölsch in Cologne, another is Altbier from the Dusseldorf region. The name means "old beer," but that signifies top fermentation, not mustiness. On the contrary, this red ale is a session beer designed to be drunk in great quantities in brewing pubs like Uerige.
Smoked beer: the pride of Bamberg
The smoked beers of the Bavarian town of Bamberg are based on a type of lager, but they're worlds away from Beck's. The malt is dried over an open fire, and that imparts a smoky aroma and taste to the finished product. You might find Rauchbier off-putting at first, but try a classic like Schlenkerla with a platter of smoked meat, and you'll be in heaven.
Bockbier: knocking socks off for 700 years
Most people associate Bockbier with Bavaria, but it originated in the mid-13th century up north in Einbeck, which presumably drunken Bavarians mispronounced as "ein Bock." There's no mistaking the high alcohol content, which starts at six and goes all the way up to 57 percent. That's one reason why the many Bock styles taste more like barley wine than lager.
Weizendoppelbock: a fireplace companion
You can make a Bockbier out of either a lager or southern Germany's other specialty, Weizen (wheat beer). Using a higher proportion of wheat to barley sweetens the beer, and bumping up the alcohol content makes it an ideal after-dinner treat. The label of this Weizendoppelbock from the Schneider brewery just outside Munich reads "for great moment in front of the fireplace."
Schwarzbier and Stout: the force of the dark side
The traditional German Schwarzbier (black beer) is a bottom-fermented lager that gets its deep, dark hue from roasting the malt. But craft breweries like Hanscraft from western Germany are treading different paths and making English-style top-fermented porters and stouts. Their Black Nizza Imperial Stout contains 10 different types of malt and a whopping nine percent alcohol.
Pilsner, Pale lager or the dark Imperial Stout? Your preference in beer can reveal a lot about you, says a recent study.
Beer consumption may be declining worldwide, but the German people's drink of choice is going nowhere, a recent study by Splendid Research suggests.
For anyone who's spent a lot of time in a beer garden or pub in Germany, it will come as no surprise that men are more frequent consumers of beer, according to the Splendid Research study. Thirty percent of men reported drinking at least four days a week, whereas just 12 percent of women did.
A quarter of the people surveyed in the southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg drink more than four times a week – compared to just 14 percent in the northern states.
Germans are also extremely ingenious in finding ways of opening beer bottles without an opener, as this video demonstrates:
Craft beer may be en vogue in the US and elsewhere, but in Germany it still hasn't made the inroads that standard brewery brands have. Just 42 percent of Germans know what a craft beer is; 44 percent say, once given the definition, that they've actually drunk one.
Do you fancy handmade craft beer from small breweries? Then you are probably a younger male with higher income, the research says. Older generations in Germany prefer their favorite local brands such as Beck's, Krombacher or Erdinger.
Step inside Berlin's craft beer week in this video:
If you order a pilsner in Germany, you go with the flow: 57 percent of those surveyed prefer this brew – Germany's number one. And if you like to mix beer with soft drinks, then you are probably a passionate cyclist, too.
If you enjoy extravagant new products, maybe you are the lucky one with a net income of 4,000 euros ($4,700) a month.
If ever you're into unusual investments, some of the beers featured in this gallery – 10 of the world's strongest ones – are now collectors' items.
Samuel Adams Utopias - 28%
Inside this ceramic bottle made to look like a copper brewing kettle is a beer aged for up to 22 years in sherry, brandy, cognac, bourbon and scotch casks. The Boston-based brewer Samuel Adams releases new batches of the strong brew every two years. With its suggested retail price of $200 (about 190 euros), this sought-after strong ale is the most expensive beer in the United States.
BrewDog Tactical Nuclear Penguin - 32%
The Scotland-based brewery BrewDog has been setting records for years; when it was released in 2009, this was the world's strongest beer. Imperial stout is frozen, then the frozen liquids are removed to leave behind more alcohol - inspiring the name. It's to be enjoyed in small servings, just like "a fine whisky, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost," its creators say.
Struise Black Damnation VI - Messy - 39%
De Struise Brouwers is a Belgian microbrewery. Their Black Damnation series is made from a dark Russian imperial stout beer, and among their different brews, VI - Messy is the strongest, with 39% ABV. It has never been released commercially, but connoisseurs who've tasted it at beer festivals say it still actually tastes like a real beer, compared to other very strong brews on this list.
Schorschbräu Schorschbock 40 - 40%
Competing against BrewDog, the German brewery Schorschbräu was one of the two serious contestants in the arms race to create the world's strongest beer. It had already demonstrated its will to push the limits of beer with its Schorschbock 31%, an Eisbock stronger than any other beer available when it was released in 2008. Their 40% version was brewed at the end of 2009, beating BrewDog's Penguin.
BrewDog Sink the Bismarck! - 41%
BrewDog released this even stronger beer a few months later, in 2010. In a clear reference to its German competitor, it was named after the Nazis' largest battleship. It is described by BrewDog as a "quadruple IPA that contains four times the hops, four times the bitterness and frozen four times." At a 100 euros ($105) a bottle, it's also at least 40 times more expensive than a conventional beer.
BrewDog The End of History - 55%
Aiming to end the battle for the world's strongest beer with this 55% blond Belgian ale, BrewDog also added a controversial visual touch to The End of History by encasing each beer in preserved roadkill. Only 12 bottles were initially made in 2010. New editions were released for a 2016 crowdfunding campaign. Supporters who invested $20,000 in the company were rewarded with this collector's item.
Schorschbräu Schorschbock 57 - 57%
Schorschbräu upgraded to a Schorschbock 43% in 2010 and retaliated with a yet stronger beer in 2011, the Schorschbock 57. The German brewer claims it would be impossible to reach a higher ABV without violating Germany's 500-year-old Beer Purity Law, which they apply in their creations. Only 36 bottles of this beer were initially made, each costing 200 euros (about $210).
't Koelschip Start the Future - 60%
Dutch brewer 't Koelschip, which translates to "the refrigerated ship," has also created a few ultra-strong beers. This one was released a month after The End of History - its name, Start the Future, was an obvious reference to its predecessor. The limited batch was also reasonably priced: 35 euros a pop was a bargain compared to the 750 euros for each bottle of BrewDog's dead squirrel creations.
Brewmeister Armageddon - 65%
Another Scottish brewery, Brewmeister, tried to claim the title of the world's strongest beer by releasing a line called Armageddon in 2012. However, lab tests demonstrated that ethanol - pure alcohol - had been added to the product. It has since been removed from Brewmeister's lineup.
Brewmeister Snake Venom - 67.5%
In 2013, Brewmeister replaced its previous strongest beer, Armageddon, with the stomach-burning Snake Venom. One bottle is equivalent to drinking 15 shots of hard liquor. A label on the bottle recommends not exceeding 35 milliliters in one sitting. Not for purists, this beer is considered unratable by the site RateBeer as the Scottish brewer also admitted to correcting its ABV with pure alcohol.