There are many different types of German beer, each with its unique taste and reputation. At the same time, some might only be familiar with the most well-known German beers, and they’re Hefeweizen or Rauchbier; plenty of other varieties may be worth a try.
However, if you’re looking to expand your horizons in the world of beer, here’s a rundown of several types of German beer you should check out during your next trip to Germany.
Beer in German culture
For a long time, beer was considered a food source in Germany. The Bavarian Purity Law from 1516 stated that only barley, hops, and water could be used in brewing beer, and no other additives or flavorings were allowed.
These simple ingredients led to clean-tasting drinks that took on local characteristics depending on the brewed region. But it wasn’t until much later that different types of German beer became as common as they are today.
For instance, not until 1955 did Dortmund export its first-ever batch of Helles. An amber-colored lager was similar to American-style beers like Budweiser. While pilsners have been around since 1842, pale ales weren’t created until 1871.
And it wasn’t until after World War II that dark beers started becoming popular among Germans. Today there are over 1,000 breweries in Germany, producing more than 5,000 different types of beer. If you want to try them all (or some), here is a list of some of the most common ones.
History of beer in Germany
Whether you’re visiting Germany for Oktoberfest or some authentic German cuisine, you’ll want to order a beer (or two). Be warned, and not all beers are created equal.
There are different types of German beer. Ask an American what kind of beer they think is commonly served in Germany. They will likely say Budweiser.
While it is true that America and Germany consume nearly identical amounts of Budweiser per capita, that doesn’t mean other brands aren’t more popular in Germany.
The truth is that Germans love their beer. The average German drinks around 120 liters of beer each year, translating into about 1 liter per day.
It’s no wonder that there are so many different kinds of German beer. Here’s a list of some common ones.
Different Types of German Beer
A pilsner is a beer brewed using only pale malt and hops. While many of these different types of German beer can taste bitter, Radeberger Pils does not, and it has a very light flavor that’s perfect for summer drinking.
If you’re looking for something bolder, try Bavarian Kindl Dark Lager. This robust beer combines a full-bodied taste with a smooth finish.
If you’re ready for something different, try different German beer types. These brews were traditionally made in northern Germany using alternate top-fermenting yeast, known as alt or old beers.
The best thing about these beers is that they’re stronger than other German beer varieties and go great with spicy meals. If you can find any at your local bar or restaurant, give it a try, and you won’t be disappointed!
Pilsner-style beer is part of the different types of German beer that originated in what is now the Czech Republic.
And was initially brought by brewers from nearby Bavaria, Germany. This style is characterized by its pale golden color, a light hoppy taste, and crisp finish.
A classic pilsner will have less than 5% alcohol per volume (ABV). If you’re not used to heavier beers, it may be best to start with a pilsner.
Although they are known for their mildness (which can be good or bad). They’re also not as filling as darker beers like an Oktoberfest or a stout. Like all beers, pilsners pair well with food—especially seafood dishes like oysters or trout!
Traditional Bock, Maibock
Bock is a lager typically brewed in Germany and Austria. It has a dark amber color and malt-forward flavor. These different types of German beer, like bocks, can taste almost like sweet or wine-like ales.
The only problem? They’re also strong: Most weigh in at around 6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). For example, Ayinger’s Celebrator Bock weighs in at 8.3 percent ABV; Kulmbacher Reichelbräu Eisbock clocks in at 13 percent ABV; that’s strong enough to knock your socks off! You’ll often find bocks served with a dollop of fresh cream or sugar syrup on top to add another layer of sweetness.
Oktoberfest / Märzen, Dunkel
These beers are top-fermented, amber in color, and brewed from August to October (the time when barley ripens). Oktoberfest originates from Munich’s famous beer festival, held every year in September.
Regarding the different types of German beer, Germans stick with what they know best. The two best-known lagers in Germany are Märzen and Oktoberfest.
Moreover, they tend towards an amber hue with a pleasant malty flavor, and they will be more flavorful than typical American lagers like Budweiser or Coors.
These are less likely to be found outside Germany than other styles, though some breweries have exported them for years.
Originally from northern Germany, schwarzbier is a dark beer hoppy with notes of chocolate. This style—which translates to black beer—was initially considered poor man’s beer since it was less expensive than ales.
Since then, craft brewers have shone to schwarzbier and brew it in many different variations. While stouts (like Guinness) are typically made with roasted barley, unlike the different types of German beer, schwarzbier is brewed with roasted malts.
These malts give schwarzbier its smoky taste, which comes through exceptionally well when served cold.
A beer style dating back to medieval Germany, Rauchbier (which translates roughly as smoke beer) is brewed using malt dried over an open flame, and the technique lends a smoky flavor and aroma.
This particular type of German beer is popular in Bamberg, a city in Bavaria known for its breweries and annual Rauchbier festival.
Sample classic and inventive versions from breweries like Schlenkerla, Spezial, and Füchschen at your local beer-focused bar or craft beer store.
A Doppelbock (double bock) is a dark beer that originated in Bavaria, Germany, and it’s also part of the different types of German beer.
It’s often sold during Lent, when many Germans choose not to drink. But unlike other beers considered liquid bread or liquid nourishment, double bocks aren’t thirst-quenching; they’re meant for celebration.
Doppelbocks tend to be full-bodied with notes of caramel and fruits and hints of chocolate and coffee. One of our favorites: Ayinger Celebrator! At 8% ABV, it’s a doozy. Another favorite? Einbecker Mai-Urbock—it’s been described as incredibly smooth with notes of raisins and vanilla.
Kölsch is one of Germany’s top-fermented beers. It is named after Cologne, or Köln, where it was invented. The beer is a bit hoppier than most different types of German beer in Germany, with fruity aromas from its use of pale malts.
It also uses a top-fermenting yeast strain, meaning it has low amounts of sulfur compared to other styles. If you enjoy hefeweizens for their banana and clove flavors (kettle-soured) and tartness, kölsch could be an exciting choice.
If you want a refreshing and crisp beer from the different types of German beer, Weissbier is your go-to. There are several types of Weissbier: Hefeweizen, which has been around for over 500 years, Dunkelweizen (or dark Weiss), which has been brewed in Bavaria since at least 1393 and Kristallweizen (or clear Weiss), which was introduced in 1997.
The reason behind its creation? Lighter wheat beers weren’t suitable for year-round consumption because they didn’t stay fresh during warmer months.
Weissbiers are brewed using more than 50% malted wheat and are low in hop bitterness, making them great summer beers. Unlike most ales, they’re not stored or aged with yeast, so you can enjoy a cold one anytime!
Lagers are the most popular beer style among the different types of German beer in Germany; lagers are light-colored, full-bodied beers with low hop content.
The yeast used to make Lagers ferment at lower temperatures than ales. They’re stored at room temperature until they’re served or packaged despite their name.
Also, they’re often associated with bland domestic beer in America. Still, American craft brewers have been experimenting with them as well: Sierra Nevada’s Kellerweis and Sam Adams’ White Lantern are examples of good American Lagers.
This is one of my favorite beers to drink on a hot summer day. It has a lot of flavors, and it’s not too strong, making it perfect for sipping outside on a beautiful day.
All their beers have fruity undertones and are refreshing, but some are stronger than others. Erdinger is one that you can drink all afternoon without getting thoroughly buzzed!
Meanwhile, If you’re looking for something with a little more kick, try Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel. I’ve never tried anything like it before – it’s got an earthy taste that goes down smooth and doesn’t give me any hangover symptoms (which means I can enjoy another beer or two later in the evening).
The main difference between these two beers is strength – Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel is much stronger than Erdinger Kristall.
If you’re looking for something light and fruity among the different types of German beer, go with Erdinger Kristall; if you want something with more body and character, choose Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel instead.
A Märzen is a German lager created for special occasions, notably Oktoberfest. Märzen (or Oktoberfestbier) is brewed in March and is meant to be enjoyed from September through October.
Typically, it’s amber-colored with a malty aroma. While you can enjoy a pint any time of year, drinking it around its appropriate season will give you an authentic experience. Prost!
Now that you know about these different types of German beer, it’s time to take your taste buds on tour. Stop by one of these breweries, or head out for an authentic Oktoberfest! Remember: lots and lots of beer is fine, but don’t forget your designated driver. After all, we want you safe while enjoying your new favorite brews.