A German Beer Mini-SeriesA guest post by James Meads
This is part 2 of James Meads’ guide to German beer: have a look at part 1 for his short introduction to this 3-part series and to learn about Pils, Helles, Dunkel, Märzen and Export. The final installment will follow next week!
Hefeweizen (also known as Weißbier) is a beer brewed with 50% wheat / 50% barley and has broadened its appeal from its mainstay in Bavaria to become a regular feature in bars throughout Germany. It is typically served in a long, tall glass, wider at the top than at the bottom, and has a distinctive head. It is usually amber in colour, cloudy due to it being unfiltered, with a sweet taste. Being very gassy also means it is difficult to drink more than one or two in a single session.
Hefeweizen is a typical Summer beer, best enjoyed in a Biergarten on a Sunday cycling tour. Alcohol content is between 4.5% to 5.0%. Popular Hefes are Maisel’s, Erdinger, Franziskaner, Weihenstephaner and Schnieder.
A dark variation on the standard Hefeweizen, this is typically maltier in taste but just as sweet as its lighter cousin. Similar in strength and body, and offered by the same breweries.
Kölsch hails from the Rhineland metropolis of Cologne and is a play on the city’s German name, Köln. This is an easy-drinking, light-bodied beer, very crisp in taste but not at all bitter. Imagine yourself enjoying a beer as crisp as a Pils but as smooth on the palate as a Helles: you’ll certainly not regret ordering a Kölsch.
In traditional Kölsch taverns in Cologne’s old town, this beer is served in small, straight 0.2 litre glasses and the bar staff constantly walk the floor with a round tray, known as a Kranz, containing just glasses of Kölsch. Yep, that’s all they serve! The staff then mark your beer mat with a tally of how many you have drunk and then you hand over your mat at the end when you settle your bill. Outside of its native habitat, Kölsch is sometimes served in larger glasses, however the crisp fresh taste of a small glass is part of its appeal. Common brands of Kölsch are Früh, Sion and Gaffel (all of whom have taverns in the old town in Cologne); alcohol content is around 5.0%.
The only other unfiltered beer in this list other than Hefeweizen (see above), Kellerbier comes in various varieties but is typically amber in colour and cloudy due to its unfiltered nature. Sometimes also referred to as “naturtrübes” in German, this description simply relates to it being unfiltered. Kellerbier is one of my personal favourites and is traditionally enjoyed in a ceramic Bierkrug, a large, traditional mug for serving beer.
A Kellerbier is best enjoyed from a small, private brewery, many of which can be found in the Franconia region in the north of the state of Bavaria. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a traditional German feast of roast pork, sauerkraut and dumplings. Alcohol content is usually 4.5% to 5.0%.
James Meads swapped England’s postindustrial West Midlands for the beautiful German spa city of Wiesbaden in 2006. He is both highly organised and hopelessly unpunctual, which thoroughly confuses the Germans. James thinks in English and German at the same time, and when he suggests “going for a beer”, he means at least three – and definitely not Bitburger. He founded and runs Live Work Germany, a website aiming to help people relocating to Germany settle in happily. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.