Germans are the third largest consumers of beer in the world. And most of it is their own! They have over 1,200 breweries in a country the size of California. And they will defend their hometown brew to the bitter (ehem) end.
Despite only allowing four ingredients in their beer, they have an amazing diversity of beer styles and flavors. Pilsner is the best known, but Altbier, Koelsch, Hefeweizen and Bock beers have all made inroads in the US.
- Pilsners, aka Pils, are bottom fermented pale lagers with characteristic hop bitterness.
- Altbier means "old beer", and is top-fermenting with the addition of cool temperature aging to produce a cleaner beer than most ales. This is the same method used to make Koelsch. Both are well-balanced, not very bitter, drinks.
- Hefeweizen - Hefe means "yeast" and Weizen is "wheat", so this is a wheat ale which originated in Bavaria. The German pronunciation is "Hay-fa-v-I-szun" but most Americans call it "Hef-E-why-szun" (as in Hugh Hefner).
- Bock beers are lagers (bottom fermented). They are nutritionally heavy hitters with a "...big sweetness with just enough bittering make it a good companion to foods that have lots of flavor..."Bryce Eddings
German beer goes very well with food, too. Pilsners pair well with cream-based sauces while wheat beers taste great with egg dishes. A Koelsch is, of course, wunderbar at any time. But for the best food pairing, you can't beat the Bavarians with their beer and soft pretzels (and radishes) - at 11 o'clock in the morning! We call that "Early Drafts" (Frueschoppen).
Photo © J.McGavin
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