Beer plays a huge role in German culture, and luckily you don’t have to be in Germany to sample traditional German beers as they are popular all over the world.
Germany exports around 1.5 billion litres of beer each and every year, and the country takes great pride in their purity laws (see below) and the high-quality of their beer.
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In this article, I will cover the 11 best German beers. So, if you don’t have any plans to go to Germany, you can still enjoy the delicious taste of German beer.
Keep reading to find out more.
What Defines A German Beer?
There are a few things that define a German beer, but it primarily comes down to quality. The Reinheitsgebot, known as the German purity law, holds quality above all else.
The purity law requires that every traditionally brewed German beer is made without additives using just four basic ingredients – malted grains, hops, yeast and water.
The purity law was introduced for three main reasons, including banning wheat in beer brewing to increase the amount of bread that could be made, to protect drinkers from extortionate prices, and to prevent brewers adding various toxic and hallucinogenic additives to preserve or flavor the beer.
Initially, the purity law only applied to the Duchy of Bavaria. However, over time, it was adopted by all German states and has been the law that governs beer brewing across Germany since 1906.
As the years passed, the purity law was responsible for spawning a world-renowned brewing art. And, because of this, more than 1300 German breweries now use just 4 natural ingredients across 40 different types of beer.
What Can German Beer Be Made With?
Due to the purity law in Germany, brewers are restricted in terms of what they can add to their beers.
The original purity law limited ingredients to hops, barley, and water. It doesn’t get much more simple than that!
At the time that the law was introduced, adding yeast to the brewing process was not yet understood. This meant that it wasn’t until later on that brewers were allowed to add yeast in the brewing process to encourage the fermentation process.
That being said, today the law states that hops, malted grains, water and yeast can be used in the brewing process.
Is German Beer Healthy?
Since 1906, the Beer Purity Law has been in safeguarding Germany’s beer lovers from chemicals, contaminants, and any other nasty additives.
Some people consider German beer to be healthier than other countries. This simply comes down to the fact that it has less ingredients, has some high-quality nutrients and is decidedly healthier in terms of the sugar content than sodas, juices or mixed cocktails.
However, the answer to this question depends on what you’re comparing it to. For instance, German beer is never going to be as healthy as a plain glass of water.
When it comes to drinking any kind of alcoholic beverage, the calories are always going to be significantly higher than water.
That being said, while German beer might be healthier than a lot of other beers on the market, moderation is key.
Can I Drink German Beer If I’m Gluten Intolerant?
The majority of gluten-free beers are made with maize or rice instead of barley or wheat, meaning that they are suitable for celiacs, but are not suitable under the purity order.
While a couple of suppliers have been selling such beers in Germany for a while, Germany’s purity law sets very specific rules for what can be called beer.
In the past, German brewers have used a special “ultra-low” gluten Australian barley to brew the first beer that is gluten-free while conforming to the strict requirements of the law.
However, German beer giant Bitburger is now targeting the growing market of people who suffer from a gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease.
Bitburger will be the first big German brewery to offer gluten-free beer under its own brand name.
11 Best German Beers
Our Top Pick: Paulaner Salvator Bock Lager – 7.9% ABV
Paul Salvator perfectly embodies this lager style that is often called “liquid bread”. It is currently one of six breweries which provide beer for the iconic Oktoberfest held in Munich and is also one of the top ten best sellers of beer from Germany.
This stuff is liquid gold! This German beer is beautifully colored and has a medium-butterscotch head. The clear body is a deep amber color that is almost a chestnut brown.
This beer is packed with a tonne of flavor! It is full of round notes, such as chocolate with malt, caramel, and hints of coffee that make for a rich, delicious beer. You may even detect light hops somewhere in the background.
The ideal temperature for serving Salvator is 48.2 F/9 C and that recommendation comes from the brewers themselves, so you don’t want to mess this up! If you’re a fan of German beer, you won’t want to miss trying this one!
Augustiner Edelstoff – 5.6% ABV
Augustiner Edelstoff is a classic, rich beer. A highly regarded, bright munchener export style beer that is brewed with the finest raw materials. A high-class product that pays homage to the age-old art of Bavarian brewing.
The aroma of hops is floral, grassy, earthy, and with a touch of hay. The flavor of this beer is a mix of grain and bread tones. You will also be able to detect notes of apple, citrus from lemon zest, and spice.
This is another excellent choice during the day time, and it is perfect when paired with a nice German pretzel.
Weihenstephan Hefe Weissbier – 5.4% ABV
As the oldest brewery in the world, Weihenstephan has been producing delicious beers since 1040.
This Bavarian-style German wheat beer is widely considered as one of the best beers in Germany and worldwide!
The flavor of this beer is light, featuring a sweetness which some people often liken to the taste of bananas. This makes it a super refreshing beer than is the ideal aperitif or accompaniment to a light supper.
If you’re looking for a new German beer that is on the lighter side, this one goes down a treat.
Augustiner Helles – 5.2% ABV
Augustiner Helles Bier is considered as one of the best lagers in the world, and it’s easy to see why, especially if you’ve had it straight from the barrel.
Augustiner Helles beer is proudly made according to the Purity law. This means it is made using Bavarian malts and hops before going through a long, secondary fermentation process. This results in a crisp, smooth beer with a slightly hoppy finish.
It’s one of just six breweries allowed to serve at the famous Oktoberfest, and their tent is always one of the busiest.
Weihenstephaner Korbinian Bock Lager – 7.4% ABV
This German beer is a dark coloured double-bock beer that is perfect for individuals who enjoy drinking stout!
It is stored for an extra long period of time in cold monastery cellars, making this double-bock beer a really unique drinking experience. This beer packs a lot of flavor, with medium hops, loads of malt, and a mild sweetness that you won’t be able to get enough of!
The flavor profile has a combination of notes that are similar to malted milk, caramel and, surprisingly, marmalade, making it a total dream to drink time and time again!
Bitburger Premium Pils – 4.8% ABV
Founded in 1817, Bitburger beer is one of the most popular German brands, and is available year-round throughout much of the world.
This super refreshing beer is a crowd-pleaser! The aroma is somewhat floral, with some mild bread sweetness. The bitterness of hops is well balanced by the agreeable, mellow sweetness in the body.
Featuring a light flavor profile that is bright, dry, and very crisp, this beer has herbal notes that are delicately poised, followed by a nutty and honeyed aftertaste.
Ayinger Celebrator Dopplebock – 6.7% ABV
Celebrator has a creamy head of bubbles that contrasts magnificently with its dark, profound body.
This beer is aged for six months, and this gives it a velvety and full-bodied taste. There are notes of toffee, caramel, and graceful dark-malt roastiness.
There is a coffee flavor that becomes more prominent as time goes on. This beer is not as sweet as most dopplebock beers. However, like most dopplebocks it has a high alcohol content.
Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier – 5.9% ABV
Another fantastic German beer is Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier. This beer’s color is copper and golden, pours with an off-white foamy head, and has a creamy mouthfeel that goes down smoothly!
This beer has a rich but delicately bitter taste. It’s aroma is of citrus fruits and a hint of banana, cloves, and other spices.
Spaten Oktoberfest – 5.0% ABV
As the name suggests, this is the world’s first Oktoberfest beer! Not only is it iconic, but it has to be absolutely delicious to be such a crowd-pleaser at the annual celebration.
This beer achieves its delicious taste through properly mixing the right amount of hops and its roasted malt flavor.
It is very crisp for a sweet beer, and has a nice earthy finish. The best part about it is that you don’t have to wait until Oktoberfest!
Stone White Geist Berliner Weisse – 4.7% ABV
This beer is created using a specially selected strain of Lactobacillus which is sourced from local Berlin Cultures. This is what gives it its characteristic acidic, sour taste.
The beer is the perfect drink for summer, as it has a fruity tang and an aroma of subtle fruits that are well balanced such as lemon and melon alongside rhubarb and gooseberries.
Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen- 2.5% ABV
This wheat beer is a combination of 50% Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen and 50% of juice and natural ingredients. It has a fruity flavor with a sweet yet crisp, tangy but not overtly sour flavor that isn’t overpowering, and it is best served cold.
There are a tonne of delicious German beers out there for you to sample! The beers in this article are super varied, so there’s bound to be a beer that is perfect for you.