A New Look at an Old Tradition
The regional diversity of Germany’s popular brew is phenomenal. For connoisseurs the color spectrum ranges from “light blond” through “amber” to “dark brown,” and the aroma, or bouquet, varies from “rich hop” to “soft malt.” Beer drinking can be a veritable science – or a refreshing pleasure on a warm evening.
Enlarge image These half-full beer mugs are resting before being filled to the calibration line, which is set below the top of the glass to leave room for the foamy head. (© picture-alliance / Sven Simon) Water, hops, yeast, malt – that’s all you need. The ingredients for beer were laid down in the Germans’ favorite decree almost 500 years ago. The beer purity regulations guarantee the high unadulterated quality of German beer that excludes all additives. Apart from this, beer contains mineral salts and vitamins – and calories. On the other hand, it contains relatively little alcohol – about 5% – and sometimes none at all.
No, the Germans didn’t invent it. Beer was a popular beverage in Mesopotamia. It was drunk on the Nile by slaves building the Egyptian pyramids. In Greece it was a poor people’s drink, but nowadays more or less every country brews its own beer.
Germany now has a tradition celebrating an annual “Beer Day,” or to be exact “German Beer Day,” on April 23. This day marks the anniversary of the German beer purity regulations of 1516, the world’s oldest existing rules for food quality and the pride and joy of Germany’s brewing trade. The rules specify that beer must be brewed solely from water, hops and malt: “Hops and malt for beer, may God preserve them here.”
Enlarge image The popular beer hall of the Münchner Hofbräuhaus also offers live music and dancing to entertain guests. (© picture-alliance / dpa) Why Germans are internationally renowned as the beer-drinking nation still remains something of a secret. A key role could well be played by Munich’s famous Hofbräuhaus with all its merrymakers in traditional lederhosen and dirndl dresses. The many Hofbräuhaus imitations spread around the world from Bangkok to Las Vegas undoubtedly make a significant contribution, too. And last, but not least, there’s the impeccable reputation of German beer that’s almost as widespread throughout the world. After all, a country with 1,284 breweries and over 5,000 different brands of beer looks suspiciously like some kind of world record.
Mind you, over the past few years, German beer drinkers have been exercising more and more restraint with individual beer consumption falling from 133 liters (about 35 gallons) in 1994 to just 121.4 (about 32 gallons) today. The Czechs and the Irish now drink more beer on average than the Germans. According to the statistics, Germans have long since become more of a coffee drinking nation with an average of 146 liters per person.
But German beer possesses a quality that no other drink can claim for itself: according to an Appetite Encyclopedia of 1892, “its greatest value as a beverage is that it is primarily a substance that draws people together, the true mother of coziness.” If this is the case, then Germany could still well be a beer-drinking nation.
This is an updapted version of an article originally published by Deutschland Magazine www.deutschland-magazine.de