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Germany's passion for well-made, delicious beer is known the world over. Many German brewers still make beer in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law) of 1516, which states that beer may only be made with water, barley and hops. (The existence of yeast was unknown at the time.)
It wasn’t even until 1993 that brewers were legally allowed to add yeast and malts to beer.
Germans are renowned for their beer for good reason, and any trip to Germany is incomplete without a sampling of these top 10 brews.
Must-try German beers
1. Weihenstephan Hefe Weissbier
Hefeweizen, a cloudy, Bavarian-style wheat brew, tops the list of beers to try. A light, yeasty sweetness (which some liken to bananas or bubblegum) makes it an extremely refreshing beer to drink before a meal or with a light dinner. As the oldest brewery in the world, Weihenstephan has been producing phenomenal hefeweizens since 1040.
2. Erdinger Kristall
Erdinger is the world’s largest wheat beer brewery, and Kristall is one of its best-loved beers. A crystal-clear version of the traditional Hefeweizen, Kristall is the perfect thirst quencher on hot summer days. Serve it with a lemon wedge and enjoy after a long bike ride.
3. Spaten Oktoberfest
Traditionally brewed in March and served in Autumn, around the Oktoberfest celebration, Spaten Oktoberfest is a sweet, brown beer with a mildly malty taste and roasted notes. It’s surprisingly crisp for such a sweet beer but has a round, earthy finish. Spaten’s Oktoberfest is only available from August until October or November.
4. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier
This beer is a little harder to find than most, but it’s well worth it if you can snag a bottle. The Schlenkerla brewery, located in the hills of Bamberg, was founded in 1405 and still brews this sweet, malty beer. Its distinctly smoky aroma — reminiscent of leather or even beef jerky — comes from exposing the malt to intense, aromatic beech smoke. You can best enjoy a glass with a hot meal served in the brewery’s beer garden.
5. Paulaner Salvator Doppel Bock
Paulaner is a major player in the German beer world, and their doppel bock is a fine example of this bottom-fermented beer. Darker and richer than a regular bock, doppel bock is full of big flavor, but still clean, with aromas of toasted spice, caramel and burnt sugar. Dark barley malt gives it its characteristically malty taste.
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6. Schneider Weisse Aventinus Eisbock
Eisbock is a type of beer made by freezing off a portion of water in the brew and removing it. The resulting beer is super-concentrated, increasing its body, flavor and alcohol content. The Schneider Aventius is heavy and malty with nutty, caramel notes and a hint of ripe plum. It pairs extremely well with buttery cheeses like brie or gouda, as well as with chocolate.
7. Augustiner Hell
Despite the name, this isn’t a place bad people go to roast, but an extremely cool beer made by the oldest brewery in Munich. Mild, sparkling, refreshing and dry, this easy-to-drink beer is a go-to for city dwellers, who grab a bottle from the local Späti (late night store) and wander the streets before heading to a party.
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8. Gaffel Kölsch
If you’re ever in Cologne, you’ll see patrons at numerous outdoor cafés ordering round after round of Kölsch, a light, refreshing beer brewed only in and around the eponymous city. Less bitter than a pilsner, Kölsch is moderately hoppy and gently fruity. Don’t be surprised at the small 200 ml glasses in which it’s served — that’s the only way you’ll get it.
9. Berliner Kindl Weisse
A classic summer drink in Berlin, Berliner Weisse is a tart, tangy beer which gets its characteristic flavor from deliberately soured grains. It’s traditionally served in a large, boule-like glass and often colored green with a shot of sweet woodruff syrup or red with raspberry.
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10. Radeberger Pils
A classic German pils in every way. This palatable beer is clean and refreshing and makes a nice, easy accompaniment to any meal. A predominant hop flavor gives the beer a verdant, herbal finish. Though there’s nothing out of the ordinary about this beer, it’s on the list for this reason because even the most standard of German beers is made to such high standards.
How to travel to Germany for cheap
Use smart financial strategies to lessen the load on your wallet during your vacation in Germany. Follow tips like:
Book hotels 15 days out. A recent in-depth analysis by our team discovered that hotel rooms can be cheaper when they're booked closer-to your vacation dates.
Roll the dice for a seat upgrade. Rather than paying upfront for seat selection or a premium economy ticket on your flight, opt out. You may be more likely to get upgraded automatically for any un-purchased seat. Read more about this travel hack here.
Fly regionally. If you snag a killer deal on a flight to Europe that doesn't land you in Germany, consider flying a low-cost airline to get you to your final destination.