Think German beer and chances are the first thing that will pop into mind will be pale-straw colored German Pils. The casual beer drinker can be forgiven for thinking that German brewers exclusively produce the same stuff. But the German beer scene is vastly more complex than that. There is a huge range of lagers and ales brewed there. Here are ten examples that can give you a taste of the many beers of Germany.
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Many brewers produce wheat beers but nobody can do it better than the Bavarians. The unique flavor and aroma of this cloudy style comes from the special yeast used to ferment the blend of malted barley and wheat. Weihenstephaner has been making this marvelous stuff almost longer than anyone else. To learn more about wheat beers check out this profile of the style.
For the first of the bocks on my list I chose the first of the bocks. This dark, malty style was developed and took its name from the German town Einbeck. The Einbecker brewery continues to brew bock and its Ur-Bock is widely recognized as one of the best examples of the style.
Doppel bocks are darker and richer than bocks. Paulaner's Salvator is a fine example of this style. All bocks are lagers so, despite the big flavors, they are still crisp and clean with some sweetness.
Helles or maibock is a pale colored bock. Despite its color it is still quite malty in flavor but it's generally hoppier than other bocks. It was originally developed as the Bavarian answer to Pilsner.
Purists are groaning as they see my choice for the Kölsch entry is actually brewed in Chicago. But the best Kölsch style beers are brewed in Cologne and rarely make it past the German border. (The word Kölsch comes from the German name for Cologne - Köln) The few that make it out can be hard to find. Luckily, Summertime is a fine example of the style. Kölsch is an unusual beer because it is brewed with ale yeast but it is aged like a lager. It is pale and refreshing with moderate hopping.
Good German brewed alt is also hard to find outside of Germany so I offer this fine example from Alaskan Brewing Co. Alt is subtler than you would expect from it's brown or amber color. It is slightly malty with hardly any hops aroma. It is usually rather bitter but not aggressively so.
Rauchbier or smoke beer is a very unusual style. The beer itself is a lot like Oktoberfest, sweet and malty. But the smoke flavoring adds a completely unexpected element to the profile. Some drinkers describe the flavor to be like beef jerky or even leather. It is worth tracking down a bottle if you've never tried it before.
Berliner weisse is another very unusual style of beer. The flavor and character comes from deliberately soured grains. It is tart and tangy and very refreshing. Many fans of this style like to add fruit or herb flavored syrups but I like it just the way it is.