I love beer. I know it may seem strange, but it’s true. Sure, I love other things, like my special lady friend, my family, my guitar and kittens, but I also love beer. I’m not saying I love all beer. Hefeweizens and pilsners do make the top of my rather long list. I’m generally not too thrilled if the word “light” is on the label, or if it names a fruit in its title, unless it’s for desert. I think it’s fair to say that I like my beer when it’s like the weather; clear and cool with a chance of clouds.
My favorite place to drink beer is in Germany. For centuries, people have been enjoying the delicious beer of Bavaria. Beer in Germany is part of the culture, and all beer is subjected to strict purity guidelines. These guidelines, called the Reinheitsgebot, have been in place since 1516 and are the oldest form of food quality regulation in the entire world. It basically states that the only ingredients allowed to make beer are water, barley, and hops. It was slightly reformed in 1987, but many brewers have stuck to their original recipes. There are over 1,300 breweries in Germany, which is second only to the 1,500 of America!
As you may know, there are many styles of German beer. What I like about German beer is that in most cases you won’t find “non-beer” flavors, like fruit and spice, which is very common here in America. As far as variety goes, you won’t find more of it anywhere else, and it’s nearly all delicious. Light, dark, wheat, pilsner, kolsch, top fermented, bottom fermented, whatever you can think of, Germany will have what you are looking for.
Before traveling to Germany for the first time, I used to ask Germans what they thought of our beer and beer culture. From what I gathered, it appeared that some of our microbreweries produce good beer, but our beer culture is nothing when compared to Bavaria. It only took one visit to a beer garden in Munich to understand why. Visiting a beer garden is some of the most fun you can have while on vacation in Germany. They are large, open areas, usually outdoors, sometimes tented, that serve beer. A beer hall is basically the same thing, just indoors. It’s a great place to make friends, and experience delicious beer.
You will want something in your belly before consuming large amounts of beer, and in Germany, it is widely agreed that nothing goes better with a beer than a fresh pretzel or a bratwurst. Bratwurst is seasoned sausage, which can be soaked in beer for hours before cooking. Brat’s can be pan-fried, roasted, grilled or boiled. They are eaten with sauerkraut and/or potatoes, or in a roll with spicy mustard. Pretzels are generally large, fresh, and chewy, a nice break from the hard crunchy ones we are so used to. Most beer halls/gardens will have these available, or you may bring your own food.
There are some important things to remember when drinking at a beer garden in Germany. Make sure you have time to spend there to truly enjoy it. You don’t want to feel rushed. The beers are huge there, so know your limits and pace yourself. The smallest beer you will be able to get is a half liter, although full liter beers are very popular. There can be close to 5,000 people in some of the larger gardens/halls. It’s going to be loud, so while you won’t need ear plugs, you will need to speak loudly to communicate. You will most likely be sharing the table you are at with strangers, and that makes for part of the fun. People are generally in good spirits and will let you know if the seat is taken. When in doubt just ask someone, and they usually will help you out.
By being social and acting friendly, you will be sure to have a great time at a beer garden on your next German vacation. Prost!
Have a beer garden story? Tell us about it by leaving a comment!