Describe real German beer to an American

One of the challenges on The Amazing Race last night involved drinking a very large glass of beer at a pub in Hamburg. Everyone of the contestants commented how nasty the beer was. Is it really that different from American beer? I know that in England beer is served thick and warm but the German beer didn’t look that different.

Is it?

I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Germany and England. English beer is not served warm. Much of the “real ales” are served warmer, as in cellar temp (~50-55F), but not room temperature, as is often asserted. Plus there’s plenty of cold lager if you want some.

German beer comes in all sorts of types, so it really depends on what the contestants were drinking. There are some styles–like rauchbier–that can really be an acquired taste. Maybe even some of the hefeweizens could throw people for a loop (they are wheat beers and can be a bit banana or clove-like in their flavor.) But most of the run-of-the-mill lagers like Bitburger or Warsteiner and not that different that they should cause comment on how nasty the beer was.

Do you know what kind of beer they were drinking?

I didn’t see the show but doesn’t beer vary regionally in Germany? For example, wouldn’t beer in Hamburg be different than (and perhaps not be as good as) the beer in Bavaria where they supposedly take beer more seriously?

The people who were saying the beer was “foul” were people who had never had a beer before in their lives. The drinkers breezed through the challenge with elan. Looked like an ordinary pils to me.

Some of the northern German beers are quite bitter, perhaps that was the problem?
But it’s all guesswork as long as you don’t have more details :slight_smile:

Back in my military days, we had a unit from the German Air Force visiting our base for some testing missions. Before they left, there was a mixer/social thing in the squadron bar, and the Germans provided a couple of kegs they’d brought with them. Good stuff. It was a dark beer, served at basically room temperature, slightly thick with lots of foam. Every American beer I’ve ever had pales in comparison to this Bavarian nectar.

That sure looked like a German pils to my eyes; in taste and strength not too different than an average American macro-brew like Budwieser, Rolling Rock, Olde Style, Rainier etc.

The myth that Germans drink warm, thick, dark beer all day is typically common with people who have never travelled. The “average” German brew drank in the bierhalls and taverns of Berlin, Dresden and Hamburg is quite light, (usually only about 5% alcohol), and served cold, and not too unlike what the average joe is drinking in Chicago, Dallas or Boise…

Well no wonder they thought it was nasty.

Well, they are less tolerant of stinking rice in theirs, legacy of Reinheitsgebot and all.

German beer is typically various types of lager, with Kolsch and Altbier being the rather lager-like examples of ales in Germany.

Lagers are generally devoid of serious yeast-related flavors due to a combination of cooler fermentation (50 degrees F or so), and a long, cold (32 F) storage period (“lagern” in German means “to store” or “to store in a cool place”). Basically this puts the flavor emphasis on the ingredients, in other words, the malt, hops and water.

Most big American beers are lagers as well. However, they’re pale imitations (pun intended) of the original Czech and German lagers, such as Budweiser Budvar, and other Pilseners. In general, American beers are brewed from wort (water w/ malt & hops) with a specific gravity of 1.030 or so, while German ones are generally in the 1.050 range. This means that German beers will tend toward the fuller bodied and more alcoholic side of things, relative to American ones.

German beers are also traditionally all-malt. American lagers are typically 20-60% adjunct grains such as corn or rice, which lighten the flavor,body and color, while allowing the alcoholic strength to remain the same.

Finally, American lagers are hopped to a maximum of about 20 IBU (international bittering units; a brewing measure of bitterness), while the least bitter German beers start at about 20, and go as high as 35-40, in the case of Altbiers and some Pilseners. This is offset somewhat by the higher gravity and more intense malt flavor & sweetness present in some beers.

Basically, German beers are more intense in just about any flavor dimension you can choose. They’re not really any stronger in alcohol, but they’re more malty, more hoppy and have more body/mouthfeel than any of the Bud/Miller/Coors beers.

If the contestants don’t like beer, I can see how they wouldn’t like German ones, but only the most benighted of beer lovers don’t like German lagers. They’re some of the best made beers in the world, both stylistically and technically.

German beer is to those mentioned American beer as Rembrandt is to Thomas Kincaid.

That doesn’t sound right. American macro lagers are generally about 5% ABV. I don’t think you can get a 5% beer with that starting gravity. The max you can eke out of this is about a 4% beer, and that’s assuming a final gravity of 1.000. More likely, though, you should end up with a 3% beer with that starting gravity.

I should add, otherwise, I agree with you. Although there are some pretty crappy German lagers out there, like Oettinger (Germany’s best-selling beer, although it’s marketed as a cheap brand and not available at pubs, as far as I know) that are on par with American macrobrews.

Put it this way, if you don’t find a Sam Adams Boston Lager objectionable, you shouldn’t find any normal German lager objectionable. I’d say the Sam Adams is fuller in flavor (both hops and malt) than some of the bigger German lagers like Warsteiner and Bitburger.

Everyone has their own opinion on mattters of taste—I happen to like both Rainier and Olde Style, (though neither brand is sold in Utah any more, so I typically drink Pabst Blue Ribbon or Olympia these daze) and I also love Krombacher, Erdinger and Konig Pils, and enjoyed them (and countless other brands) to no end during my various visits to Germany…

German beers tend to confirm to the Reinheitsgebot, which is taken fairly seriously in Germany; you don’t fuck around with beer. As far as I know, the main beers in Germany are pilsner and weisse (wheat beer). Most of the German pilsners are pretty damn good, though there are some duds; but those tend to be “economy” beers. The weisse (as far as I’ve had 'em) tend to be excellent. I think Germans may go for a bit more bitter or otherwise pronounced taste than for example the popular UK lagers, but it’s not that much of a difference, especially not compared to the (also generally excellent) Belgian and Dutch strong beers.

Those are probably the two most popular styles, but Germany has a buttload of styles. I think bock would also be pretty recognizable and common to most people. Also, depending on what part of Germany you’re in, other styles like kölsch and altbier may be quite popular.

Germany’s a pretty big country and more or less any kind of beer you could possibly want will be found there.

The most popular beer in Germany is (now) Oettinger, which is a cheap pilsener that isn’t really any different from Bud or Labatt’s or any of the other cheap pop beers you can buy over here.

I wasn’t trying to knock German beers - most I’ve had are damn good. Bock beers though tend to be both regional and seasonal, at least over here, and I was just trying to give a general idea of what to expect when you’re drinking “beer”.

I didn’t think you were trying to knock German beers at all–just wanted to give a more complete overview of the styles you can find in Germany.

The best beer I ever had in my life was at a local restaurant outside of Frankfurt, Germany. I was only 17 at the time so any hint of beer snobbery that may exist in me today, (though it doesn’t), couldn’t possibly have been present then. I was drinking Michelob Light at home around that time, which is so nasty I don’t think they even make it anymore.