A little over a year ago I visited Munich, Germany. While I was mesmerized by the historical buildings that survived the war, I was on a mission. Actually, you could call it a pilgrimage. I was there to hoist a pint in the city that birthed the infamous party known as Oktoberfest in 1810. What better spot to do that at the Hofbräuhaus Brewery? Since opening in 1589, the beer hall has hosted travelers from across the globe looking for a little liquid refreshment and a moment of joy to escape the daily rigors of life.
As I took my first long sip of magnificent Dunkel, it was confirmed: The Germans make damn good beer. Sure, Americans have perfected full-flavored IPAs and big boozy barrel-aged beasts, but sometimes you just want a well-crafted beer that is approachable and tasty—one that you can slurp down without feeling like you should compare tasting notes with your neighbor. Was that a variant of a simcoe hop I tasted?
That’s where classic German beers are perfect. They have been brewed with the same recipes for decades, often following the strict Reinheitsgebot beer purity law from 1516 that states that only water, barley, and hops may be used when making beer. They are well rounded, packed with flavor, the cornerstones that the modern craft brewing movement was built on.
Next time you are in your favorite liquor store head over to the import section and grab one of these fantastic beers that reveal the beauty of German brewing.
The Hofbräuhaus’s Dunkel has been brewed in one form or another since the late 16th century when they first started creating liquid love from a few ingredients. It has a lovely malty backbone that is slightly sweet with an almost nutty taste. Each sip is loaded with flavors and its dark roast is subtly offset by a tangy taste of hops. A fantastic dark beer that is good year-round.
Way, way, way back in 1040, a group of monks needed some beer to sip during their days, so they decided to start brewing. Ever since, for over a thousand-years, beer has been brewed at the Weihenstephan Brewery just outside of Munich. Let that sink in for a moment. This was the beer that some Crusaders drank before heading out to do battle in a faraway spot. Their signature beer is their Hefe Weissbier, a beautiful wheat beer that is packed with flavors and the perfect brew to sip on hot days.
When you continually get named the best Oktoberfest beer on the planet, you must be doing something right. Ayinger Brewery in the heart of Bavaria has earned that accolade for the last few decades. I suggest searching out their Celebrator Doppelbock, available year-round. It pours black with a slight red tint and has a beautiful creamy head. There are hints of chocolate and coffee that are balanced perfectly by a slight hop flavor.