Germans love beer. How much you ask? Well, they have the fourth highest rate of per-capita consumption in the world. But it’s more than that. Germans love good beer. Until recently the country had a law regulating its production that decreed only water, barley and hops could be used to produce beer. Unfortunately the E.U. made the government repeal the law – damn you, globalization! – but trust that Germany is still very serious about producing the world’s finest beers. So, with that in find, here are the four best destinations in Germany for beer lovers.
Never mind Germany, Munich is possibly the greatest beer destination in the world! Three main factors combine to make this so. Firstly there are the large clamorous beer halls, the most famous of which is Hofbrauhaus, which may be a tourist trap but, with its live Bavarian music and terrific platters of German cuisine, is a place worth getting trapped in. Then there are the beer gardens, a Munich tradition since 1812 when King Max Joseph I passed his "Beer Garden Decree," which licensed the sale of food and beer in certain outdoor areas. And finally there is of course Oktoberfest, an annual 16-day festival which sees seven million liters of beer pass through the livers of revelers from across the globe.
Bremen is a far more placid town than Munich, located in the opposite, northwestern corner of Germany. But despite its tranquility it boasts a few unmissable destinations for the beer tourist. First and foremost it is the birthplace of one of the world’s most quaffed beers, Beck’s. Beck’s Brewery offers remarkably great tours, which are highly informative about the history of beer and the brewing process and include a blind taste test, ideal for showing up wannabe connoisseurs. Bremen also hosts one of the most celebrated Ratskellers in Germany. A Ratskeller is a beer hall in a basement, and Bremen Ratskeller serves excellent German and international cuisine, a vast selection of wines, and the odd beer, with some vintages that are over 100 years old.
Once you’ve sloshed a few steins in Munich and Bremen, drinking in Cologne may come as a bit of a surprise. The city’s beer culture revolves around a local variety called Kölsch, a light, golden, hoppy lager which is served in slim 0.2-liter glasses nicknamed Stangen. A ritual has built up around the drinking of Kölsch, which is distributed from circular trays with a handle by highly attentive waiters. A top sampling spot is the Früh am Dom gasthaus, but Kölsch’s small size make them ideal for a bit of beer hall hopping – try out Päffgen and Brauhaus Peters, too.
Having trodden round the north and west of Germany, it’s time to return to beer’s true heartland, Bavaria. Upper Franconia, a region in the north of Bavaria, teems with independent breweries producing myriad unique varieties of beer. The medieval town of Bamberg is at the center of this alcohol-laced cobweb, and its tourist office has information on a self-guided Brewery Trail that takes in many of the area’s oldest and most traditional breweries. Among them is Schlenkerla, where you can try the region’s curious speciality, Rauchbier, a smoked beer made by smoking malt over beechwood fires.