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German Beer, Some Fast Facts
Known as "Fluessiges Brot", liquid bread, in the Middle Ages beer brewing was mainly the specialty of brew monks and brew nuns, and served with their meals.
Special brews were prepared for drinking during their "Fasts" because the food and vitamin value helped combat "Fasting Fatigue".
In the middle ages the monks brewing the beer were allowed to drink five liters, about ten pints, every day.
For the original Germans, Teutons, beer was so precious it was offered as a sacrifice to the gods.
Germans still like their beer; as a country they are third behind the Czech Republic and Ireland in the amount consumed per person.
Mark Twain would still find his comment, "German beers are as different as hens in a farmyard", as accurate now as when he said it.
There is an annual "German Beer Day", Tag des Deutschen Bieres, and it's on April 23rd.
On "Beer Day" some family breweries in Southern Germany brew a "Limited Edition Beer of the Year", Jahrgansbier 23.04, which is distributed 120 days later at the end of August. Each brewery is allowed to produce only 6,000 liters, and every bottle has a serial number.
To order one beer in Germany, raise one thumb. Raising your first finger means that you are ordered two beers, one with the thumb and one with the finger. So be careful with those fingers and thumbs unless you really do want two beers, which, especially in Bavaria, can be dangerous because...bier is officially considered "food" in Bavaria, and the normal Bavarian beer glass, a Krug, is a "Mass" that holds one liter or about two pints.
Bavaria has over 600 breweries and is home to the oldest Brewery in Germany. The Weihenstephan Brewery, grounded in 1040 by the Benedictine monks in Freising, is possibly the oldest functioning brewery in the world, and has its own highly regarded Brewmaster degree program.
A law guaranteeing the purity of beer was in force in Bavaria from 1516 until 1988, by which time it had been adopted, perhaps unwillingly, by the rest of Germany. This had been necessary because everything from soot, poisonous roots and sawdust to deadly nightshade, were added to brews produced by commercial brewers after they took over from monks and monasteries.
It was later lifted by the European Court of Justice. Called the "Reinheitsgebot", meaning "purity order", the law stipulated that only water, barley and hops were allowed to be used, with yeast not added until later. Most traditional brewers stay with the original ingredients and their beers are highly valued, but some do not although they don't always admit this, and now any permitted food additive can be allowed in the brewing process.
There are in fact some very "different" beers these days. Gherkin Beer and Asparagus Beer for example, although they are not officially considered "Beer".
The typical ceramic German Beer Stein started out as protection against the bubonic plague and periodic widespread invasions of flies, but is seen everywhere and often used to symbolize Germany. The original 14th century beer stein had no lid, so a permanently attached pewter top was created in the early 16th century protecting the contents of the stoneware steins from germs, flies, dust. And anything else floating about in the air.
Even the smallest region will usually have its own brewery, so it is easy to understand why Germany has over 1,300 breweries.
It would take rather a long time to try all Germany's different beers, 13.1/2 years tasting a different one each day.
Apart from at Oktoberfest, when it is sky high, beer is not over expensive, less expensive than some of the over 500 types of mineral water on offer.
Dark beer served colder than most beers is a German favorite, but the variety available is broad: from the blond "Pils", Pilsener, type to the very dark "Dunkles Bier", Dark Beer, and "Schwarzbier", Black Beer.
There is also a popular beer mix: Radler. In 1922 the owner of the Kugler-Arm Gasthof in Bavaria was suddenly faced with a large group of cyclists in his beer garden, cycling was then as now a favorite pastime. He knew he did not have enough beer to serve them all so, although a recipe for the mixture had been known locally since the beginning of the 20th century, he claimed to have invented a drink for them. One that would not only quench their thirst but was also less alcoholic, making it safer to continue their journey.
The 50/50 combination of lemonade (lemon soda) and beer, then a dark beer but now a pale one, has from that time has been called "Radler" in southern Germany. A "Radfahrer" is a cyclist.
The same mixture is known as Alsterwasser in northern Germany.
German beer gardens, Biergaerten, date back to the Middle Ages, when brewers planted chestnut trees over their underground storage areas to shade the contents of the beer cellars from sun. Some original chestnut trees still exist and in spring, summer or autumn, sitting in a shaded beer garden with a beer, and the local "foodie" specialty - in Bavaria a Brezel (pretzel), some Obatzda, a mixed cheese blend flavored with paprika, and thin slices of white or red radish - is a favorite way of spending time.
Brewers have twelve saints to look after them, including St. Nicholas and St. George.
Beer is so much part of the culture in Germany there is even a popular expression: "Das ist nicht mein Bier", That is not my beer, which means "That is none of my business", or "It does not interest me!"
It probably originates from "That beer is not to my taste", and when there are around 5,000 varieties to choose from that is quite possible.
Courtesy de.Wikipedia: Mettlach German Beer Stein 1914...Enjoying a beer in a Bavarian Beer Garden, via Dein Bayern
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