Beer is a major part of German culture. German beer is brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, which permits only water, hops, and malt as ingredients and stipulates that beers not exclusively using barley-malt such as wheat beer must be top-fermented.
The Reinheitsgebot ("purity decree"), sometimes called the "German Beer Purity Law" or the "Bavarian Purity Law" in English, was a regulation concerning the production of beer in Germany.
In the original text, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley, and hops, which had to be added only while the wort was boiling. After its discovery, yeast became the fourth legal ingredient. (For top fermenting beers, the use of sugar is also permitted.)
There is a dispute as to where the Reinheitsgebot originated. Some Bavarians point out that the law originated in the city of Ingolstadt in the duchy of Bavaria on 23 April 1516, although first put forward in 1487, concerning standards for the sale and composition of beer.
Thuringians point to a document which states the ingredients of beer as water, hops, and barley only, and was written in 1434 in Weißensee (Thuringia). It was discovered in the medieval Runneburg near Erfurt in 1999. Before its official repeal in 1987, it was the oldest food-quality regulation in the world.
Kellerbiers are unfiltered lagers which are conditioned in a similar manner to cask ales. Strength and colour will vary, though in the Franconia region where these cask conditioned lagers are still popular, the strength will tend to be 5% ABV or slightly higher, and the colour will tend to be a deep amber, but the defining characteristic is the cask conditioning. Kellerbier is German for "cellar beer".
Zwickelbier was originally a sample amount of beer taken by a brewery boss from the barrel with the help of a special pipe called a "Zwickelhahn". Zwickelbiers are unfiltered lagers like Kellerbier, though with a slightly different conditioning process which gives the lager more carbonation. Zwickelbiers tend to be younger, lower in alcohol and less hoppy than Kellerbiers.
A very similar beer is Zoiglbier, which in the Upper Palatinate's brewing practice is advertised with a "Zoiglstern" (i.e., sign) -- a six-pointed blue-and-white symbol made from wooden slats, similar to a Star of David.
While the beer market is weaker but more centralized in northern Germany, southern Germany has many smaller, local breweries. Almost half of all German breweries are in Bavaria,  where the seven main breweries produce 158 million gallons . In total, there are approximately 1,300 breweries in Germany producing over 5,000 brands of beer.
The highest density of breweries in the world is found in Aufseß near the city of Bamberg, in the Franconia region of Bavaria with four breweries and only 1,352 citizens. The Benedictine abbey Weihenstephan brewery (established in 725) is reputedly the oldest existing brewery in the world (brewing since 1040). In 2004, Oettinger replaced Krombacher as the best selling brand in Germany.
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The alcohol-by-volume, or ABV, content of beers in Germany is usually between 4.7% and 5.4% for most traditional brews. Bockbier or Doppelbock (double Bockbier) can have an alcohol content of up to 16%, making it stronger than many wines.
An ornate stoneware beer stein.
A Weizen beer glass.
A Pilsner beer glass
Dunkel, pictured here in a Stange glass.
A Weizen glass is used to serve wheat beer. Originating in Germany, the glass is narrow at the bottom and slightly wider at the top; the width both releasing aroma, and providing room for the often thick, fluffy heads produced by wheat beer. It tends to be taller than a pint glass, and generally holds 500 millilitres with room for foam or "head". In some countries, such as Belgium, the glass may be 250 ml or 330 ml.
Wheat beers tend to foam a lot, especially if poured incorrectly. A customary manner is to swirl around a bit of (preferably cold) water in the glass to wet it and afterwards pouring the beer slowly, holding the glass in an angle of approximately 45 °.
A beer stein (or simply a stein STYNE) is an English neologism for a traditional type of beer mug. Steins may be made of stoneware (rarely the inferior earthenware), pewter, porcelain, silver, glass, or wood. They may have open tops or may have hinged pewter lids with a thumb-lever.
Steins usually come in sizes of a half litre or full litre (or comparable historical sizes). Like decorative tankards, they are often decorated in nostalgic themes, generally showing allusions to Germany or Bavaria.
The Maß (pronounced [mas]) is a term used in German-speaking countries for a unit of volume, now typically used only for measuring beer sold for immediate on-site consumption. In modern times, a Maß is defined as exactly 1 litre. As a Maß is a unit of measure, various designs are possible: modern Maßkrugs (Maßkrüge in German) are often handled glass tankards, although they may also be in the form of steins. At the Octoberfest beer is available in Maßkrug or half litre 'Halb' .
A Stange (stick or rod) is a cylindrical glass that is traditionally used for Kölsch beer. A Becher (tumbler), traditionally used for Altbier, is similar to a Stange but is slightly shorter and much thicker. Stangen are carried by placing them into holes in a special tray called a Kranz (wreath). In Cologne Stanges are usually served by traditional waiters called Köbes.
The Pilstulpe ("Pilsner Tulip") or Biertulpe ("Beer tulip") is the tradition glass for German pilsner beers. Sizes are typically around 300 millilitres (11 imp fl oz; 10 US fl oz), but can be as large as 500 millilitres (18 imp fl oz; 17 US fl oz). When used in restaurant settings, a small piece of absorbent paper is placed around the base to absorb any drips from spilling or condensation.
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Beer boots (Bierstiefel in German) have over a century of history and culture behind them. It is commonly believed that a general somewhere promised his troops to drink beer from his boot if they were successful in battle. When the troops prevailed, the general had a glassmaker fashion a boot from glass to fulfill his promise without tasting his own feet and to avoid spoiling the beer in his leather boot. Since then, soldiers have enjoyed toasting to their victories with a beer boot. At gatherings in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, beer boots are often passed among the guests for a festive drinking challenge. Since the movie Beerfest appeared in 2006, beer boots have become increasingly popular in the United States. Glass beer boots are either manufactured using a mold or from mouth-blown glass by skilled artisans.
In Germany, beer boots usually contain between 2 and 4 litres and are passed from one guest at the table to the next one clockwise. When almost reaching the bottom of the boot, it suddenly starts bubbling. By some accounts, drinker who caused the bubbling has to order the next boot. There are also boots known with 6 and 8 litres. That being said, beer boots are almost never seen in Germany, even among friends who do drink as much and more beer on an evening out together; normal glasses are preferred.
Oktoberfest is a 16- to 18-day festival held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, running from late September to the first weekend in October. Only beer which is brewed within the city limits of Munich with a minimum of 13.5% Stammwürze (approximately 6% alcohol by volume) is allowed to be served in this festival. Upon passing this criterion, a beer is designated Oktoberfest Beer. Large quantities of German beer are consumed, with almost 7 million liters served during the 16-day festival in 2007. Recently in 2015 the festival officially served 7.3 million liters of beer.
Other festivals include
In many cases, the beer festival is part of a general funfair or volksfest.