Putting the Bier in Biergarten!
Written by Emma Walker
As the humid summer months begin to settle over Washington, D.C., and rooftop bars become crowded with tourists from all over the United States, I begin to reminisce about my past summer experiences in a German Biergarten in my hometown, Sankt Leon-Rot near Heidelberg.
Together with my best friend’s family, all 10 of us gathered and headed out to the Biergarten on the edge of town. We sat together with others from the surrounding community at long, rustic, wooden tables, and took delight in the evening air that was slowly settling over the countryside. The two fathers in the group both started the evening off with “Eichbaum” beers, and the mothers of the group ordered Johannisbeer (black currant) Schnaps. My friend and I both ordered Radlers to wash down the heaping amounts of spaetzle we had just ordered. Radler, also known as a shandy in the English-speaking world, is a mix of beer and a clear, carbonated lemon-lime drink. As the night began to settle in, and the luminescent outdoor lights were turned on, it seemed as if the festivities were just beginning. Some groups of guests began to sing songs, while others conversed over Angela Merkel and the current state of the European Union. My parents began to talk to others around them about the United States, and my dad commented about how much he missed the beer from the nearby “Heidelberger” brewery. Around midnight, the waitresses began clearing the tables, and we said our farewells to the people we had met. Reflecting on this experience, I realized that these nights are what remind me of Germany. Taking in the sights, smells, sounds, and the tastes of beer, and rich foods on a beautiful July evening is a quintessential experience of a German Biergarten, and what causes me to yearn for it when summer comes around. Whether your evening is spent in a large Biergarten or amongst a close group of friends, taking the time to drink and socialize is a key part of the “Feierabend” culture in Germany.
While Biergarten culture is different all across Germany, what they all have in common is the drinks that they serve. Here’s what you can expect to find on the menu at a German Biergarten.
Drinks: What to Expect in the Summer
The Best Summer Beers
What is Germany stereotypically known for? The obvious answer: beer. And the summer months are no exception. The summer months in Germany are primarily marked by tourists visiting German breweries and tasting all that is offered. Here are examples of five German breweries and their summer beers that are sure to delight Biergarten-goers, with a concentration on southern-German drinking trends.
#1) Augustiner Bräu
- Straight from the oldest brewery in Munich, Augustiner Bräu offers eight different beers that are popular throughout the country. The most common summer variety of beer from this brand would be the “Lagerbier Hell,” which is described as a one of a kind, mild yet tangy beer that anyone can enjoy.
#2) Eichbaum Bier
- A beer brand that is especially popular in the Baden-Württemberg region of Germany, is “Eichbaum.” Produced in the city of Mannheim, Eichbaum’s Pilsner and Hefeweizen – Hell are popular among locals during the summer. Even in smaller towns like my own Sankt Leon-Rot, this beer is seen as a classic Bierhaus beer.
#3) Heylands Bier
- Brewed at a popular brewery in the Bavarian city of Aschaffenburg, Heylands Bier is a classic beer of choice that is consumed at many Biergartens. It is a fairly light beer, which makes it perfect for enjoying in the warmer summer months.
#4) Hofbraeu-Haus Bier
- Another famous beer that is brewed in Munich is the Hofbraeu-Haus Bier. This brand of beer is popular mostly everywhere in Germany and comes in an assortment of varieties, including an alcohol free version. However, the most popular summer time beer can be directly found in its name. The “Hofbraeu Sommerzwickel” is most popular in the summer months due to its light, crisp taste.
#5) Paulaner Bier
- When I think of German beer, I think of my father and our neighbors coming together to enjoy Paulaner beer on my best friend’s garden patio. While it can be considered a very stereotypical German beer, drinking this at any time of the year is very common in German households. A popular variety that is drank in the summer would be the “Münchner-Hell.”
Other Common Summer Drinks
In spite of the stereotype that Germans only drink beer, there are also a variety of other drinks that can be enjoyed during the summer months. Here are five other alcoholic drinks that can also be found at Biergartens around Germany.
- Perhaps you are not in the mood for something quite as heavy as a beer. In that case, a Radler is just what you need! This drink is a combination of lemonade or citrus-flavored soda and beer, and has a much lower alcohol content than regular beer. Popular brands like Paulaner are also known for their production of Radler as a top-selling drink.
- Considered a very popular German drink to the American public, German Schnaps is a very refreshing shot of alcohol and juice. In the United States, this drink could be defined as a type of ‘fruit brandy.’ It was originally used as a homeopathic method for improving digestion after meals, which is what makes it taste so great. Popular flavors of Schnaps that are commonly drunk in the summer include apple, and Johannisbeer, due to the berries’ ripeness in the summer.
#3) Apfelwein (Ebbelwoi)
- This drink that is native to Frankfurt is a bit of an acquired taste. Created by using granny smith apples, this drink is rather sour and bitter, but at the same time, cool and refreshing. It is traditionally served in a Bembel, which is a grey stone pitcher with blue detailing around the sides. Apfelwein can be found in many parts of the Baden-Württemberg region; however, it is most popular in its hometown of Frankfurt.
- Bowle, loosely translating to punch, is one of the most popular summer drinks in Germany. This is mainly because like any punch, it is easy to make, and can be served in bulk. It is made using any combination of fruits, juices, and alcohol. A common flavor that is served at parties would be strawberry Bowle, but practically any fruit and alcohol combination can be used.
- Eiswein, a drink that is exactly what it sounds like.The word directly translates to “ice wine,” and is created from grapes that were harvested during a long winters frost. Because of its frozen qualities, it is traditionally served chilled, and is overall thicker and sweeter because all of the water has been frozen out of the grapes. This drink is commonly served after dinner and is brought out with the dessert course.