Top 6 Everyday German Beer Drinking Traditions to Try Today
From teenagers allowed to drink beer before they’re allowed to vote, to being cursed with bad luck (or worse!) for not making sincere eye contact when clinking glasses and saying “Cheers”, everyday German beer-drinking traditions can be surprisingly different to those in the UK. In his latest blog, Sandip ‘Sandy’ Patidar, Founder & MD of Germandrinks.co.uk, shares his Top 6 favourite (or just most interesting) everyday German beer drinking traditions - and suggests trying some yourself…
Why not try these German beer-drinking traditions in the UK?
Beer permeates all walks of life in Germany, and the vast majority of Germans consider it to be their ‘national drink’. So, it’s not surprising that huge annual events surround its enjoyment - such as the spectacular Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich (and far beyond), and the seasonal food and drink festivals too numerous to mention here.
Germans especially appreciate their beer and have a culture rich with beer-drinking traditions - some practised annually, others seasonally and many more every day. Some of the most interesting are the everyday ones that have grown in popularity through Germany’s history of brewing beer and sharing it with family and friends.
But how would these everyday German beer-drinking traditions fair if you tried them here in the UK?
1. “Are you old enough to drink beer?”
A full two years earlier than in the UK, Germans are legally allowed to drink beer without adult supervision at age 16. Younger still, at 14, they’re allowed to drink beer with adult supervision in bars, restaurants and other public places. And at the ripe-old (and UK legal) age of 18, they’re allowed to drink stronger alcoholic beverages such as spirits.
In Germany, parents and guardians often focus on teaching youngsters to sensibly enjoy and appreciate beer, rather than keeping it out of their reach (and perhaps even feeling a little guilty about drinking it in their presence). They often allow children to taste the foamy head of beer - usually resulting in laughter all round because they dislike the bitter taste and pull funny faces.
Instantly sweeter and more palatable for children, alcohol free Radler beer (similar in some ways to shandy in the UK) can be a good way to introduce beer flavours and aromas. It’s also a good opportunity to help children learn how and why alcohol free Radler (and other alcohol free options) are different to the beers they may like to try when they’re 18.
Rothaus Natur Radler Lemon 0.0% is an exceptionally high-quality, ½ alcohol free Kellerbier, ½ fruit soda drink - and a delicious choice for all ages!
2. “Would you like a glass?”
When serving beer in a glass in the UK, a pint or half-pint are the standard choices; and you would expect to receive most types of beer this way.
In Germany, serving the right beer in the right glass is a must. Serving a Pilsner in a Weiss glass, for example, would be quite the faux pas.
In Germany, Pilsner is served in a tall, slim glass designed to accentuate the golden colouration and effervescence of the beer, retain its foamy head and keenly focus the nose on its complex aromas. Whereas the Weiss glass, with its vase-like stem and ‘bulb’ towards the top, is designed to control wheat beers’ ample foam, enhance its aromas and help keep it colder for longer.
Rothaus have designed some beautifully slender pint and half pint tankards (ideal for Pilsner and Märzen) and Weiss glasses (for wheat beer/Hefeweizen) for the UK market (they’re available with our cases of ten 330ml and 500ml bottles).
Try serving the right German beer in the right glass - and impress your friends with your knowledge of how to best appreciate each style of beer.
Here in the UK, when getting together with family or friends, we like to say “Cheers” and clink our glasses together occasionally, but not too much. Ever felt that slight pang of awkwardness when ‘cheersing’ again, or with the same person, too quickly?
In Germany, saying “Prost!” and clinking glasses together is not only a ‘must’, but there are also seriously-taken superstitions around getting it right.
You must make good, sincere, eye contact with each person as you clink glasses – if not, it’s considered to be bad luck; some even say “Seven years bad sex”(!), and you must never cross arms when clinking glasses - the risks associated with this are less well-known, but it’s probably best to err on the side of caution.
Whether it’s “Cheers” or “Prost” when clinking glasses the idea is to really mean it.
Give it a try!
4. “I’d like to propose a toast…”
Here in the UK, you may only be inspired, or called upon, to make a toast when surrounded by family and friends at a very special occasion - usually with a glass of champagne held aloft.
In Germany, it’s a popular tradition to make a toast before the first sip of…every new glass of beer!
Try proposing a toast every time you pour a fresh glass - it’ll certainly raise some eyebrows (and smiles!), but people tend to warm to the idea quite quickly.
5. “Let’s get some fresh air...and a German beer.”
Often frowned upon, a cause for concern, or illegal here in the UK (for understandable reasons), drinking beer outdoors and in public places is perfectly legal and accepted in many parts of Germany. (Sometimes depending on the location or time of day, but Germans are generally quite relaxed about it.)
During their hottest months, when temperatures can easily reach 17 degrees or more, Germans love to cool down with a beer or two in a park, sat on a bench (or just the kerb) or even walking down the street. These can be odd sights to the unaccustomed, but it’s usually done happily, sensibly and in the spirit of community in Germany.
Only being allowed to drink beer in certain outdoor public places in the UK, such as beer gardens or special events, it’s an interesting experience to enjoy a German beer in a more ‘everyday’ public place in Germany.
We wouldn’t suggest drinking a beer while taking a stroll here in the UK of course, but why not give it a try next time you’re in Germany? It can be quite a fun and liberating experience, especially in the summertime.
6. “Is it ‘Good morning’ or ‘Mahlzeit’?”
In German workplaces, staff often enthusiastically greet each other with “Mahlzeit” (pronounced ‘Mall-zayt’, meaning ‘meal time’) soon after, or even instead of, “Good morning/Gutan morgen”. German workers highly value their lunch breaks with colleagues, and they celebrate the idea as soon as they can!
The ‘Feierabendbier’ (after-work beer) - either at a local corner bar with colleagues or simply on the train ride home - is a daily tradition for many workers (depending on the industry). And it’s often considered the reason why levels of life (if not always job) satisfaction across the working population remain high.
Unless you’re planning to move to Germany for work, this one is less easy to try. Saying “Lunchtime” instead of “Good morning” at the office would probably result in some very funny looks indeed. That said, the occasional or additional (either way, responsible) after-work German beer might work wonders – but would it boost productivity here..?
Little and often
When it comes to enjoying beer in everyday life, ‘little and often’ is the mantra in Germany.
From a young age, Germans learn to respect and savour the flavours and aromas of, their beers. They enthusiastically follow the traditions which continue to bring their family, friends and colleagues together. In German beer culture, it’s all about community.
So, why not try some of these German beer-drinking traditions with your family and friends?
Some eyebrows might be raised, but fun times usually follow. After all, when it comes to drinking beer, it’s the little differences that make us all the same.
Let us know how you get on, and maybe you’ll start some traditions of your own.
Mahlzeit! (Too early?)