The 11 Best German Beers

Germany has a profound history and relationship with beer.

Not only is Germany a huge producer of beer products, but they are also the third-highest consumer of beers in Europe per capita, after Czechia and Austria - both nations very closely linked to Germany and beer, by borders and central European culture. 

Germany has been producing beer since ancient times and has many beer festivals that occur in different cities and states, with the most famous being Oktoberfest in Bavaria that has been a tradition for centuries.

Even in today’s world, with many new kinds of beer coming from a variety of different countries and cultures, Germany sits at the top of the totem pole of beer producers.

You may be wondering why we are giving you so much information about Germany and its relationship with beer in the title? Well, it is integrally linked to today’s article, as we sat and tried to find the 11 best German beers.

Looking at beers from a country with over 1500 breweries and upwards of 5000 different types of beer is no mean feat, yet we delved deep into a world of hops and suds in order to find the best beer Germany has to offer.

OUR TOP PICK

Augustiner-Brau is a very old and quite unique brewery.

It is the oldest independent brewery in Munich, the beer capital of Germany, and it is one of the last breweries to not be owned by a large conglomerate, instead being 49% family owned and 51% charity owned. 

Throughout most of its existence, this brewery has made beers locally for the Greater Munich area, but in recent times it has become more popular and available elsewhere.

The Edelstoff is a bright beer with a wonderfully refreshing flavor that begins with a very malty flavor before turning crisp at the end. Its alcohol content sits at an 5.6% which is a nice middle ground, not being too alcoholic while also not being extremely light, allowing you still have a nice buzz while not losing your head.

The style of this beer is very interesting as they have kept the retro image with the wide bottle and beautiful label when most other beers transitioned to a slim, more modern design.

This has given the brand a reputation for being independent and traditional that people eat up in the modern day.

While its brand is growing and becoming more popular, its distribution is still limited and most of the beers are sold within Germany, rather than outside.

Although this is changing in the modern day, it is still in its early stages and may take some time to instigate an international network.

Pros

  • Lovely flavor
  • Balanced alcohol content
  • Enticing retro style

Cons

  • Limited distribution

Also, available to purchase at Augustiner Brau Edelstoff | Total Wine & More.

EDITORS CHOICE

Traveling back to Bavaria, where the Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan or the Bavarian State Brewery of Weihenstephan plies its trade.

There is much dispute about the brewery's claim of being the oldest in the world, however it has been around since at least the medieval period and that is in no small part to its wonderful beer.

The Hefe Weissbier is a grainy beer that capitalizes on hints of fruity flavors like banana to give a light taste away from the bready overtones. It has a nice alcohol content of 5.4% that is well-balanced when placed with a light beer such as this one.

Its labeling is a pleasant white and blue pattern that makes good use of the Bavarian coat of arms, and the package of it all together compliments the beer's light flavor very well.

The beer seems to be quite widely available as well, although maybe it is not found in a 7/11, but it is still quite easy to get your hands on.

Although its flavor is well-loved and appreciated abroad and at home, it is still quite unique, and some people can find the aroma off-putting. This lack of complete universal appeal is unfortunate; however, most people really love the beer, so it's not too much trouble for the brewery itself.

Pros

  • Unique and light flavor
  • Balanced alcohol content
  • Nice, complimentary style
  • Well distributed

Cons

  • Unique flavor can be off-putting for some

Also, available to purchase at Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier | Total Wine & More.

BEST VALUE

Paulaner is a well known and, again, very old brand of beer. Started in the 1600s, the brewery has gone from strength to strength and now has a beer in its line that is considered one of Germany’s best-selling beers.

With such a formidable reputation, it is no wonder that Paulaner has managed to secure a place on this list.

The Salvator’s recipe has remained unchanged for over 375 years and with good reason, it has a distinct flavor that is unmistakable and instantly makes people think of this beer.

It is robust with an intense caramel maltiness that tails into a smooth chocolate flavor with a subtle pinch of hops at the end of a mouthful. It fills the palate with intensity while not overpowering it, giving a rich experience.

Its style in labeling is unique for using pictures of a monk and gentleman in times long gone, and the symbol of the Paulaner brand is a side profile of another monk.

This adherence to an older imagery is nice, but it doesn’t go fully for the retro image, keeping the slimmer bottles and the label being extended around the bottle, which is a shame.

The Salvator is a relatively easy beer to find in stores, as Paulaner is a relatively well known and widely distributed brand, giving you easy access to this smooth beer.
The one problem I have with this beer is its alcohol content.

At 7.9%, this is a huge amount of alcohol for a beer to have and though I, like the rest of us, like to get a little bit tipsy now and again, I’m not a fan of this very high alcohol content.

Relaxing with a beer at the end of the day is an enjoyable, easy thing to do, which I feel is difficult if that beer can get you drunk after a couple of pints.

Pros

  • Very rich flavor
  • Nice style
  • Easy to find and buy

Cons

  • Very high alcohol content for a beer

Also, available to purchase from Paulaner Salvator Doppel Bock | Total Wine & More.

RUNNER UP

Staying in Bavaria for another Munich based beer, Spaten is another ancient brand dating back to the 14th century.

It has been a mainstay in Bavarian beer manufacture for centuries and is one of only six brewers that is allowed to provide beer for the Munich Oktoberfest. With that in mind, it is no wonder that one of their beers is to be considered for the best.

Oktoberfest, aptly named after the festival, is a very malty beer that has a hint of spice added to the end and has a very mild taste of hops, which is a perfect winter beer combination.

The alcohol content is quite high at 6%, but is not too heady, and the beer still focuses mostly on flavor while giving you a buzz. The style of the bottle is incredibly Bavarian, with great use of the blue and white flag designed and festive writing on the label.

Oktoberfest is incredibly easy to find and is distributed throughout North America, which is not surprising considering the high German population of the States and its great love for the festival.

Although the design has some nice colors, I think it lacks direction. The bottle and coloration is slim and modern with a slight retro chic, while the design is traditional and has a coat of arms and stylized traditional writing.

It attempts to blend old and new styles, but, to my mind at least, doesn’t do it as effectively as it would like.

Pros

  • Good seasonal flavor.
  • High alcohol content.
  • Well distributed.

Cons

  • Design is a bit all over the place.

Also, available to purchase from Spaten Oktoberfest Ur Marzen | Total Wine & More.

RUNNER UP

Being the oldest monastic brewery in the world means that you have few competitors when it comes to your beer. Weltenburger Kloster has little need for competition, as its beers are delightful for even the person who dislikes a brew.

The Barock Dunkel is a deep red beer that has a sweet bready flavor with a hint of nuttiness and hops behind it.

Having an alcohol content of 4.7% is a little on the light side for a German beer, but it is not so low that you feel nothing when you have a pint, letting you enjoy it at a slower pace, perfect for an end of the day pint. 

Surprisingly, despite being produced at a monastery, the beer is quite well distributed, and it shouldn’t take much effort to find it outside of Germany if you are looking.

The style of the labeling is very humble, being a mostly white affair with a picture of the monastery nestled into the design.

This is not a bad design, in fact seasonally it is quite nice, especially in winter. However, it is not one that stands out much against other more interesting designs.

Pros

  • Rich flavor
  • Lighter but still good alcohol content
  • Surprisingly well distributed

Cons

  • - Design is simple, but not eye-catching

Also, available to purchase from Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel | Total Wine & More.

RUNNER UP

Stepping away from Bavaria to take a sip of beer straight from the Rhineland.

Bitburger is a relative newcomer to Germany’s beer industry, having been founded in 1817 however in only the space of a couple of hundred years it has risen to have the third best-selling beer in the whole country.

Premium Pils is an incredibly bright and refreshing beer that relies on a grainy flavor, with hints of citrus fruits and hops in equal measure on the tail end of the beer.

The alcohol content is 4.8% which, like the Barock Dunkel, is not particularly high, but is not very low either as such, keeping it refreshing for those having one after a long hard day.

I, for one, am not a big fan of the style of this beer. It has a mainly white color with some gold writing and inlays, which to me is quite garish and feels as if it is screaming at me.

The other problem with this beer is finding it, it is quite hard to get a hold of outside its native Germany. This is a shame, as the flavor is lovely, but it might be impossible for some people to find.

Pros

  • Beautiful flavor
  • Light but good alcohol content

Cons

  • Garish design
  • Not well distributed

RUNNER UP

Kostritzer is an old brand, like many breweries in Germany, however it can claim to be one of the oldest producers of Schwarzbier, which is a kind of German black beer, and has been doing so since the 1500s.

The Schwarzbier from Kostritzer has many famous drinkers, and with good reason considering its appearance on this list.

The first thing to say about this beer is it is very dark and incredibly malty, yet it is still somehow lighter than other dark beers or stouts. It also has a distinct coffee flavor that has undertones of toasted malt to it.

The beer itself is only 4.8%, which is quite light, making it really easy to drink despite its dark appearance and rich taste.

The packaging and style of the beer leans heavily into its dark appearance, with the label being mostly black with a wide red stripe and white writing.

Although this could be off-putting, it is striking enough without being overbearing to make the appearance appealing.

As before, the main problem is that this beer is very well known and popular in Germany, but to people outside of the country, it is difficult to get a hold of.

Its distribution is somewhat limited, and you may have to search for a while to find a pint of Kostritzer Schwarzbier if you are looking.

Pros

  • Incredibly rich flavor
  • Light and nice alcohol content
  • Dark and cool design

Cons

  • Not widely distributed

RUNNER UP

Ayinger is a brewery on the smaller side compared to a lot of the big boys we have seen on the list thus far.

Yet, that does not mean it should be disregarded, as this brewery outside Munich is internationally known and has even won awards for its delicious product.

The Celebrator Doppelbock packs quite a punch and is very strong in terms of flavor, yet it is not overpowering and there are a lot of subtle tastes that come along after the main hit, mainly fruity overtones with a little bit of hop underneath.

At 6.7%, the Doppelbock is strong in more than just flavor with its alcohol content sure to make people a little tipsy, nonetheless it can still be enjoyed on its own with the worry of having too much.

The style is very traditional with a couple of rams displayed next to a beer mug, yet it is not overkill and quite a refreshing image to see compared with more modern designs.

Even though only 10% of Ayinger’s products are exported, this is actually more than enough for the international market, and it is relatively easy to find this Doppelbock abroad.

I think the one downside that hinders the Celebrator is the flavor. Don’t get me wrong, I love the flavor of a good Doppelbock, especially Celebrator, but I would be remiss to think it wasn’t a quite unique flavor that not everyone would enjoy.

Pros

  • Strong, distinct flavor
  • High but not overpowering alcohol content
  • Interesting and traditional design
  • Wide distribution

Cons

  • Flavor might not be to everyone’s taste

Also, available to purchase from Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock | Total Wine & More.

RUNNER UP

Schöfferhofer was around for a long time, but not as well known as other brands from Germany, though it did have a loyal following for several centuries.

This obscurity and group of loyalists to the brand allowed Schöfferhofer to experiment more than others might, and it gave the first grapefruit-wheat beer blend.

The Grapefruit Hefeweizen is a first in that it is 50% wheat beer and 50% grapefruit juice. This naturally means that the alcohol content is quite low sitting at 2.5%, which is lower than a lot of other alcohols and even alcopops, but refreshing for very hot days.

This beer is also quite widely distributed as it appeals to those who dislike the normal taste of beer and those looking for a refreshing summer drink with a little kick of alcohol in it.

Yet, even with assurances of flavor and balance, I find that this beer tastes just like grapefruit juice, which is not ideal. I like the taste of beer, and having my beer taste like juice just leaves a funny taste in my mouth.

I also said earlier that this beer is refreshing because of its low alcohol content, while this may be true, for any situation other than a hot summer's day I can’t think why I would drink it and if I did, I would just get grapefruit juice instead.

Not only this, but the style of the packaging is very explosive and in your face, which I wouldn’t mind for a party drink, but not something I want from a beer.

Pros

  • Low alcohol content is good for some
  • Widely distributed

Cons

  • Low alcohol content is bad for others
  • Tastes exactly like fruit juice
  • Explosive packaging

Also, available to purchase from Schofferhofer Hefeweizen Grapefruit - Minibar Delivery.

RUNNER UP

The relatively new brewery of G. Schneider & Sohn was founded in the late 1800s in Bavaria. Despite the competition and the lack of experience, the G.

Schneider brewery managed to churn out beers at an impressive rate and match their competitor’s step for step with their line of Schneider Weisse.

In a strange way, Schneider Weisse epitomizes Bavarian beer. It is an amber color that is full-bodied with a deep toasted grain flavor. After the initial swig, the after-taste is that of bananas, cloves, and nutmeg, giving a little zest to the hearty flavor.

At 5.4%, the alcohol content is balanced, not being too light and not being too heady, and the alcohol doesn’t infect the flavor.

The beer is well known around the world and, as such, is widely distributed, with up to 25% of G. Schneider & Sohn products being exported abroad.

There is one issue and once again it is surrounding the style of the beer. Although the beer itself is a beautiful amber, the packaging is a bright white and gold that puts me off buying it.

If the style was changed, I would say this is a perfect Bavarian beer, but, unfortunately, we taste with our eyes first. Excluding that one issue, this beer is a keeper in anyone’s book.

Pros

  • Delicious flavor
  • Balanced alcohol content
  • Widely distributed

Cons

  • Off putting packaging

Also, available to purchase from Schneider Weisse (Original) | Total Wine & More.

RUNNER UP

The last beer for today comes from Germany’s famous Black Forest region in Baden-Württemberg, Rothaus has risen from humble origins in a very rural state to become one of Germany’s biggest and most successful breweries, while keeping close to its roots.

The flavor of the beer is very crisp and almost lager-like in its lightness, while still having a degree of malt sweetness and a dash of hop bitterness to offset the clean taste.

At 5.1% alcohol content, it is an average beer in terms of not being too heavy or light, sitting in a nice range of just right. The style of the label, though dated in some respects, is charming for its dated nature and is quite appealing for its childlike imagery.

The woman in the picture is wearing traditional garb and carrying two pints with a smile on her face and its uniqueness of the design itself draws the eye.

The distribution of the beer is fairly good as well, although it may be difficult to find in places like 7/11 in bigger shops it should be easier.

Although I love the appeal of the design, I understand that the whimsical imagery and plain style may be off-putting to others, who seek more just something more bold or that says something about the beer itself.

Pros

  • Lovely, crisp flavor
  • Balanced alcohol content
  • Unique and charming design
  • Quite well distributed

Cons

  • Design may not appeal to everyone

Also, available for purchase from Rothaus Tannenzäpfle Pils | Arrowine & Cheese (shoparrowine.com).

Buyer’s Guide

Beers can vary in many different aspects and how we buy beers depends on our mood at the time, especially beers we don’t know. As time goes on and our palates become broader, it becomes increasingly difficult to find something that will quench our thirst satisfactorily.

Therefore, we have come up with 4 different markers that people universally look for when purchasing a new beverage.

The 11 Best German Beers

Flavor

The flavor is all important, as beer is one of those drinks that can have a multitude of undertones. Those undertones define the beer for a person and make them consider picking it up once more, is it malty? Does it taste toasty with a nutty undertone? Does it have a sweetness to it?

These are very significant. It is also essential to note that beer needs to not be overpowering or beholden to one taste, with so many different flavors added to the beer, it is easy to make something too bitter or too malty, basically making it undrinkable.

Alcohol Content

Alcohol content is critical to drinking culture, but not for the reasons you think. If you are having a beer after a long day of work, maybe with some colleagues, then you want to relax and unwind.

This does not mean you want to get spectacularly drunk, yet this also means you don’t want to be stone sober. There is a nice balance that you can hit with beer that means you can be tipsy but not reckless, and that is what you want to aim for.

Style

It has been said before – including by me in this article – we taste with our eyes first. It is the reason why a lot of people are put off by oysters, why some people find it difficult to butcher a carcass for dinner, and why a lot of people stop eating fruit when there is a black spot.

The same can be said for beer, if the packaging is unappealing, then they won’t think about buying it. I have a friend who will buy a Guinness – no shame there, I love a Guinness - over any other beer because the packaging is appealing.

Distribution Availability

Finally, the beer needs to be available, if the beer is not available in your area then you can’t drink it.

It is all well and good saying you could just import it, but would you pay double the price for an imported beer that could take weeks to get to you, when you can easily nip into a shop and get a 6 pack really easily? I wouldn’t.

Final Thoughts

Germany is one of the beer capitals of the world. It has a long-standing tradition of producing high quality beer, and its consumption is fused into the everyday fabric of life.

Although this list gives you 11 of the best beers that Germany has to offer, there are over 5,000 different kinds of beer available. With so much choice, you could easily spend the next few years making your own list and finding which beer is right for you.

Who knows? You may find some beers that others have never heard of before, hidden in the backroom of a bar in Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, or Bavaria.

Frequently asked questions

What Is A Pilsner Beer?

A pilsner is a type of pale lager that was originally from the Czech town of Plzeň. It used a combination of techniques from different countries to create a golden and clear beer, Bavarian-style lagering, British malt, Saaz hops, and Plzeň’s soft water.

This revolutionized how beer was made and took the European market by storm. Even today, pilsner type beers are one of the top consumed beers.

What Is The Best German Beer Sold In America?

This is a difficult question because there are so many German beers sold in America, which is not surprising considering German is the top ancestry of most Americans.

However, if I was going to choose a brand that everyone knows, can be acquired easily, and can be appreciated universally, I would pick Becks. It is light and crisp while not being off-putting and is enjoyed by most people.

Mandy Winters
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