German Beer Tradition Research Paper

Length: 10 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Agriculture Type: Research Paper Paper: #24072470 Related Topics: Brewing, German, Legal Drinking Age, World Cup
Excerpt from Research Paper :

Beer is as synonymous with German culture as watches are to Switzerland. The centrality of beer to German culture is owing to centuries of tradition, long before the unification of Germany in 1871. Although beer consumption in Germany has declined over the last several decades, beer continues to be a defining feature of modern German economic, social, and even political life.

Background and Pre-Modern German Beer

According to the German Beer Institute, beer has been brewed in Germany for about three thousand years. Until the 8th century CE, most beer was brewed at home for personal consumption. Because it is a domestic food product, and gender roles assigned women to domestic chores, brewers were almost exclusively women during the days of the Teutonic tribes. As Christianity penetrated Germany, brewing shifted toward semi-professional and eventually professional status. Christian monasteries and nunneries brewed the first commercial beers in Germany, using the proceeds from their sales to cover their operating expenses (German Beer Institute). The tradition of monastic brewing still remains throughout Germany and much of Europe. As the Germanic tribes evolved into fiefdoms and kingdoms during the Middle Ages, secular brewing guilds emerged.

However, the division between northern and southern regions of Germany was starting to become increasingly apparent during the Middle Ages as well. Those divisions continue to characterize the diversity of German beer culture. As the German Beer Institute points out, "feudal lords took over most institutional brewing in southern Germany, while burgher-merchants did the same in northern Germany." Bavaria, in Southern Germany, reached its peak of economic and political power in during the late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance. It was during this time that brewing guilds wielded significant enough political clout to influence trade laws. Secular commercial beer producers often competed vehemently with the monastic beer producers wishing to dominate the industry (German Beer Institute).

The most important trade law -- in any industry -- to emerge from Germany was the 1516 Reinheitsgebot, which means "purity law." Initially a regional law pertaining only to Bavaria, the law became adopted throughout modern Germany hundreds of years later. Widely believed to be the "world's oldest consumer legislation," the Reinheitsgebot was designed in part to protect the bread industry. Brewing had become such big business and so thoroughly entrenched in German society that the bread bakers needed greater access to grains like wheat and rye. The Reinheitsgebot stipulates that beer must contain only malted barley, liberating the stores of rye and wheat for bakers. Of course, the law would later be amended to account not only for the increase in global grain production but also for the fact that wheat and rye beers were being produced at a fairly large scale throughout Bavaria and much of Germany. In addition to barley malt, hops and water were also ingredients permitted in German beer production. It was not until scientists discovered the microscopic organisms responsible for fermentation, yeast, that the Reinheitsgebot was amended once again. The Reinheitsgebot influenced German beer production, quality, taste, style, culture, and finances for centuries.

After the Protestant Reformation, which began in Germany, the regional differences in Germany became pronounced. Regional differences are apparent in the beer itself, with different styles of beer being brewed in different regions. Those differences remain extant in the 21st century, with some styles of beer only available in their native regions of Germany. Differences in beer drinking culture and context are also apparent throughout Germany. The country now known as Germany was little more than a collection of smaller kingdoms, states, and city-states until 1871. The newness of the nation-state of Germany makes it so that modern German brewing and drinking culture is colorful and diverse. Although the number of beer breweries has declined exponentially over the last century, modern Germany still "boasts approximately twelve hundred breweries making over five thousand different beers in about twelve major styles," (Borak).

Bavaria epitomizes the importance of beer in modern German culture. Prior to unification, Crown Prince Ludwig married Theresa von Sachsen-Hildburghausen of Bavaria. The celebration was commemorated on October 12, 1810 in Munich with a major festival held on fairgrounds now called Theresienwiese, which means "Theresa's fairgrounds." Still called Theresienweise by locals, the festival is one of the world's largest and most famous: the Oktoberfest....


According to Fazel, Helay, Torras, and Saha, "The event was so successful that it was decided the celebration should occur every year." A hallmark of the Oktoberfest is the invitation of all Munich breweries -- as well as being open to all who care to join in the festivities. The festival includes carnival rides and is appropriate for families and young children, but beer is central to the event too. Okotoberfest symbolizes the importance of beer in modern German culture.

The early modern era in German beer culture was also characterized by significant shifts in the craft of brewing itself. Most importantly was the discovery of bottom-fermenting yeasts that were conducive to longer periods of fermentation at colder temperatures. Suitable to the climate of Bavaria, the longer fermentation process necessitated lagering -- German for cellaring. Initially developed in neighboring Bohemia, lagering caught on quickly in Bavaria. The first lagers were brewed in Bohemia, and the first pilsner-style lager was named for the Bohemian town of Pilsen in 1842 (Borak). Pilsner-style beer has become popular in some, but not all, parts of Germany.

The Modern Era in German Beer: 20th Century

Regardless of the stylistic differences between the different regions of Germany, what remains is a nationwide respect for the role beer has historically played as a food, as an economic commodity, and as a symbol of German cultural identity. Otto von Bismarck unified Germany in 1871, bringing together disparate Germanic peoples with different dialects and traditions. The unification of Germany is one of the three most important variables influencing the dramatic changes that took place in German beer culture in the modern era. A second variable is modern chemistry, and the third is industrialization.

Industrialization changed the way beer was made and distributed, and also changed the role beer played in the modern German economy. Beer went from being either within the province of the monastic non-profit tradition or within the province of specialized artisan brewers. With industrialization, it was possible to produce beer on a scale never before possible. Transformations in brewing science and technology likewise made mass production of beer possible because the otherwise sensitive beverage could enjoy improved storage conditions and more rapid transportation to areas outside the town where the beer was brewed. Although most German beer is still consumed in its local province, industrialization did allow for the distribution of beer beyond local, regional, and eventually, national borders. Beer had come to occupy such a central position in German culture, and had attained symbolic value, that "the first freight ever transported by a German railway were two casks of beer brewed by the Lederer Brewery of Nurnberg," (German Beer Institute).

Modern science and especially biochemistry changed the nature of beer brewing globally. German scientists were at the forefront of much of the research being done on brewing chemistry. In 1837, the most significant breakthrough in early modern brewing chemistry arrived when Theodor Schwann discovered the yeast cell. Noticing under his microscope that yeast consumed sugars voraciously, often devouring all sugars in its wake, Schwann named yeast saccharomyces, Latin for "sugar fungus," (German Beer Institute). Schwann also discovered how yeast behaved, and that it preferred anaerobic conditions for it to multiply and cause the fermentation of sugars into alcohol. Building on Schwann's discovery, French chemist Louis Pasteur recognized how to further control and manipulate yeast during the fermentation process. Prior to these scientific discoveries, German brewers had been operating blindly. Most knew that beer did not do well in warm weather conditions, which is in fact why Bavaria eventually outlawed summer brewing (German Beer Institute). Pasteur's development of the pasteurization process also led some industrial brewers outside of Germany to pasteurize their products for a longer shelf life, a practice frowned upon by most artisanal brewers.

Beer has become one of the common grounds between Germans from different regions, who retain distinct traditions, dialects, and identities. Because of the link between beer and German unification, eeer has become an emotional issue for Germans. As the Radeberger Gruppe puts it, "it is the drink of the man in the street, Germany's national drink…no other product is discussed with much passion and emotion. German beer represents conviviality," (1). Beer has social, as well as economic and political significance in modern German culture. The political significance of beer became apparent to the world in 2006, when Germany hosted the World Cup of Football (Soccer). When the announcement was made that Anheuser-Busch received the exclusive rights to serving their beer at World Cup tournaments, fans revolted. Protesters likened the American beer to "dishwater," and designed a website mocking the Anheuser-Busch logo by making its iconic American eagle throw up (Lawton). So vehement were the protests that Anheuser-Busch was forced to…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

"A little history of what Germans drink and why." DW. Retrieved online:

Borak, Mark. "Beer in Bohemia and Bavaria." Retrieved online:

Fazel, Helay, Flaquer, Xavier Torras, and Venkatesh Saha. "Is the End of the German Beer Industry Near?" Wharton: Management. Jan 02, 2013. Retrieved online:

German Beer Institute. "Three Millennia of German Brewing." 2006. Retrieved online:
"The Highs and Lows of Germany's Drinking Culture." DW. Retrieved online:
"The History Place." Retrieved online:
Lawton, Christopher. "Ditching the 'Dishwater': Eastern German Beer Scores with World Cup Sponsorship." Spiegel Online. Retrieved online:
Radeberger Gruppe. "German Beer Culture." Retrieved online:

Cite this Document:

"German Beer Tradition" (2015, April 29) Retrieved January 27, 2022, from

"German Beer Tradition" 29 April 2015. Web.27 January. 2022. <>

"German Beer Tradition", 29 April 2015, Accessed.27 January. 2022,

Related Documents
Beer Can Be Light, Dark,
Words: 2862 Length: 8 Pages Topic: Agriculture Paper #: 24639248

Many different herbs and spices were used to flavor beers in these unique mixtures. Historian Tesoro says, "Among other things, juniper berries, sweet gale, blackthorn, oak bark, wormwood, caraway seed, aniseed, bay leaves, yarrow, thorn apple, gentian, rosemary, tansy, Saint-John's-wort, spruce chips, pine roots - and above all henbane found their way into these Grut mixtures" (Tesoro). Many of these herbs could be dangerous in even small amounts, and

Beer & Liquor Sales Alcoholic
Words: 2587 Length: 8 Pages Topic: Agriculture Paper #: 70361487

We will briefly examine the history of some of these companies to analyze the reasons for their success and failure. Anheuser-Busch Anheuser-Busch is the number one beer company not only in the U.S.A. But in the world. The company was founded more than 150 years ago by a German immigrant, Adolphus Busch. Its flagship product -- Budweiser beer was introduced 120 years ago. The company has survived such traumas in its

Music Culture of German
Words: 1025 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Music Paper #: 77743388

German Culture In the music field, Germany boasts of some of the world's most renowned producers, composers and performers. Germany is the third largest music market in the world and the largest in Europe. The earliest roots of the music culture in Germany are within monastic chants and religious music. The 12th century saw the mystic abbess Hildegard who was from Bingen writing storing compositions and hymns. These were sought to

Texas History
Words: 3692 Length: 13 Pages Topic: Anthropology Paper #: 43630442

German Influences on Texas Culture If one has lived in Texas for any length of time, they will realize immediately that the Texas culture is influenced by German culture in a number of ways. Modern day Texas culture would not exist as it does today if it were not for German influence. Today Texas culture can be described as a blending of German and Texas traditions. Though German culture is not

Development and Composition of German Government
Words: 2756 Length: 9 Pages Topic: Government Paper #: 98222432

GERMANY & COMPOSITION OF GOVERNMENT. The research focus CURRENT ( year ) developments composition government. Preferred Resources: 1)The Economist 2) BBC News . Development and Composition of German Government Federalism is a key feature of the political system of Germany and its governance. Federalism dates back in the period after World War II when Germany was under the leadership Prussians. At this time, "Germany" consisted of a patchwork of states. These

History of Food in Germany
Words: 1190 Length: 4 Pages Topic: Agriculture Paper #: 39277390

History of German cuisine is one that links diet with culture and region: food ever follows function in the history of the Germanic people. Whether due to region, custom, or contact with others, the German culture has seen a distinct cuisine emerge from its heritage and history. Historical events are responsible for bringing about certain fare. For instance, because of the scarcity of cream in Germany in the Middle Ages,