May 20, 2013 by Prost Brewing
Like many things German, the names given to the various German bier are practical, sensical and self-explanatory. Thus, learning them should be fairly simple as there are not any random or unexpected additions. Just by learning a few words in German that help to describe key features of beer styles, you will be able to predict the name of a German bier simply by looking at it and observing its most apparent qualities.
In addition, once you gain a working knowledge of the words that form the majority of German bier names, you will no longer be guessing as to what bier might satisfy your taste buds. You will be able to piece together the parts of the name to make an educated guess as to what style you will enjoy simply based upon a few German words.
Now, for a quick overview of the German bier name lingo:
Weizen = wheat + Beer = Weizenbier
Weiß= white + Beer = Weißbier, Bavarian slang for a Weizen or wheat beer
Bock= strong + Beer = Bockbier
Hefe= yeast + wheat beer = Hefeweizen = (unfiltered (with yeast) wheat beer)
Kristall= crystal + wheat beer = Kristallweizen = (filtered (and thus ‘crystal clear’ wheat beer))
Helles = light in color
Dunkel= dark in color
Alt= ‘old’, refers to pre-lager brewing method of using a warm, top-fermenting yeast that was eventually adapted to cooler, lager-ing temperatures
Märzen= March + Beer = Märzenbier = the beer brewed in March, and drunk in October at Oktoberfest, when the kegs filled in March need to be emptied to make room for the new brews that will be brewed in the upcoming cool season
Pilsner = named after city of Pilsen in which it was first brewed beginning in 1295
By acquiring some of the knowledge spelled out above, you will gain an edge among non-German, German beer drinkers. With a little practice, you will be one step closer to being an educated German bier connoisseur. To get your practice started, try deciphering the meaning of the three following beer names:
Hint: The last beer has a name that resembles the form of Märzenbier.