Germany, especially Bavaria has been in a lifelong affair with beer. And it’s still going strong. I spent a week in Bavaria this December making my way through Christmas markets. While mulled wine (hot and spiced wine) was the drink of the hour, cold beer had its place in spite of the freezing temperature.
Till death do us part
This relationship dates all the way back to the 16th century. A purity law known as Reinheitsgebot governs German breweries. Introduced in 1516 by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria, the decree allows only four ingredients in beer to maintain utmost purity – hops, barley, water and yeast. There are over 1300 breweries producing around 5500 types of beer in Germany, still following the purity law.
Beer is so ingrained in the German culture that it has its own anecdotes – Not his cup of tea in German is nicht sein Bier that translates to ‘not his beer!’
Deadly serious in German is bierernst and this literally translates to ‘beer serious.’
The many beer halls and beer gardens
Beer halls (Brauhauser) and beer gardens (Biergarten) are community places where masses gather around, drink and eat inexpensive food. Hoffbrauhaus – one of Munich’s oldest but largely touristy beer hall houses upto 6000 people and it sure gets filled. This place also has a vomitorium, so you can throw up and continue to drink.
Barmaids dressed in bodices balance heavy pitchers with ease.
Ask for “ein pitcher” and gain their respect. Don’t make the mistake of asking for “eine halbe” or half litre. The barmaids will look at you with derision and maybe even ask you to come back when you’re thirsty. The time of day doesn’t matter. I took to their culture really well and had beer for breakfast.
Hofbrauhaus built in 1583 and bombed during World War II was actually one of the first places to be rebuilt. Because priorities.
Oktoberfest, every beer drinker’s paradise actually began in 1810. Only then it was King Ludwig I ‘s wedding reception. The event was so successful that it became an annual bash. Now, this party lasts over two weeks every year. When you sober up, the Oktoberfest museum in the city center makes for a good visit. The exhibit brings alive Germany’s quest to brew the perfect beer.
Whatever be the temperature, Germans need their beer and will continue to do so forever.
Here’s a tip: If you’re in Bavaria for Christmas, mixing mulled wine and beer isn’t the brightest idea. I definitely didn’t need a vomitorium, but a hangover cure would have been awesome.