Beer is an integral part Germany’s culture and history.
It is estimated that Germans drink an average of over 100 liters per person yearly, much of it consumed at annual Oktoberfest celebrations each fall, including Munich and Stuttgart, where the two largest Oktoberfests are held – and returning in 2022 after a Pandemic pause.
Despite the availability of excellent local wines and fruit-based brandy (schnaps), beer remains the most popular beverage.
Here are some fun facts about Germany’s beer culture and history plus a recipe for a favorite main dish to pair with a helles or dunkel – light or dark – beer.
Frederick the Great Ordered Ordered His Subjects To Drink Beer
Many governments around the world strive to curb excessive consumption of alcohol by levying heavy taxes on beer, wine and liquor and regulating drinking hours. The opposite was true for King Frederick the Great, who ruled of the kingdom of Prussia from 1740 to 1786.
He wanted his subjects to drink more beer than coffee, even once pointing out how disgusted he was to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee being consumed by his people instead of beer.
To him, beer was not just a recreational beverage, but a drink on which he and his ancestors were brought up. Subsequently, the revered military campaigner banned coffee, replacing it with “beer soup”.
So the question is this –
Why would the king want his subjects to be drinkers of beer, taking into account how liquor makes people drunk, silly, and less productive? He had some sensible reasons:
Besides his people’s heritage, King Frederick also wanted to safeguard his kingdom’s economy by lowering the importation of coffee, which had increased over the years.
Following his order, beer consumption went up, contributing to the popularity of beer in Prussia and in the rest of Germany, which continues to this day.
German Beer Purity Laws Date From 1516
It is the oldest regulation related to food and drink in the world, adopted in 1516, when Germany was still part of the Holy Roman Empire ruled by Roman-appointed kings and emperors.
To achieve a consistent level of quality in beer brewing, the German Beer Purity Law dictates that the ingredients for beer can contain only four things – water, barley, malt and hops.
The important role that yeast plays in brewing was only recognized in the 19th century.
The 1516 Bavarian law set the price of beer (depending on the time of year and type of beer), limited the profits made by innkeepers, and made confiscation the penalty for making impure beer.
The 1516 Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot in German) actually updated a rule first adopted in the duchy of Munich in 1487.
After Bavaria was reunited, the Munich law was adopted across Bavaria, and – eventually – the entire country of Germany.
Although there are a few craft breweries today using other ingredients, including spices and fruits, the overwhelming majority of Germany’s thousands of local breweries still abide by the 1516 purity laws.
Recipe for Schnitzel, a Traditional German Dish to Accompany Beer
A traditional German dish is schnitzel, or cutlet, which can be either a thin slice of veal or pork, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. When it is veal, it is called a Wienerschnitzel.
Schnitzel can be served for lunch or for dinner, either with roasted potatoes, spaetzle (small dumplings) or rotkraut (red cabbage). And – of course – beer, to wash it down.
Here’s an easy recipe for schnitzel that serves two.
What You Will Need for Schnitzel
- An oven
- Two bowls – one large, one small
- A baking sheet
- One plate for food preparation and four for serving
- A rolling pin
- A frying pan
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil, lard or rendered chicken fat
- Four veal or pork loin steaks, thinly sliced
- 100 g. breadcrumbs
- 2 lemons
Prepare the breadcrumb mixture
- Zest the lemons and pop them into the large bowl.
- Toss in the dried oregano, bread crumbs, and olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer the mixture to a plate.
Prepare and cook the veal or pork
- Bash each veal or pork steak with the rolling pin until fairly flat (1 cm thick, preferably).
- Smear both sides with a little olive oil to cover it, to ensure that the breadcrumb mixture adheres. (Purists might want to use lard or rendered chicken fat)
- Place each steak onto the crumbs and flip over so both sides are coated with bread crumbs.
- Heat oil in the frying pan on medium-high heat,
- Carefully lay in the schnitzels and fry for about 10 minutes or until golden and cooked through, turning them halfway.
Directions for Roasted Potatoes
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
- Prepare and cook the potatoes.
- Chop the potatoes into bite-size chunks and transfer them to the baking tray.
- Drizzle the potatoes with oil.
- Season the potatoes with salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss the potatoes to coat.
- Spread out and roast the potatoes on the middle shelf of the oven for about 35 mins or until golden and crispy, turning them halfway.
Directions for Spaetzle
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 8 large egg3/4 cup milk
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, eggs, milk, and salt.
- Stir until the batter is well combined and develops bubbles.
- Let the batter sit for 5-10 min.
- Put a colander into a bowl to drain the spaetzle once cooked and bring a large pot of water over high heat to a boil, add about 1 Tbsp of salt to the water, and reduce temperature to a simmer.
- Press batter through a spaetzle maker, a large holed sieve or colander into the simmering water.
- If you don’t have any of those, dribble the batter from a spoon bit by bit into the boiling water
- Work in batches,stirring occasionally.
- after using about 1/3 of the batter stop adding new spaetzle and let them cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until they float to the top.
- Stir occasionally.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the spaetzle to the colander so that excess water can drip off
- Serve the spaetzle immediately or saute them in butter to crisp them up a little.
- If you don’t serve or saute them right away, add 1 or 2 Tbsp of butter to the hot spaetzle to prevent them from sticking together.
- Serve with an ice cold beer.
Germany’s Beer Culture Is Linked To Namibia
Namibia is on the southwestern coast of Africa some 7400 miles from Germany, linked to German history and culture for more than 200 years.
Namibia History, Briefly
Namibia was one of Europe’s colonial conquests in the 1800s, then called German West Africa.
In 1920, Germany surrendered it as part of the peace agreement following World War I, allowing the territory to be administered by the League of Nations. Namibia gained independence 70 years later.
The National Museum of Namibia, in capital city Windhoek, is a must for visitors, for more than 3,000 years of history, including the Colonial period and since.
German Beer in Namibia
Namibia Breweries was founded in 1920 by Carl List and Hermann Ohlthaver and has grown to become a premium beer brand with strong footprints in Germany. Its beers are relatively popular in the Western country, lending directly to the German’s beer culture.
You can find German-style beer everywhere in Namibia, from the capital of Windhoek to the guesthouses and hotels serving visitors to Namibia’s national parks, such as the amazing Etosha National Park, and wildlife viewing. Also schnitzel.
In addition to wildlife viewing, Namibia is famous for its giant sand dunes, the largest in the world, some of which are open to climbing.
That’s a photo of me, ecoxplorer Evelyn Kanter, about to climb one more than 300 feet high in Sousevlei.
Guaranteed that I needed a good, cold German beer afterward.
Make mine a hefeweizen!
This was published originally in 2019 and has been updated for 2022.
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