German Beer Styles – History & Info About Germany’s Greatest Creation

Think all German beers are light coloured lagers? Nothing could be further from the truth! Follow along in this 5-part history series as we cover over 10 beer styles unique to Germany

German Beer Styles – History & Info About Germany’s Greatest Creation

Origins & History of Beer Styles

Beer styles have multiple roots of origin. Some were created independently in disparate lands. Others were augmented from existing styles to become their own unique variety. Although beer began to appear in the Middle East around 9,000 years ago and subsequently in numerous civilizations around the world, it wasn’t until it arrived in central Europe about two millennia ago that we began to get the beer that we would find somewhat recognizable today. Anonymous brewers in what is now known as Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany were responsible for many of the different beers we now enjoy. From approximately the 5th century until the 13th century AD, the growth of Christianity added beers produced in monasteries to the standard farmhouse ales being brewed already. Because monasteries were the educational and research centres of the time, the average monk’s beer was of a higher quality, and many of those beer styles evolved into today’s standards. By anybody’s count, there are around a dozen categories and a couple of dozen styles of beer acknowledged as originating in central Europe. Today, breweries all over the world produce these varieties.

Oktoberfest! Oktoberfest!


Germany – The Pioneers of Beer & Brewing

To look at the diversity of these different beer styles, the first country to explore is Germany, which today has over 1300 breweries and 7500 different brands available. While many people think German beers are mostly light coloured lagers, nothing could be further from the truth. As the fourth largest brewing country in the world, they make a large assortment of ales, lagers, and hybrids. Many of these beers are now produced well beyond Germany’s borders, so they are often named as European beers.


In this tour of German beer series, we’ll cover many classic German beers and their history.


Here are some of the common beer styles which are generally accepted to have a German birthplace. They tend to be grouped into either ale or lager categories reflecting their ingredients, colour, alcohol strength, and specific characteristics (such as sours).


List of German Beer Styles

International Pale Lager
Munich Helles
Helles Bock
German Leichtbier
German Helles Exportbier (AKA “Dortmunder“)
German Pils
Dunkles Bock
Vienna Lager
Kellerbier or Zwickelbier
Munich Dunkel
Dunkles Weissbier
Berliner Weisse


About the Beer Certification & Guidelines

Through an amalgam of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and the Brewers Association (BA) Guidelines, we will review a variety of beers, speaking to their historical context, basic ingredients and their various attributes of appearance, aroma, and taste. Also included will be a basic notation of each style’s approximate vital statistics of Alcohol by Volume (ABV), International Bitterness Units (IBU), and Standard Reference Method (SRM) for colour.


These characteristics should not only give you a greater understanding of the different styles of German beer, but ultimately help you decide what styles will suit your own particular tastes. After all, it’s ultimately the enjoyment of beer we’re all after. Make sure you check back soon to learn about the first set of our favourite German Beer Styles!


Next Up (part 1 of 5)

About Pale German Lagers
History & Facts


Continue Reading This 5-Part Beer History Series

Tour of German Beer Styles

Through an amalgam of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and the American Brewers Association Guidelines, this series will explore various beers styles which originated in different countries by examining their historical context and basic ingredients. This will also include a description of their various attributes of appearance, aroma, and taste plus a basic notation of the styles’ approximate vital statistics of ABV, IBU, and SRM.

Germany has over 1300 breweries and 7500 different brands available. They are the world’s fourth largest brewing country, and have created a large variety of beers which have become staples in breweries all over the globe. We will begin with those styles which are designated as “pale” in colour. While sometimes designated as “European” or “International”, because they are now brewed all over the world, their birthplace was Germany. This includes varieties within the International Lager, Pale Malty European Lager, and Pale Bitter European Beer categories. While all similar in colour, the main difference is the amount and kinds of hops in their recipe.


Continue Reading About German Beer Styles
Intro to German Beer Styles *Current Post*
Part 1: Pale German Style Beers
Part 2: Amber Beers
Part 3: Dark German Beers
Part 4: Wheat Ales
Part 5: Sour Beers



This Beer-Education series has been researched and written by David Nuttall.

David Nuttall completed the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) in 2012, has served as Epicurean Calgary owner and president since 2002 and is the current Judging Co-ordinator for Calgary International Beerfest. If you’re interested in learning more about beer, you can register for the 4 week ABF Brew Ed course at The Brewer’s Apprentice.

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