Hi, Josi! Thanks for joining VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous. When it comes to drinking alcohol, whether at an office party, during intermission at the theater, or just relaxing with friends, beer is probably always the first choice. Germany is among the top 5 biggest beer producing countries in the world with more than 5,500 brands. Can you tell us why Germans love beer so much?
It is a cliché that Germans are passionate beer lovers and let me tell you: This cliché is true! Besides drinking a lot of beer, we celebrate the day of beer on the 23rd of April every year. We spend our free time in breweries to learn how our favorite drink is made. Yes, we are totally in love with our German beer, but why we love it so much is not so easy to say. Some just like the flavor of beer, others like the wide variety or associate a special memory with it. Beer brewing has a long tradition in Germany and has been practiced since 800 BC. Maybe this makes this drink part of our culture. If there is a beer, there is a way to open it. You can use almost any object to remove the crown cap from your beer bottle. Lighter, park benches, knives, the edge of a beer crate. But it’s still good to know that Germans are well-prepared, because most of us carry a bottle opener as a key ring.
Breweries in Germany traditionally celebrate the “Day of German Beer” (National Beer Day) on April 23. (Photo: dw.com)
Can you name some of the most popular German beers?
Germans love to drink beer, more than wine or cocktails. So it’s natural that we have so many different types of beer. You can choose between Weizenbier (wheat beer), Berliner Weisse (a sour wheat bear, which is mixed with raspberry or wood roof flavor syrup), Hefeweizen (an unfiltered wheat beer), “Hefe” is German word for “yeast”, Pilsener (a pale lager with a light body and a more prominent hop character), and Marzen (medium body, malty lagers that come in pale, amber, and dark varieties. This is traditionally served at the popular German Oktoberfest. There is so much more to choose, it would take hours to list every single beer type available in Germany.
What type of German beer do you think is the best?
Because of the great variety of beer, it is up to one’s philosophy which beer type is the best. It is a thing in Germany that specific beer types are popular in particular regions. For example, there is “Kolsch” in Cologne and “Altbier” in Dusseldorf. I dare you to order a Kolsch in Dusseldorf or an Altbier in Cologne.
Are you a big fan of German beer?
Well, actually I’m not such a big beer fan. I have to admit it. Even though I’m German, I only drink Radler. If you mix beer with lemonade or other non-alcoholic drinks, it’s still beer, right? Not in Germany. If you add something to your beer you neutralize it and it becomes a drink with almost no alcohol. This is technically not true. You can get very drunk from mixed beer, you just need longer. But in Germany there circulates a really persistent rumor that Radler is not real alcohol. There is another thing called Jagermeister. Jagermeister contains 56 unique herbs. Sound good to you? Try it and either you hate it or love it. At least in Germany there are two types of people, the ones who hate Jagermeister and the ones who love it. Some Germans also have a “strange Jagermeister phase” in which they love to drink it and after a while, all of a sudden, they hate it.
How do German people celebrate their drink?
To celebrate the drink, you clink your glasses or shots together. You have to look straight into the eyes of the one you’re clinking with. If not, it causes bad spirits and you are cursed with bad luck. It becomes very stressful when you drink together with a group, but don’t take it too seriously because there is no proof that the punishment becomes real. It’s like an unwritten rule in Germany to say a toast before you drink. Germans know a wide variety of “Trinkspruche”. This is the German word for “Toast”. To give you a few examples: “Delirium, Delarium we are so full as a fish tank” or “Humans drink, horses booze – today it’s the other way around”. I know it seems senseless and crazy to you, but one essence of German toasts is that they rhyme. So, they don’t work in other languages. If you have not too much time or are surrounded by uncreative people you just say “Prost!”
| If there is one festival in Germany that absolutely must not be missed, it is Oktoberfest in Munich, because no other event represents German partying tradition and beer drinking culture. (Photo: verbalistseducation.com)
Do you play any drinking games when celebrating your drink?
Germans can be very creative when it comes to drinking. Besides inventing funny toasts, they are masters of inventing drinking games. A game’s purpose is to get drunk. For some you need cards, for others a dic. There are sports drinking games as well. You need two teams, full bottles of beer, an empty plastic bottle and a ball. And beer bong is a thing in Germany too. There’s no need to play a drinking game, most of the time you play them to brighten up a party or to get drunk very quickly.
Now if you have survived all the strict drinking rules (and are not cursed with bad luck) and played all the mad drinking games, then you have to be totally drunk! If you are a German something strange happens: Your feet start to move, you feel the rhythm and the music touches your heart. To put it in a nutshell: You want to dance! It is very funny to see how a dance floor gets fuller and fuller as the time lapses away at a party. Germans are known for being a little bit starched, but when we are drunk we are totally different. Everybody becomes friends, we are philosophizing about life, and rushing to the dance floor.
Do Germans have a particular song to sing while drinking?
There is a very popular music genre called “Schlager” which pops up at every party. Most of the people in Germany don’t listen to Schlager in their free time. But drunken Germans are more willing to dance to it and sing the lyrics.
Common topics for Schlager songs are: Love, unrequited love, lost loves, how to find love … so, love in general. These topics affect almost everybody and drunken German hearts are easily touched by Schlager.
Thank you, Josi, for the lovely interview! Join us next time for more stories about German culture! For VOV24/7’s “Culture Rendezvous”, I’m Thu Ly. Catch you next time!