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Craft Beer Experts Name The Best German Beers On Earth

Sometimes we get a little too caught up in the American craft beer world and have to take a step back and pay a little respect to those who not only came before but are still doing it today. We’re talking about the European breweries that created and perfected styles that American brewers do their best to imitate. Today, we’re specifically talking about German beers. There are myriad German brands and styles just waiting to be discovered (or re-discovered) as long as you’re willing to put down your New England-style IPA or fruited sour long enough to try them.

Luis G. Brignoni, founder of Wynwood Brewing Co. in Miami likes Oktoberfest beer, regardless of the season.

“I really do appreciate a lot of different German styles and brands,” he says, “including a lot of the traditional styles from the Hefeweizens to the different lagers they offer. If I had to pick one, I may pick the Oktoberfest style. I enjoy the malt complexity in them. I look forward to them coming out every year and sharing with family and friends.

Eric Warner, brewmaster at Karbach Brewing Co. in Houston is more of a fan of the country’s take on the wheat beer.

“I’m a huge fan of the German-Style Hefeweizens (or Weissbier), which is ironic because the first time I tried this style 35 years ago I thought it was one of the grossest beers I’d ever tried,” he tells us. “They are definitely an acquired taste, but once the style did connect with me, I was hooked for life. The aroma of hefeweizens is complex and beguiling: notes of clove, nutmeg, banana, and bubblegum.”

Whether you enjoy weissbiers, doppelbocks, or helles lagers, Germany has something for your palate. To find the best options, we went to the professionals for help. We asked a handful of well-known craft brewers and craft beer experts to tell us their favorite German beers for now and any time of year. Keep reading to see their selections.

Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen

Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen
Aecht Schlenkerla

Alex Wenner, owner and brewer at Lasting Joy Brewery in Hudson Valley, New York

ABV: 5.1%
Average Price: $4.99 for a 500ml bottle

Why This Beer?

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love pilsners. However, we can get great pilsners all over the world. There is one beer style that has hardly made it out of Germany, let alone brewed as perfectly as it is by the masters. Aecht Schlenkerla are the premier maltsters and brewers of rauchbier, or smoked beer. Brewed with beech-wood smoked malt, the classic marzen from Schlenkerla is the gold standard for smoked beers. The intense smoke flavor that could almost trick you into thinking someone had managed to liquefy a smoked brisket or pork shoulder is not for everyone, but I recommend everyone try and have a taste at least once.

Weihenstephaner Helles

Weihenstephaner Helles
Weihenstephaner

Tom Fiorenzi, director of brewery operations at Shiner Beer in Shiner, Texas

ABV: 5.1%
Average Price: $10 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

German Beers have a distinctive aroma and taste. The malt, yeast, and hops are all unique and vary in intensity for each beer style. The beer style is very personal to me since I grew up in a German community that celebrated in a traditional fashion. I have two favorite German Beers and they are dependent on the time of year. Specifically, I enjoy the Weihenstephaner Original Helles and Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen. Traditionally, the brewmaster would adjust the recipes to make a lighter gravity beer in the summer (known as light beer today) and a higher gravity beer in the winter months.

Paulaner Munich Helles Lager

Paulaner Munich Helles Lager
Paulaner Munich Helles Lager

John Clampitt, lead brewer at Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis

ABV: 4.9%
Average Price: $8.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Paulaner Munich Helles is my pick. It has just a little sweetness, great German malt character, and next to no hops. It’s the way beer is intended to be made.

Ayinger Celebrator

Ayinger Celebrator
Ayinger

Jeremy Cowan, owner and founder of Shmaltz Brewing Company in Clifton Park, New York

ABV: 6.7%
Average Price: $12.99 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

Ayinger Celebrator is still a delicious classic and of course who doesn’t love two goats sharing a giant stein of overflowing doppelbock. We made a monster lager called Bock Bock influenced by the style and with typical American craft slight regard and slight disregard for tradition, we cranked up the ABV, threw in a slew of additional malt varieties — and then barrel-aged the whole batch in bourbon barrels.

Is bigger better? All good both ways.

Augustiner Edelstoff

Augustiner Edelstoff
Augustiner

Shaun O’Sullivan, co-founder and brewmaster at 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco

ABV: 5.2%
Average Price: $12 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Edelstoff Helles Lager from Augustiner-Bräu is a wonderful highly drinkable beer from Bavaria, Germany. Its grassy hop aroma, soft malt notes, and bright straw color, and effervescent bubbles make this one of my favorite beers to enjoy over and over and over (I can keep going here) again; and at a mere 5.2% ABV that is not that hard to do.

Ayinger Urweisse

Ayinger Urweisse
Ayinger

Jeremy Anderson, brewer at New Holland Brewing Co. in Holland, Michigan

ABV: 5.8%
Average Price: $3.99 for a 16.9-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

My favorite German beer is Ayinger Urweisse. It is an amber weissbier that perfectly balances banana and clove yeast-derived flavors with bready and caramel malt-derived flavors. It is the quintessential biergarten weissbier.

Huppendorfer Pils

Huppendorfer Pils
Huppendorfer

Jack Hendler, co-owner of Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers in Framingham, Massachusetts

ABV: 4.9%
Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Huppendorfer Pils – but you can’t get this beer in the US. You will have to go to Bamberg, or right outside of Bamberg to get that beer. It’s a cool place. It’s an old-time family historical brewery that just makes classic Franconian beers and the pils is one of their best. It’s not overly bitter but it has a nice hop aroma. It has foam that sticks 5 inches out of the glass. It’s a perfectly crafted, excellent pilsner.

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier
Weihenstephaner

Stephen Hale, founding brewer at Schlafly Beer in St. Louis

ABV: 5.4%
Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier, or Hefeweizen. Everything about this style is magnificent—the dedicated style of glassware, the distinct aroma and flavor, the freshness, and the overall uniqueness of the beer. I know not everyone is a fan, but there are those who feel passionately. The yeast strain really sets it aside (as with many beer styles), and once you fall in love with it, you’re hooked.

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse
Franziskaner

Todd Bellmyer, head brewer at Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver

ABV: 5%
Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

I have a soft spot in my heart for Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, brewed by Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu in Munich. It’s a long story involving stumbling back from Oktoberfest and going into a German pub because we saw the Franziskaner sign when we definitely didn’t need another liter. It’s got all the best flavors of a Hefeweizen — great banana, clove, and wheat.

Tegernseer Hell

Tegernseer Hell
Tegernseer

Max Shafer, brewmaster at Roadhouse Brewing Co. in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

ABV: 4.8%
Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

I love German beer and that was only fueled after studying at the Doemens Academy outside of Munich. My weekends were filled with chasing down some of the finest lager bier brewed in the world. Without a doubt, the favorite I found was Tegernseer Hell – a perfectly balanced and beautifully hopped helles. This beer is flawless. It is brilliantly bright, a rocky pillowy head, and has a hop aroma I have tried to replicate in my own beers for years. The hops burst from your stein like a radiant and vibrant bouquet of flowers.

Another reason this beer has stuck with me was the journey I took to get there. Taking several trains winding through the mountains finally depositing you in the most picturesque mountain town on a lake. The brewery is tucked away in the north wing of a beautiful monastery and the tables inside are adorned with the common “Stammtisch” placards awaiting their daily patrons who will inevitably consume a liter or two of this gorgeous helles.

Writer’s Pick:

Spaten Optimator

Spaten Optimator
Spaten

ABV: 7.6%
Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

One of the first German beers I ever tried in my younger days, Spaten Optimator is a 7.6% ABV doppelbock highlighted by notes of roasted malts, caramel, and dried fruits. It’s bold, rich, and well-suited for winter drinking. It’s the kind of beer I go back to again and again.

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