As a busy port city, Hamburg has always been an important pin in the map for international trade and, as well as beer going out, ideas have flowed in to
the city, encouraging diversity and experimentation.
With so many different ways to enjoy your beer in Hamburg, you’re seriously spoilt for choice and a little bit of research goes a long way.
They even had beer when the world was in black and white
The German brewing industry used to be governed by purity laws, known as Reinheitsgebot, intended to keep beer pure, natural and free from unhealthy or
impure ingredients. The laws demanded that the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley, and hops and many German
breweries claim to still abide by these laws today.
Well, not exactly.
The rules are now more creatively interpreted and allow for the production of traditional ales and German delights such as Weißbier (wheat beer). So,
although breweries no longer technically abide by Reinheitsgebot, the result is that there is still a mindset in Germany of thinking very carefully about their beer. As far as we’re concerned, das ist wunderbar.
Brew Pubs, Biergarten and Kneipen
A Biergarten at night
If you’re going to be enjoying your German beer, there’s no better place to do it than in a German Bierhaus. Hamburg’s extensive choice of
cosy Kneipen (that’s the German for ‘pubs’, folks), beautiful beer gardens and trendy brew pubs offer an abundance of options for the discerning drinker.
Many of the best places for beer will also serve you some fantastic food to go with it (and few things go better with beer that German food).
Whilst huge beerhalls aren’t a common sight in northern Germany, Block Bräu is a fantastic Hamburgian interpretation of the genre. Block Bräu is located
just a stone’s throw from the notorious Reeperbahn and can accommodate around 500 guests over three floors. Their naturally cloudy beer is brewed in house
and the large copper boilers that it’s brewed in, bear down on the rest of the hall from above. With incredible views of Hamburg Harbour from the 100 sq ft
roof terrace, this is a great place to sit out in the summer.
At Altes Mädchen (‘Old Girl’) the humble beer is elevated to haute cuisine status and given the respect it deserves. Every care is taken to bring you the
very best craft beers made with care using local ingredients. Their special relationship with the Ratsherrn Brewery means that they stock proper Hamburgian
craft beer and the staff are all incredibly knowledgeable on the subject of all things beer related.
You can’t drink in Germany without going to a beer garden. Schumachers Biergarten is located at the Stadtpark in the northern part of the city. It features
incredible views of the lake and has a reputation for being ‘the best sunset in Hamburg’. It also features a ‘Beach Club’, something that is, perhaps
unexpectedly, very popular with the young and hip in Hamburg, complete with sand, palm trees and deck chairs.
If simply enjoying the finished product doesn’t quite do it for you, then you can always discover more about everyone’s favourite beverage and take a tour of one of the breweries. Big or small, there is a whole world of wonders hidden behind those brewers’ doors.
Many breweries have opened their doors to the public
The Holsten brewery was founded in Hamburg in 1879. Whilst in the city, make sure you take to time to have a look around with one of their brewery tours. They will take you behind the scenes to show you how their beer is made (and reward you handsomely with some delicious
samples, of course). Holsten’s beer is exported all over the world but, much like Guinness in Dublin, it is best enjoyed in Hamburg.
Holsten also hold a beer festival every year, around the beginning of May, in order to celebrate their wares. Attended by up to 30,000 people, the festival
features live music, light shows and even the odd bit of jousting, this is a must-see if you’re in town at the right time of year, it’s free to attend and
you can truly show your appreciation for the amber nectar.
Craft and Micro-Breweries
Of course, Holsten are the big boys when it comes to Hamburg breweries and are well established on the tourist track, but more and more the crafty lot are
opening their doors to the public. Take a look around Ratsherren, for example, close to the heart of the city and get the lowdown on beer from the people
who love it most.
Much of Hamburg’s brewing industry is made up of lots of smaller craft breweries, like Ratsherren, VonFreude and Buddelship, and these are popping up all over the city. They lend their unique brand of hip, bearded subculture to the brewing scene and
ensure that the industry stays fresh. With less pressure from international trade, these breweries have more freedom to experiment with their product and
are not so much a production line as a laboratory.
With its busy port, Hamburg has a long tradition of incorporating international influence in to its beer. The craft industry in particular will just as
happily produce an English-style pale ale alongside Belgian Rotbiers and German Weißbier. Sample some craft beers in Hamburg and you can pretty much taste
Drink like a local
Beer (and everything else for that matter) is measured according to the metric system in Germany. Ordering a pint won’t get you very far, generally you will
be served a litre or half-litre (or a boot, but that’s another story). Just bear in mind that a litre is 1.75 pints, so take it easy!
Whilst enjoying your chosen beverage, make sure you don’t refer to your drinking vessel as a ‘stein’, unless you want to look like a foolish tourist. Only
the Brits call them ‘steins’ as a corruption of the German word for ‘stoneware’. More common terms would be ‘Krug’, ‘Humpen’ or ‘Steinkrug’.
If you are handed a wet glass for your Weißbier, don’t hand it back to the barman and ask for a dry one. Weißbier has a tendency to foam excessively when
poured, particularly if it is done incorrectly, and the water in the bottom of your glass will help to prevent this.
When toasting in German, the word for ‘cheers’ is ‘Prost!’ but only with beer (for wine it is ‘Zum Wohl!’). It is important to make eye contact with the
person you are toasting until you have placed your glass back down, otherwise you will be cursed with seven years of bad sex (yikes). You should usually only clink
the bottom of your glass so as to avoid shattering the delicate tops and never slam your glass down on to the table as it is a sign of disrespect.
With so much dedicated to the enjoyment of beer in Hamburg, you’re sure to find your favourite way to appreciate this fine beverage on our Hamburg stag weekends page. Not bad for a drink
that has remained virtually unchanged for over 11,000 years.