German Beer Vocabulary
Germany is the land of beer. It is perhaps best well known for its beer and for festivals celebrating said beer. It doesn’t help you enjoy it though if you can’t order or don’t know what you are ordering. So here is some German beer vocabulary with translations and explanations. Yes, you could just order “a beer” and be perfectly fine, but isn’t it nicer to understand what you are doing.
General German Beer Vocabulary
Das Bier – “das beer” : The Beer.
Ein Bier, bitte – “eye-n beer, bit-eh” : A beer, please.
This will most likely get you whatever is on tap and local. Almost every restaurant has an agreement with one brewery or another and will have that brewery’s beer as a standard on tap.
Noch Mal – “noch mal” : another.
Especially when pointing at an empty glass, this will get you another of the same thing you are drinking.
Zahlen, bitte – “zal-en, bit-eh” : pay, please.
When you are ready to pay, this will get you the bill. Definitely know your limit and drink responsibly. Germans have had their entire life to practice drinking and while sometimes get boisterous are better at not over drinking than most English speakers.
Reinheitsgebot – “Rine-hites-ge-boat” : Purity law (for beer)
This is the law from the middle ages that declared that beer in Germany may only be made from water, malted barley, hops and yeast. The Reinheitsgebot is still in force today.
Fass – “fahss” : tap
A beer which is on tap is “vom Fass”. A Fass is literally a keg or barrel.
Flasche – “flash-eh” : bottle
So of course the opposite of on tap is in the bottle.
Types of Beers and how to Describe them
While you certainly can order just “a beer,” it is also reasonable to order the type that you are interested in.
Pils – “pills”
A Pils (or sometimes Pilsner) is very common type of beer in Germany. It is pale yellow and usually clear. Ali seems to think it tastes just like any beer in the US. While much of what you might remember from Keggers in college were types of pilsners, do not let that stop you from trying them in Germany. They do them well here. This is the type you are most likely to get when you order “a beer”.
Weissbier or Weizen – “vice-beer” or “vy-tzen” : Wheat beer
Weissbiers are made from wheat instead of barley. They are not often filtered so will appear cloudy with the remaining yeast from fermentation. You can find them ranging from dark to light. Because the yeast often remains in them, they are slightly sweeter and less bitter than Pils.
Helles – “hel-es” : light
This implies a light color. So a beer with a more yellow color. I have yet to find a “lite” beer in Germany. They do make alcohol free, but not reduced calorie.
Dunkeles – “dunk-el-es” : dark
The opposite of light, a darker colored beer. Dark can range from a nut-brown to a near black like Guiness.
Trub / Krystal / Klares – “troob” / “crystahl” / “clar-es” : cloudy / crystal /clear
Beer ferments with yeast that is normally filtered out. If it is not, the beer is call “trub” (cloudy). The local breweries in Freiburg both have beer that is “trub”. My favorite micro brewery, Feierling, only makes cloudy beer, even though it is a Pils that is normally clear.
While Pils are normally filtereed, Weissbier are normally not. However a Krystal-Weizen is a Weissbier that has been filtered.
“Klares” would just describe a beer of any type that is filtered and clear
Radler – “rad-ler”
A Radler is a mix of beer and lemon soda. The British call this a Shandy. It makes the beer a bit sweeter and cuts the alcohol a bit. Nice if you need to slow down a bit near the end of the night or just want a more refreshing beer in the summer.
There is also Saueres Radler “sour-es rad-ler” where fizzy mineral water is used instead of soda. I like that better as I find the sweet of the soda changes the taste of the beer too much.
Sizes and Related Words
Once you get to ordering your beer, the question you might get is “Welche Grosse?” (which size?)
Klein – “kline” : small
A small beer. In most places that I have been in this is a 0.3 Liter glass, which is a tiny bit less than a soda can.
Gross – “gross” : large
A large beer. This is normally a half liter glass, which is slightly less than a pint. This is kind of the standard “beer” that you probably picture.
Null Drei, Null Vier, Null Funf – “nul dry”,”nul fear”,”nul foonf” : 0.3, 0.4, 0.5
Every glass in German restaurants is measured. There is a little line that the drink is filled to and it is labeled. This is a quantity control thing. Things are measured in liters, so these words are saying how much of a liter is in the glass. 0.3 is about the size of a soda can. 0.5 is a bit smaller than a pint. And 0.4 is obviously in between. Sometimes you hear these instead of just small and large. It should also be listed in menus with these sizes.
Mass – “mass”
A Mass is a one liter mug of beer. Check out pictures of Oktoberfest. Those glasses the women are carrying are one liter Masses. It is extremely common at Oktoberfest and rare everywhere else.
– – –
Beer is definitely something to try in Germany. It is quite cultural and sitting in beer gardens can be a good way to meet locals. Germans are passionate about their beer, especially their favorite (usually local) brewery. This set of German beer vocabulary should be enough to get a start into ordering beer. And even though most Germans do speak some English it is nice to reach out their language, especially for a beer.
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December 13, 2013 @ 12:07 am
A very useful and helpful introduction, made me more confident ordering in a beer in a German
January 19, 2014 @ 7:27 am
Glad it could help you.
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January 1, 2013 @ 4:05 pm
Very useful guide, thank you. I have to agree with Nico thoug, that after a few beers you don’t need any particular guide to enjoy a beer (or order one…)!
November 20, 2012 @ 11:25 am
I think after one too many beers I’d end up regressing to sign language. Still it’s good to know a bit of German for your first few pints.
November 24, 2012 @ 3:20 pm
Signlanguage is good too. Most often just pointing at the empty glass is enough to get another what you were drinking. Hope this gets you on the right track to starting the night well.
November 19, 2012 @ 5:21 pm
I agree, Germany is the land of beer and… sausages 😉 My favourite German beer is Hacker-Pschorr Märzen 😉 I used to learn German so I know the vocabulary 🙂
November 10, 2012 @ 1:08 am
The one beer that always comes back to mind is Erdinger Weisbier… I had it years ago in a local pub in university and I thought I was tasting the nectar of the gods. I had it again years later after having other brews and while it was still great… I had moved on. Oh how I love beer.
November 10, 2012 @ 10:08 am
Weizen has a very different taste than ‘normal’ beer. Softer and smoother somehow. It is however thicker and almost drinks like a meal.
We definitely get the Erdinger here, but I tend to go for the local brand when I buy. There is a place in town though that does Munich Breakfast, which is white sausage, pretzel, mustard and an Erdinger. I haven’t tried that yet. Somehow drinking in the morning isn’t so fun sounding.
Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista
November 8, 2012 @ 12:05 am
I may not know how to say anything else but I always know how to order a beer or wine! Absolutely love the quantity control lines on glasses. Wish they had that here in the states. Thanks for this, now I know how to ask for the bill 🙂
November 10, 2012 @ 10:05 am
Glad you learned something. I always try to learn at least the word for beer along with thank you in every new language we encounter while traveling.
October 30, 2012 @ 4:55 pm
Sorry, yes I do think all Pilsners taste like Miller Lite or whatever from the US. But at least I’m better able to drink better than I used to be!
October 28, 2012 @ 8:26 pm
I loved this post! I am German and didn’t even know what a “Trübes” is 🙂 Some expressions are restricted to certain regions, tough. And, sorry to disappoint you, I never heard about a light beer in Germany – the closest I found so far is “Becks Gold”, which is rather watery and considered a girly beer 🙂
October 29, 2012 @ 7:26 pm
I don’t actually go looking for lite beer. I tend to like darker versus lighter anyway.
We have a few places here that do the unfiltered Truebes stuff. It is nice tasting, but can be a brutal hangover.
October 28, 2012 @ 11:01 am
North of France and Begium are also lands o f beer. You could easily find brown beer, cherry beer, white beer. Some of them are made in old catholic buildings from a very long time…You would enjoy it !
October 28, 2012 @ 3:42 pm
Oh I love Belgian beer. Here is my post of it. Definitely happy to go back.
October 28, 2012 @ 4:43 pm
Thanks Andrew ! and I’m sorry, I saw your Belgian beer post after your German beer post 🙂
October 28, 2012 @ 10:34 am
This is great! I’ll be sending this in advance to everyone who visits us in Berlin to study up before their visit. As mentioned below, there’s quite a bit of bad beer in Berlin. But, we have found a few microbrews that have been rather tasty. But, it’s still hard to beat beer from the south.
You should visit Berlin next year for the Beer Festival (usually early August) – over 2,000 beers from around the world spread over 2 km. Lots of fun 🙂
October 28, 2012 @ 3:39 pm
Glad you liked the post and I hope it helps your guests. I somehow can fathom the idea of bad beer in Germany. I guess the most classic beers are indeed from the south aren’t they?
Early August beer fest in Berlin sounds awesome. Definitely have to remember that.
October 25, 2012 @ 8:58 pm
Very interesting , but very important is the Rhine area , so especially the difference between the city of cologne and duesseldorf . They don’t like each other very well..:) based on their tradionell beer culture Koelsch and “Old Beer” ..some hard people drink at breakfast time 🙂 0.2
October 28, 2012 @ 3:37 pm
I liked both of those beers actually, though we see more Koelsch than Altbier here. The Bavarians drink beer with their sausage for breakfast too, don’t they?
Natalie @Turkey Travel blog
October 23, 2012 @ 9:28 am
Is it a strange coincidence that I woke up this morning with a raging headache and this was the last thing I wanted to see! 🙂
October 28, 2012 @ 3:36 pm
Aww hope you still enjoyed the post. Was the headache beer related?
October 22, 2012 @ 11:03 pm
Andrew, cool post:)! I also respect your silence about the cola-beer-mix and the banana-Weizen, as we shall not bring Germany’s reputuation into disrepute! …Or maybe it would impress foreigners even more, so they’d come to enjoy what Loz refers to as a ‘beer-milk-shake’? I can’t decide…
October 22, 2012 @ 11:18 pm
Thanks, Vera. I have mentioned cola bier in another post. The banana beer may very well need its own post. Or at least all of the beer mixes that occur. I wonder if they are regional as well. I quite expect so, if I know Germany.
October 22, 2012 @ 11:46 am
The very first German words I learned were most of these that related to buying beer in a bar 🙂
Great and useful resource you’ve put together!
October 22, 2012 @ 11:16 pm
It is really useful to know how to buy beer. That and find a toilet. These two, added to please and thank you are my critical words in any language.
October 22, 2012 @ 10:31 am
That’s one seriously handy post! Should be printed off and mandatory travelling material 😉 Also, I’ve seen a copy of the Reinheitsgebot on pub walls.. for something that sounds so simple it sure goes on a bit!
October 22, 2012 @ 11:15 pm
Thanks about the post. Yeah, it is a Germanic law, which means it has tons of sub clauses and explanations.
Daniel McBane - Funny Travel Stories
October 22, 2012 @ 10:06 am
One thing I’ve learned since coming to Berlin: while Germany as a whole is known for having excellent beer, Berlin seems to be trying its hardest to dispel that stereotype. This city’s lack of good beer is pretty shocking. You’re lucky to be in the south, I think.
October 22, 2012 @ 11:15 pm
Really? What kind of beer is known in Berlin?
Daniel McBane - Funny Travel Stories
October 23, 2012 @ 1:54 pm
Berliner is the most famous, I believe. But certainly not for the taste…
October 22, 2012 @ 9:31 am
But if you’re traveling up north — Hamburg, Bremen, etc. — we say Alster instead of Radler!
October 22, 2012 @ 11:14 pm
Good tip. Do you get Sauer-Alster’s then?
October 23, 2012 @ 9:02 am
I’ve never heard of Sauer-Alster, so I guess not!
October 28, 2012 @ 3:35 pm
Try making one yourself. Like an Apfel Schorle, but with beer.