Foot notes | Lager than life
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Germany’s spirited offerings extend far beyond lagers and ales from the annual Oktoberfest. This list of seasonal tipples will have you saying “Cheers” through the year. Or like they say in Germany, “Prost!”
In the icy winter months from September-April, Germany’s cobbled streets are crammed with open-air stalls with vats dispensing Glühwein to hordes of happy revellers. This traditional winter drink is the go-to local remedy to keep the cold at bay. It consists of mulled red wine brewed with spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, flavoured with orange peel and lime juice, and served hot in little mugs.
Newer variants have crept into the market, including the sweet, tangy “blueberry wine” or Heidelbeergluhwein. To truly get into the festive spirit, try Feuerzangenbowle, or rum punch wine. A rum-soaked cone of sugar placed above the Glühwein vats drips slowly into the brew, infusing it with knockout flavours.
Where to try: At Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt, try Feuerzangenbowle for €4.50 (around Rs.375) and Glühwein for €3.50 a cup each.
Ah, summertime—frosty beer and icy lemonade on a hot afternoon. In a particularly ingenious move, the Bavarians combined lemonade and lager to create the Radler—a mild, citrusy, beer-based brew popular in Munich and parts of southern Germany. The word Radler literally means “cyclist” in German. The drink was birthed around the time the cycling movement gained traction in Bavaria after World War I—dehydrated cyclists needed something refreshing, yet low on alcohol content.
The story goes that Radler was first served in a beer garden near Munich in 1922. Beer supply was running low, and thirsty cyclists wanted their drinks, so the enterprising landlord mixed lemonade with his lager, pretending he had created a special drink.
Of all of Bavaria’s bacchanalian delights, this one tops my list for its fresh flavour and sweet aftertaste.
Where to try: Munich’s Löwenbräu Brewery serves traditionally mixed Radler on tap for €4.50 a mug.
This hot tipple is a potent combination of dark rum, hot water and lime juice, flavoured with cinnamon and usually garnished with an orange slice. Served steaming hot in an ornate ceramic mug, it comes with brown sugar on the side. It tastes best in the German Ore Mountains where sub-zero temperatures make a warming beverage a truly rewarding experience. This is also guaranteed to induce a pleasantly groggy sensation, just as the name suggests.
Where to try: A cup of Grog at the Dresden Striezelmarkt or Seiffen in the Ore Mountains usually goes for €4.
A medieval-style drink, Met is a hot, fermented, honey wine served during winter. Met comes from the word “mead”, an ancient alcoholic drink made with water, honey and yeast. It’s dry, sweet, and looks deceptively innocuous.
Where to try: Medieval-themed Christmas markets in most cities offer Met or Mead for around €3.50. Try it at Dresden’s Medieval Christmas Market.
It’s a dark, malty beer brewed in an airport and named after an ill-tempered mythological character. In Alpine folk lore, the Krampus is St Nick’s grumpy sidekick—a goat-like demon who carries off naughty children in his sack while St Nick rewards the well- behaved ones with presents.
In the real world, Krampus is a seasonal dark lager on offer at Airbräu, the Munich airport’s in-house brewery. The bitter, heavy dunkel (dark lager beer) tastes mildly like caramel.
Where to try: Airbräu serves Krampus on tap during winter for around €3.