A trip to an atmospheric Bavarian beer garden or a Cologne beer hall is a Germany must but with well over 1,200 breweries in the country, it's hard to know where to start. Famed for location, age, popularity, atmosphere or sheer number of beer-related sights, here are Lonely Planet's top six beer destinations in Germany (with bonus beer glossary--below slideshow!). Introduction and captions courtesy of LonelyPlanet.com.
Alkoholfreies Bier Nonalcoholic beer.
Altbier A dark, full beer with malted barley from the Düsseldorf area.
Berliner Weisse With around 2.8% alcohol content, draught (Schankbier) is mostly brewed in and around Berlin. It contains lactic acid, giving it a slightly sour taste, and a blend of malted wheat and barley. Top fermented, it's often drunk mit Grün (with green or woodruff syrup), or with a dash (mit Schuss) of raspberry (Himbeeren) syrup.
Bockbier, Doppelbock These two strong beers are around 7% alcohol, but Doppelbock is slightly stronger. There's a 'Bock' for almost every occasion, such as Maibock (usually drunk in May/spring) and Weihnachtsbock (brewed for Christmas). Eisbock is dark and more aromatic. Bock beers originate from Einbeck, near Hanover.
Dampfbier (steam beer) Originating from Bayreuth in Bavaria, this is top fermented and has a fruity flavor.
Dunkles Lagerbier (dark lager) Dunkel (dark) is brewed throughout Germany, but especially in Bavaria. With a light use of hops, it's full-bodied with a strong malt aroma. Malt is dried at a high temperature, lending it a dark color.
Export Traditionally with a higher alcohol content to help it survive a long journey, this beer is closely associated today with Dortmund, and is often dry to slightly sweet.
Helles Lagerbier (pale lager) Helles (pale or light) refers to the color, not the alcohol content, which is still around 4.6% to 5%. Brewing strongholds are Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and the Ruhr region. It has strong malt aromas and is slightly sweet.
Hofbräu This is a brewery belonging to a royal court (Hof) - for some time in Bavaria only a few nobles enjoyed the right to brew wheat beer.
Klosterbräu This type of brewery belongs to a monastery.
Kölsch By law, this top fermented beer can only be brewed in or around Cologne. It is about 4.8% alcohol, has a solid hop flavor and pale color, and is served in small glasses (0.2L) called Stangen (literally 'sticks').
Leichtbier (light beer) These low-alcohol beers are about 2% to 3.2% alcohol.
Leipziger Gose An unusual beer, flavored with salt and coriander, this contrives to have a stingingly refreshing taste, with some plummy overtones. Tart like Berliner Weisse, it's also often served with sweeteners, such as cherry (Kirsch) liqueur or the almond-flavored Allasch.
Malzbier (malt beer) A sweet, aromatic, full-bodied beer, this is brewed mainly in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.
Määrzen (March) Full-bodied with strong malt aromas, this is traditionally brewed in March. Today, it's associated with the Oktoberfest.
Obergäriges Bier Top fermented beer.
Pils (pilsener) This bottom-fermented full beer, with a pronounced hop flavor and a creamy head, has an alcohol content of around 4.8% and is served throughout Germany.
Rauchbier (smoke beer) This dark beer has a fresh, spicy or 'smoky' flavor.
Schwarzbier (black beer) Slightly stronger, this dark, full beer has an alcohol content of about 4.8% to 5%. Full-bodied, it's fermented using roasted malt.
Untergäriges Bier Bottom-fermented beer.
Weizenbier, Weissbier (wheat beer) Predominating in the south, especially in Bavaria, this is around 5.4% alcohol. A Hefeweizen has a stronger shot of yeast, whereas Kristallweizen is clearer with more fizz. These wheat beers are fruity and spicy, often recalling bananas and cloves. Decline offers of a slice of lemon as it ruins the head and - beer purists say - the flavor.