Beer and German Culture I. Introduction

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Brian Romofsky

Speech 101-Pierce College

Spring 2012

Beer and German Culture
I. Introduction

A. Attention Getter: combo B. Introduce Topic: Beer is thought to be the world’s oldest fermented beverage, with written records of its production found dating back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and evidence of beer brewing going back thousands of years beyond that. It was used both as a means of preserving excess grains, by reducing them down to their basic sugars, as well as a method of water treatment, the boiling and fermentation process removing unwanted bacteria from the local water sources. And you thought it was just for fun.

C. Thesis Statement: The beer you drink today, and can find almost everywhere in the world, has much of its roots in German history. The culture that surrounds it - from beer and music festivals, to pubs and bars – has also been greatly influenced by Germany’s own beer culture.
D. Preview: Today, you will hear about how German brewing traditions and beer culture have impacted the modern beer you enjoy. I will share with you a symbol of that beer culture, and discuss its origins. Lastly, I will describe a couple times that I got to experience German beer culture first hand, and convince you that, no I don’t have a problem.
II. Body

A. Main Point 1 (Discuss Culture):

1. German Beer History – Germany has a rich history surrounding the brewing and drinking of beer, beginning with the initial distribution of beer throughout Europe by Germanic and Celtic tribes as early as the 1st century AD. As civilization developed, Germany continued to shape the way Europe, and by extension the Americas, approach their own drink.

a. The standard definition of beer was developed in Germany, passed into law in 1516 by William IV, Duke of Bavaria. This definition was part of a purity law and defined beer as being made only from water, hops, and barley-malt.

b. The oldest operating brewery is The Benedictine Weihenstephan Brewery in Bavaria, Germany with records indicating it has been running since as early as 768AD. As with many early breweries, this was founded by a monastic order and later taken over by the City of Freising.

c. With the creation of various purity laws and strict production controls, German beer gained widespread popularity during the outbreak of the bubonic plague as a safer source of beers than local breweries, and was distributed throughout Europe. This explosion of demand led to a rise in the established German breweries, each of which began creating their own unique brews.

2. German Beer Today – Early development and innovation in Germany gave rise to many of the varieties of beer we enjoy today.

a. The Lager style, a cool fermenting beer known for its clarity, was invented and refined in Germany, giving rise to the manufacturers of so-called American Lager such as Anheuser-Busch the makers of Budweiser (also a German name), Molson Coors, and Miller Brewing. Even Mexican beers like Dos Equis, Pacifico and Negra Modelo were started by German immigrants using German recipes.

b. Other well known types of German beer include the Pilsner, various types of weisbier (white beer-wheat beer), dopples, tripel, and mai bocks, and dunkelweis just to name a few.
c. Hundreds of German breweries continue to make and export beer all over the world, including Beck’s, Paulener, Spaten, and St. Pauli. As of 2006, according to the European Beer Guide, Germany alone was responsible for exporting over 390 million gallons.

3. Beer Culture – Much of the culture surrounding beer that we enjoy today is a result of that which arose in Germany.

a .The places that sold beer, breweries, public houses, and biergartens, were places where people could congregate, exchange news and ideas, tells stories, sing, and interact with others in their community for fun and profit.

b. Outdoor festivals celebrating food and music were popular venues for beer, best explified by the German Oktoberfest, where food and music take a back seat to beer. One of the most widely recognized German celebrations, it marks the end of summer and beginning of harvest and winter. Modern celebrations see people dressing in traditional German clothing, polka bands, games and music and food. And, of course, lots of beer.

B. Main Point 2 (Explain your artifact):

1. The Beer Stein – The stein is a uniquely German symbol of beer and beer drinking.

a. The name “stein” comes from the German word “steingutkrug” meaning stoneware jug, as this was one of the traditional materials for these mugs to be made out of.

b. Typically, steins were made in stoneware, earthenware, ceramic, or pewter. Some, however, were done in crystal, glass, wood, or silver. These days, earthenware is fairly uncommon as it was a poor material and most used in the manufacture of cheap mugs. The iconic lids are usually made from pewter or tin.
2. The Stein Design – The beer stein was first and foremost designed to be practical.

a. The need for a mug is fairly self-explanatory; you need something to hold your beer.

b. Steins were made with a heavy base to reduce tipping and spilling, when on tables, counters, or trays in public houses. Thick walls and sturdy construction helped ensure that they were more likely to survive the wear of repeated use.
c. The lid was implemented to keep insects and foreign material from falling in and contaminating the beer. It was also believed to help contain the effervescence and aromas of the beverage. The lid gained more widespread popularity with the arrival of the Black Plague as a preventive measure, keeping out the black flies believed to carry the disease, and was in fact required by law in many places throughout Germany.
3. Decoration – As time wore on, and popularity of beer and steins increased, steins became works of art.

a. While much of modern beer stein art is for the sake of souvenirs for tourists, the early beer steins were also treated to decoration.

b. Stoneware was initially time consuming and expensive to produce, so was typically favored by wealthier citizens. They would have their mugs decorated with Renaissance and Baroque style art. With the decorated beer stein becoming a status symbol, designs became more elaborate, and incorporated a variety of glazes, molds, and carvings in their creation.

c. As decorated steins gained popularity, the depictions found on them became more diverse. Coats of arms, depictions of surrounding countryside, biblical scenes, and representations of local folklore and stories became common.

d. These served as talking points for their owners, both as a symbol of status and as a visual aid for the stories and histories that they represented.
C. Main Point 3 (Explain how the culture has impacted your identity):

1. Visiting the Hoffbrau House in Munich - In the summer of 2006, I visited Munich and made a stop to the Hoffbrau House, one of Germany’s oldest and most well known public houses.

a. The building has three stories, all with high ceilings, stone and woodwork, and row upon row of wide wooden tables and benches to accommodate the many patrons that flocked there looking for beer and food and social interaction
b. There were no private booths or individual chairs, and all the patrons, both locals and visitors, interacted freely, brought together by the open atmosphere and common interest of German beer.
2. Beer and Music Festival at Oberammergau – Also in the summer of 2006, I visited the small town of Oberammergau, situated in the hills of Bavaria, to participate in a music festival.
a. The festival was set up in a large tent in the center of town, with rows of benches for the audience and a small stage for the performers. The people performing were largely members of the community, as was the audience, and everyone seemed to know everyone else.
b. There were regular breaks for the audience and band members to get up to refill their beer mugs, which also served as a chance to mingle with the people there, catch up on local gossip and discuss the show.

c. As the night wore on, and the beer flowed freely, gradually everyone joined in with singing and dancing. Eventually, the kegs were emptied and everyone drifted off to their respective homes. Overall, I was left with a great sense of camaraderie and welcoming from the people of Oberammergau.

III. Conclusion

The story of beer is one that is still being told, and, whether we recognize it or not, is still very much a part of our culture. We can still relate to the sense of community and involvement experienced in the public houses and biergartens of Germany in the past, and the fun, camaraderie and celebration still carried on today.

So next time you are enjoying this tasty beverage, pause a moment to think about where your brew came from, the history behind it, and the cultures to which it ties you. The contributions made to it by the German people, and the way it can connect us as a centerpiece for celebration, communication, and shared enjoyment. Give a quick thanks to the innovators that came before us, raise your stein and enjoy … responsibly.

Works Cited
The European Beer Guide – German Beer Production, Ron Pattinson 2011, Retrieved

March 7, 2012,

A Brief History of Beer Steins, Gary Kirsner 1999, Retrieved March 7, 2012

The Beer Journal, Chris Wright 2007, Google Books, Retrieved March 7, 2012

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