German Language and Culture
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Learning German Online - Interactive German Lessons for Beginners and Intermediate Learners
Lesson 3: Talking about doing things

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Culture: German beer

One of Germany's biggest export goods are the German beers, which are praised and famous all around the world. When people from outside Germany think about German beer, they automatically think about Bavaria in the south of Germany and its famous beers. In fact, Bavaria does produce about 20 million hectoliters of beer per year. But you probably did not know that the middle-western German state of Nordrhein-Westphalen (Northrhine-Westphalia) produces even more (~26 million hl/anno).
Original Text of the German Reinheitsgebot from 1516.

In order to understand, where the outstanding reputation of German beers comes from, it helps to know that there is a law in Germany that stems back to 1516 and which is called the Reinheitsgebot (purity law). One could call this law the first consumer protection law in the world, since it regulated the conditions of the brewing process and the permitted ingredients of the beers. The Reinheitsgebot only allows for the brewers to use water, hop, and malt.

It is a myth though that our beers today are still brewed according to this law. Except for the brewing techniques of some Belgian beers most of the procedures today use yeast to speed up the brewing process. Nevertheless, the yeast is later filtered out of the beer to make it more clear. The famous Bavarian Hefeweizen (Hefe means yeast) is brewed with special filters that allow the yeast cells to remain in the beer. This gives it a naturally dimmish look.

Industrial brewing of beers in Germany

The brewing process is a complicated, long biochemical procedure that can take up to a couple of months. It starts with the sprouting of wheat seeds, a process that delivers malt in the end. The malt is then treated repeatedly with water and enzymes, which produce sugars and aminoacids, which are important for the beer's taste. The sprouting is stopped through heating, before the mash is filtered and hop is added to the liquid part of the mash. Later in the process, the yeast is added to help with the fermenting process, which can take up to three months. The yeast is filtered out later (not for naturally dimmish beers) and then filled in bottles for the consumers.

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