Beer Brawl: Germany vs America in 5 Rounds

German vs American beer

It’s no secret that German beers are some of the best in the world. The Germans have a long and storied history of brewing excellence, but American brewers have been gaining ground and making a name for themselves.

With this in mind, we wanted to know which country produces the best beer, so we set up a 5 round beer brawl to find out.

Let’s do this!

Round #1: Alcohol Content

One of the most common complaints about American beer is that it’s weak or “watered down” but when it comes to alcohol content, you might be surprised to learn that brews from Germany and the USA are on par.

Why Is American Beer So Weak?

Some of the confusion stems from the fact that the US used to measure alcohol content by weight (ABW), while the rest of the world measured alcohol by volume (ABV). Since alcohol weighs less than water, an American beer that is 4% alcohol by weight (ABW) is 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) – but the labels on American beer didn’t indicate which method was used.

Scorecard

German beers contain between 4.5 percent and 5.5 percent alcohol (by volume) while American beers have between 4.0 and 6.1 percent ABV. When it comes to alcohol content, there really isn’t much difference.

Round #1 ends in a draw. The score is: DE 1, US 1.

Round #2: Quality

Making a quality beer doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a combination of fresh ingredients, clean water, years of experience, and a great deal of commitment.

But which country produces higher quality beer: Germany or the USA?

Reinheitsgebot: The German Purity Law

German breweries are quick to talk about the Reinheitsgebot, commonly known as “the German purity law”. The Reinheitsgebot is a decree issued by the Duke of Bavaria in 1516 that controls which ingredients can be used to make beer in Germany.

Reinheitsgebot, the German purity law

Under the original rules only barley, hops, and water could be used in the production of beer. The role of yeast in alcoholic fermentation wasn’t understood at the time but the law has since been revised to include malted grains, hops, water, and yeast.

Is American Beer Bad?

Despite the recent surge in craft brewers introducing beers with complex flavors, Americans continue to express a strong preference for weak beer.

Most of America’s top-sellers are light beers. Bud Light accounts for nearly one out of every four beers sold in the USA. This isn’t necessarily bad, if you like light beer.

Scorecard

When it comes to quality, the Germans have been making beer longer than the USA has been a country. I’m not saying that America doesn’t produce good beer, but most Americans prefer bland beer.

Round #2 goes to Germany: DE 2, US 1.

Americans love their light lagers while Germans have preference for Pilsner.

Check out this table ranking the top 3 beers from each country. Sources: USA Today, Statistica.

GermanyUSA
1Beck’s
Pilsner, 4.9% ABV
Bud Light
Light Lager, 4.2% ABV
2Krombacher
Pilsner, 4.8% ABV
Coors Light
Light Lager, 4.2% ABV
3Warsteiner
Pilsner, 4.8% ABV
Miller Lite
Light Lager, 4.2% ABV


What Is the Difference Between a Pilsner and a Lager?

The most obvious difference in each country’s top-selling beers is the style of beer that dominates the top 3. What is the difference between a pilsner and a lager?

Let’s break it down.

Lagers

Lagers are one of the two main types of beer available today (with ale being the other).

Lagers are brewed at cooler temperatures using “bottom fermenting” yeast. Lagers have a crisp, clean taste and don’t feature the fruity characteristics that many ales do.

Pilsners

Pilsners are a type of lager. They’re brewed at cool temperatures with bottom fermenting yeast as well but hops are added.

The pilsner style of beer originated in the Bohemian city of Pilsen (in the Czech Republic) in 1842. Josef Groll used Saaz hops in the process of brewing his beer, Pilsner Urquell, to extend its shelf life.

To summarize, pilsners are a type of lager with Saaz hops added – and that’s what gives them their distinctive flavor.

Scorecard

Here’s the thing. Lagers and pilsners are brewed the same way except Saaz hops are added to the latter.

Americans prefer a crisp, refreshing beer while most Germans prefer a more flavorful lager facilitated by the addition of hops. Chalk these preferences up to cultural differences and personal taste.

Round #3 ends in a draw: DE 3, US 2.

Round #4: Beer Consumption per Capita

Germans drink 36% more beer per capita than Americans do. Germany sits at 99 liters per capita per year vs 72.7 liters per capita for Americans, according to data from a recent Kirin Beer University report.

Man drinking beer at Oktoberfest

Scorecard

Germans are passionate about their suds!

The biggest Oktoberfest in the world takes place each year in Munich. Beer is such a huge part of German culture, it makes you want to make your way to the closest beer garden… the kind that serves beer in authentic beer steins!

Round #4 goes to Germany: DE 4, US 2.

Round #5: Innovation vs Tradition

American beer drinkers value innovation over tradition. It’s all about variety in the land of the free and the proliferation of craft breweries is a testament to that.

Whether you enjoy an ice cold bottle of Three Floyds Zombie Dust or you’re craving a Dogfish Head Mango Smoovie, American brewers have a beer for you!

German beer, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in tradition. There may be fewer choices in Deutschland but they’ve been intensely focused on brewing perfect beer for hundreds of years.

Scorecard

This is another category where there is no right or wrong outcome. Whether you prefer tradition or innovation, it just comes down to personal choice.

Round #5 is another draw: DE 5, US 3.

The Results Are In!

German beer is the winner!

The final score is: DE 5, US 3.

While Germany produces some of the world’s finest beers, you shouldn’t ignore America’s contribution. Our contest gives the nod to Germany based on quality, tradition, and the importance of beer in the country’s culture – but the real winner in this whole debate is the consumer.

You don’t have to choose sides… drink what you enjoy!

Prost!

By Michael

Chief mixologist and cocktail enthusiast at Swizzle Club.