When given the opportunity to attend high school at a private but properly nice international school near Munich in the mid- to late ’80s, you cannot avoid the immediate and undeniable love affair with beer that surrounds you. We didn’t exactly have a draught line in each locker, but it wasn’t that far off, and with this came my lifelong love affair with German beer.
Our go-to beer after school or during the weekends depended on the day and location; sometimes we ended up drinking a Tucher Helles with our feet in the Starnberger See, other times it was a mass of Augustiner Brau at a beer garden, and if we were lucky it was liters of Andechs at the Monastery in between a prost and a pretzel. The end result, however, was all the same: The beer was fantastic. Then I returned to the US, and it all went to shit.
Over the last 20-plus years, I’ve chased the German beer dragon while the American craft beer scene evolved and devolved and then evolved again. For most of it, if I was lucky enough to find Paulaner, or even a Spaten, I considered it a win. (Lowenbrau was never a win.) Eventually, some of the very beers I fell in love with during that period found their way to the States, and I was able to slowly migrate my senses off the big hop bombs that were ruining my palate. Fast-forward to today, and every beer I mentioned above is now available for me to purchase, many on draught, but all and many more in bottles. As I’ve retraced my liquid roots and brought these beers to the forefront of my fridge, one beer stands out as the quintessentially average German beer that I love to hate but buy any and every time I find it on the shelf. It’s Bitburger, and if you haven’t tried it, this column won’t convince you to, but you should.
Rich in pedestrian pilsner history and sporting the always-impressive “Premium Beer” tagline alongside “Germany’s No.1 Draft Beer” (and yes, that’s “Draft” with an “F”), there’s not much here for a fan of better beer to be impressed with until you take your first sip. That’s when it happens; this incredibly average German beer coats you with warmth and a drinkability usually reserved for water. That’s not to say it tastes like water, because it doesn’t. It tastes like beer, just watery beer, or a very light pilsner if you will, which means it goes well with anything, anytime. Watching an early morning soccer match in your PJs? It’s perfect. Whipping together a late-night dinner using only the remnants of your cupboard? Damn straight. Calling in sick so you can go on a three-day bender? Probably not… but what the hell, fuck yeah!
I don’t know what the ratings for this beer are on “those websites” but I really don’t give a shit anyway. This is a beer that every beer drinker should try at some point and fall in love with for the sheer fact that it’s German, average, and impossible not to like. It will free you from the drab but fashionable ales permeating every corner of the craft beer world right now, while reigniting your inner flame to simply enjoy a cold beer without reservation or reward.