Please don’t put stuff in my beer: Altbierbowle

If you ask people what they think of when they think of Germany, the answer will include some reference to beer.  While stereotypes are often based in the imagination, the connection between Germany and beer has some basis in reality.  According to Wikipedia – and I can tell you’re dazzled by my finely-honed research skills – there are around 1300 breweries in Germany that produce more than 5000 brands of beer.  The Reinheitsgebot, or Purity Law, governs the ingredients used in German beer and dates back to 1516.  This law is 260 years older than the United States!

Numbers and dates are fun and all, but there are really only two things one needs to know about German beer.  The first is that it is delicious.  I might be biased, since I love beer and have spent a significant amount of time studying and appreciating all things German, but it really is great.  Even the cheapest, most generic-looking stuff you find at the discount supermarket is more than drinkable, and the good stuff is not very expensive.  I like it all, too: Pils, Kölsch, Hefeweizen, Maibock, Oktoberfest, etc.  You cannot go wrong.

The second thing you need to know about German beer is that despite producing some of the world’s best beer, Germans like to dilute it for some reason.  I have seen any number of additions to beer in on German menus that make me cringe.  Maybe I don’t have a well-developed palate, but I happen to think these are all completely gross.  Here are some that I have encountered:

  • Radler – beer mixed with fizzy lemonade, grapefruit soda, or even Sprite
  • Colaweizen – Add a shot of cola to a glass of Hefeweizen
  • Bananaweizen – Add banana-flavored syrup to Hefeweizen.  Some places also have the option of raspberry or waldmeister (woodruff) syrup on the menu.

The thing is, I really want to like these drinks, so I keep trying them.  That’s why when I heard my friend order an Altbier Bowle at the movie theater the other night, I decided I should also sample one.  Altbier is a darker lager that’s pretty tasty.  When I studied in Freiburg, my roommates made Bowle fairly often.  It is essentially sangria, served in a punch bowl, hence the name Bowle.  I’m sure there is a more refined version of Bowle that potentially will not ruin your weekend, but the recipe we used went something like this:

  1. Empty can of fruit cocktail into bowl.
  2. Cover with 750ml cheap vodka; soak overnight.
  3. Add 2 bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne to bowl.
  4. Consume.
  5. Wake up with headache.

I am delighted to report that the Altbier version of Bowle is both non-toxic and surprisingly excellent.  At the theater, the fruit was apricot; it was wonderful.  I will be drinking this again, and recommend that everyone try it.  Maybe this skeptic is coming around on the German-style beer “cocktails.”  Or maybe this is the only good one.

Has anyone else had a delicious or disgusting experience with things added to their beer?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  Also, if any of your German readers can defend these appalling beverages, or share a recipe for Altbierbowle, I’d love to hear from you as well.



About heidihefeweizen

I am a 29 year-old American woman who has received a Fulbright scholarship to work as an English teaching assistant in a German high school.
This entry was posted in German Beverage Review, German Products and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Please don’t put stuff in my beer: Altbierbowle

  1. maryjo137 says:

    I’m holding my head!!! You brought back not so fond memories of days gone by!! We would use grain alcohol for the sangria, not vodka!! Can’t recall ever adding anything to my beer glass except another beer!! Oh, I just rememberd there were oranges in my beer once and it was just
    alright. Cheers!!!!!!

    • ardaquila says:

      Grain alcohol in sangria?! Holy cow! I’m not big on oranges in my beer, either, and luckily they don’t do that to their wheat beers here in Germany. I do enjoy a lime in my Corona though.

  2. kathleen says:

    One time I accidentally ordered a Krefelder, which is beer and coke. SO VERY WRONG. I just looked it up again and it seems it’s supposed to be an Altbier mix too. I was also always scared of the Kirschweizen that guy from Mannheim in your dorm always drank. Beer just should not be that color.

    I have never understood the German fascination with adding any other beverage or fruit syrup to their beer. Why mess with something that’s perfectly delicious already?

  3. How about a Drecksack? Similar to your Colaweizen but half beer and half cola. Called a “Drecksack” because dreckig is dirty and Sack is a sack and it looks like a dirty sack once it’s all mixed together–mmmm, tasty!

    And I can offer another bit of trivia on the Radler: the reason it’s called a Radler or bicycler is because you can drink it and still be sober enough to ride your bike home;-)

    And I actually happen to like both of these versions, but like regular beer too. It is funny though that they have all these purity laws and then mix all kinds of stuff in after–gotta love it!

    • ardaquila says:

      Ah ha! Funny you bring up the origins of the word “Radler.” My friend just told me today that she always has one when she has to drive because then you’re not having an entire beer. Up north here a Radler is also an “Alster.” She also told me that the drink you call a “Drecksack,” she refers to as “Schmutz,” and for the same reason. I wonder what the word “Krefelder,” which Kathleen referenced, means literally?

  4. Rachel says:

    The only successful beer addition I would recommend is vodka (and it’s pretty much guaranteed to kick your ass). We usually do a shot of chocolate vodka in Guinness. More recently, we finally opened the Dogfish Head peanut butter vodka – a shot of it in Ben’s “Naked Elf” (His clone of Troegs Mad Elf minus the cherries and honey) was pretty tasty.

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