Germany

Our Guide to Germany

Bierhalles, Brauhauses, Ausschenken, Kneipen, Apfelwein tasting houses, Biergarten and much more…!

Intro
Verified Bars
City Guide
Map

At first, the beer scene in Germany may feel like you’re drowning in pils, hundreds and hundreds of attempts at making the same sort of lager with varying degrees of success, rarely ever exceptional.

The Germans love a lager, but beyond that there lies a tradition of varying distinct regional styles, some of which remain almost dormant, waiting to be revived. In order to experience these in their intended glory you often must visit the regions specifically.

Altbier, Kolsch and Dortmunder in the North West, Wheatbeer, Maibock and Dunkelweizen for Bavaria, Gose and Berliner Weisse in Saxony, Rotbier, Rauchbier and Kellerbier in Franconia are just a few examples. This makes Germany feel more distinct in its traditions than England which may have Scotch ale in Scotland, nut brown ale in the North and more cider drinking in the South and West, but has a more standardised range you can find in most pubs.

If you’re not keen on pils, don’t worry, there will still probably be something for you.

Similarly, the brewing scene has developed differently regionally, with huge concentrations of breweries in certain areas over others. Bavaria seems to have a brewery in every town as a badge of honour, while cities such as Bamberg have nine breweries, exhibiting their obsession with beer.

Socially, pub-going does not mean quite the same thing as England, as it is generally more communal and there is an expectation of social interaction in a lot of places. The forwardness can be surprising as a buttoned-up English person, but it is refreshing to see people of different generations speaking to each other as equals and not dividing their social lives between one another. This can spill over into gregarious bouts of singing and joviality but they find a way of doing it without it feeling loutish or nationalistic.

If you wish for a more English style pub atmosphere head to a ‘Kneipe’ rather than bierhalle or a brauhaus, and you’ll find a smaller, cosier drinking hole. It’s still the case that a lot of these places are resolutely working class and unvarnished in their approach, which may be a slight surprise to some people used to more gentrified English pubs. Darts is especially popular in Germany, and these places may also allow smoking.

The price for a Beer in a German pub used to be a strong point. You can still buy a large beer in most places for 3 euros 50 cents or less, but this is creeping up, as is the tendency for 0.4l servings, as places work on their margins. As per usual, visit working class haunts and fewer corporate places if value for money is a key concern.

It’s heartening to spend time drinking in Germany which is a crucible of tradition and obsession when it comes to brewing. They have managed to stay some of the deleterious effects of globalisation through legislation and preserved many of their smaller breweries as a consequence.

Their parochialism and refusal to accept the merits of other styles is borne of pigheadedness, and this is one aspect you may find frustrating, but generally, going hunting for good pubs in Germany is an easy and extremely enjoyable task.

Ratings Key (0-10)

A: Choice and/or quality of drinks

B: Style and décor

C: Atmosphere and feel

D: Amenities, Events & Community

E: Value for money

F: The Pub Going Factor

Bars marked (*) will take you to our full profile write-up!

Name Location A B C D E F
Domkeller  * Aachen 8 8 9 6 6 9
Aachener Brauhaus Aachen 7 8 8 7 6 8
Schlen-
kerla
*
Bamberg 9 10 10 8 9 10

Brauhaus
Fassla

Bamberg 9 9 9 6 8 9
Brauhaus
Spezial
Bamberg 9 7 7 7 9 8
Papa Joe’s Jazzlokal Cologne 8 10 10 8 6 10
Schreckens – kammer Cologne 8 8 8 7 7 8
Sion Cologne 8 7 8 7 7 8
Malzmuhle Cologne 8 8 8 7 6 8
Peters Cologne 8 9 8 6 6 8
Sunner Im Walfisch Cologne 7 8 8 7 5 8
Fruh Cologne 8 7 8 6 6 8
Papa Joe’s Biersalon   * Cologne 7 10 10 7 6 9
Lommer-
zheim
Cologne 7 9 8 8 7 8
Julio Dusseldorf 7 8 8 6 6 8
Em Pootzke Dusseldorf 7 8 10 7 4 8
Brauerei
Neder
Forchheim 9 7 8 7 10 8
Doctor
Flotte
Frankfurt 8 8 9 7 8 8
Apfelwein
DAX
Frankfurt 8 9 8 7 7 8
Klapper33 Frankfurt 8 8 8 7 6 8
Keimling * Furth 8 9 10 7 7 9
Bierblume Görlitz 8 7 8 7 6 8
Craft Bier
Bar
Hannover 9 7 7 7 6 8
Bierwerk * Nuremberg 10 7 8 7 7 8
Mr Kennedy Nuremberg 9 6 7 6 8 8

Landbier
Paradise
Wodan-
strasse

Nuremberg 9 8 8 7 8 8
Altstadt_
hof
Nuremberg 9 8 8 6 6 8
Weissbier
Hex
Nuremberg 8 9 7 6 8 8
Kater
Murr
Nuremberg 8 7 8 8 7 8
Grosse
Freiheit
Nuremberg 6 9 9 5 6 8
Tommis
Pub
Wernigerode 7 7 9 7 7 8
Muzik-
kneipe
Tscharlie’s
Wurzburg 8 8 8 8 6 8
Aachen

pop. 245,000

A surprisingly large city with a long history dating back to Roman times – architecturally an interesting blend of Gothic and post-war modernism. It takes on many influences from nearby Belgium and Netherlands. Aachen’s Nightlife is reasonable though a little bit provincial and quiet during the week. The central bar Domkeller is a classic of its kind and not to be missed while the rest of the nightlife is dispersed into neighbourhood locals, with a mixture of in-the-know rock pubs and venerable old Gaststätten. Aachen is a good choice for a stop-off in between Cologne and Liege in Belgium or Maastricht in Netherlands.

Bamberg

pop. 75,000

Medieval bishopric with a uniquely bizarre and wonderful town hall, the Altes Rathaus set midway on a bridge. Famous in drinking terms for its many central breweries, specialising in Rauchbeer – smoked – a style which is a great example of the concept ‘an acquired taste’. Expect traditional beer halls, supremely cosy in winter, and some working class kneipen more interested in darts and rock music. For a very small city, Bamberg punches well above its weight.

Bautzen / Budyšin

pop. 40,700

A small town, Bautzen could be forgiven for not being the epicentre of the world’s nightlife. It is a very interesting place with one of the most striking vistas of any town, a Sorbian minority (for whom this place is called Budyšin) and a beautiful historic centre. It’s also famous for its mustard, which you’ll find around German twinned with a sausage or several. Speaking of the bar scene, you’ll find a decent neighbourhood brewery (a surprisingly big venue) and the Radeberger Bierstube, a typical example of a classical traditional German Gaststatte. In the old town there are a couple of passable bars.

Bonn

pop. 318,800

We hope you like generic café pubs for middle class pensioners.

Cologne

pop. 1,061,000

A large city with a vast nightlife encompassing several boroughs. While modern, alternative venues can be found in the student neighbourhoods, in the centre, the Kolsch houses hold sway, a local ritual that’s not to be missed.

Kolsch is a pale lager/ale hybrid is served in a 0.2l stange which are frequently supplied by brusque Kobes, the middle-aged male servers who are often arrogant but willing to engage in banter. Beer is winched up to the bar via a barrel and served straight from it. Remember not to order Altbier, the beer style of Cologne’s deadly rivals Dusseldorf! Lastly, don’t forget to visit Papa Joe’s Biersalon and Jazzlokal, cult institutions of the city.

Dresden

pop. 543,825

A large modern shopping area, a small restored pile of admittedly dramatic, if obnoxious, imperial central monuments, and an interesting little brown and rain-sodden Northern arts quarter. Dresden is hardly the stuff of a backpacker’s dreams, really a monument to the tragic deleterious effects of war rather than a well-integrated vibrant feeling city. There is a rather middle-aged brauhaus near the river, and you’ll find some cosy, quiet venues in the Innere and Aussere Neustadt. Although we haven’t had the time to really explore we get the impression there are a few decent venues lurking around.

Düsseldorf

pop. 612,000

As with Cologne, Düsseldorf city centre is studded with beerhalls this time serving you Altbier, brown well-hopped ale from the barrel. It’s surprisingly easy to dispatch, despite the strength and texture.

Düsseldorf is not as large a city as Cologne and so the nightlife is more concentrated in its centre, which you will find to be atmospheric and lively to say the least. Not to be outdone, Düsseldorf also boasts a couple of quality Jazz bars in the centre. Don’t ever order a Kolsch unless you are prepared to suffer the ignimony of being outed as a dilettante and traitor to the city!

Forchheim

pop. 30,400

For a town of its size, Forchheim is very lucky to boast 5 local breweries brewing Bier that is some of the freshest and tastiest in the world. Family operations with simple but enjoyable pubs go hand in hand with the traditional Fachwerk architecture of this market town. The prices are similarly historic too, diving to often unseen levels below €2.50, proving that craft brew pubs in the UK (not to mention bars in Germany’s North and West) are taking the piss with their prices. No doubt things are relatively quiet in town at night but Forchheim serves as an enjoyable day out.

Frankfurt

pop. 736,400

Frankurt’s alcohol claim to fame is Apfelwein rather than beer, and so many of its neighbourhood pubs – especially in Saschenhausen and in the outskirt villages will offer this strong, deliberately dry and sour cider typical of the Hesse region.

In other respects the venues are similar to your usual German Gaststatten or Wirtshaus serving food and rarely getting out of second gear.

The south bank borough of Saschenhausen is your best best for congregations of nightlife and changes of speed, with some smokey, raucous but nevertheless atmospheric bars to enjoy. Conversely, be careful to avoid bars in Frankfurt’s red light district, which operates dramatically close to the train station and what should be the main boulevards.

Fürth

pop. 124,750

A city that has become part of Nuremberg’s conurbation, you can easily reach this place within 15 minutes on the U-Bahn from Nuremberg central station.

Furth’s central nightlife is oddly parochial and small-town feeling, which may be due to the low rise Altstadt. The quaint market town pubs certainly don’t reflect the size of the place.

Nevertheless, beyond immediate impressions you will find the local venues friendly and lively, while Keimling in particular offers the kind of pub venue every town should possess.

Goslar

pop. 41,700

Another traditional Fachwerk town, Goslar is a magnificent and distinctive place, but not one with a huge array of nightlife. This is a common problem with quaint towns mainly inhabited by and visited by retirees.

However, with a central brewery tap and a couple of decent hangout spots for the small number of youngsters, Goslar is in a better position than the virtually comatose Quedlinburg, nearby.

Görlitz

pop. 55,900

This beautiful border city is an architectural jewel, but no-one in town would argue with me when I say it is not a hotbed of nightlife (mind you, neither is the Polish half, Zgorzelec). This may be due to the aging inhabitants and appeal to elderly day-trippers, which is a shame. Instead, the pockets of evening drinkers congregate in dispersed venues.

There are some nice alternative options such as a Kino-bar (one of the increasingly popular bars where you turn up for a drink and the venue screens a film) and you’ll find the nano-brewery and medieval dining room Bierblume a must-visit in the evening. Unfortunately you’ll be scraping around for other options that are worth your time. These are mainly sleepy old corner kneipen. Someone please give the town a shot of adrenalin.

Hannover

pop. 531, 200

Hannover’s centre is an artificial but convincing enough recreation of its pre-war old town, and it’s a reasonable base for average bars, the odd smokey working-class kneipe and one nice craft beer venue. However, given the size of the city, it must be said that Hannover disappoints, ultimately, in its drinking options. Even the central brewery is remarkably, almost pointedly soulless. Let’s hope that’s subject to change.

Nuremburg

pop. 509,975

One of the most underrated cities in Europe for tourists, possibly due to its shameful historical associatons, Nuremberg retains much of its pre-war traditional character, with a city wall, large old town, castle hill and characterful river area. The city got off better than most in the RAF bombings, which is to say that some small parts were not completely totalled. The medieval character has not been expunged, especially on the North side of the Pegnitz, in the St. Sebaldus area of its altstadt.

While the old city lacks a definable area for nightlife, venues are not in short supply. If you’re into cocktails, there are a few standouts, if you like rock pubs, likewise, if you are into craft beer you are very well served indeed, while if you are interested in local breweries you will find a few good options. There are plenty of options inbetween those as well.

Additionally, the area of Gostenhof, while hardly Berlin’s Neukolln district, likes to think of itself as the artsy alternative area. There’s more work to do before that becomes a reasonable claim, but you will find several options in this less traditional but still interesting inter-war era district.

Quedlinburg

pop. 21,500

There is a criminal lack of truly good drinking options in Quedlinburg, suggesting a town not in great shape economically nor socially. This is a great shame given it is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved towns in Europe.

Unfortunately I can only direct you to its small number of bland venues and its so-so brewery tap. A shop in the centre does periodic beer tasting sessions as well.

Rothenberg ob der Tauber

pop. 10,930

One of the best preserved “cities” in the world (actually a small town), there is beauty around every corner in Rothenburg, however it lacks a really killer pub or bar, a shortfall which is unfortunately painfully apparent when you see the young folk of the city in the evening scratching around for a venue of some sort.

You will find a couple of passable backstreet venues, but the overall bar going experience is regrettably disappointing. This is still no reason to not visit what is an extraordinary place.

Wernigerode

pop. 35,050

Wernigerode’s street layout lends itself well to generating a bit of atmosphere, with a long street leading to a central square. While this beautiful town is still relatively quiet by some standards, it’s one of the livelier Harz towns, and you will find Tommi’s Pub has atmosphere and their central brewery has, if nothing else, good beer.

Würzburg

pop. 124,873

This central German city has always felt to me like a slight let-down, despite having some magnificent monuments, a central river, a characterful hill and Schloss and a historic bridge. Perhaps its nightlife has something to do with it.

While this is a student town, the quality of the venues falls short of what you could reasonable expect for a city of its size. Is it something about baroque / imperial architecture that make cities feel stuffy?

The exception is the fun Muzikkneipe Tscharlie’s, which really should be among a stock of enjoyable venues rather than a standout.