When you think of eating in the morning what pops into your mind? Eggs? Granola? Fruit? Bacon? Pancakes? Oatmeal? These would all be valid answers… well at least in America. In Bavaria, a German federal state in the southeast of the country, answers to this question may differ. They still enjoy eggs, assorted oats, and breakfast meats, but they also enjoy beer for before lunch.
Yes that’s correct folks, beer: the golden carbonated alcoholic substance that is absolutely adored around the world. But isn’t beer before noon a faux pas? Certainly not in Bavaria, because they don’t just enjoy beer before noon, but they also have a specific beer for this time of day called hefeweizen (pronounced: HEH-feh-vite-zehn).
Hefeweizen is a beer made from malted wheat instead of the typical malted barley that is familiar to most beer drinkers. It also has specialized strains of yeast that are used to produce overtones of clove, banana, apples, citrus, and even smoke during the fermentation process. These two defining qualities are how the beer got the name hefeweizen, which translates to “yeast wheat.” The last defining quality of the hefeweizen beer is that it is unfiltered, which means that it has sediment in it which gives the beer a cloudy aesthetic that lays somewhere between translucent and opaque.
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So why isn’t this a custom in America? Well, Americans like to drink coffee. They like to be alert during the workday. But in Bavaria, taking the edge off with a slight buzz before noon has been part of the culture for longer than America has been in existence. Bavarians even have a linguistic term that means an alcoholic drink before midday in company called Frühschoppen (pronounced: Froo-shop-pen).
Bavarians don’t need to justify having a beer before noon because it’s simply part of their culture. But, if they were forced to give reasons for it they would likely fall back on the fact that Hefeweizen helps the digestion process. This is because as a result of its specific fermentation process, a by-product of 4-vinyl guaiacol, a metabolite, is incorporated into the beer. The science behind metabolites is quite complex, but to put it simply, it is essentially something that stimulates the metabolism and allows for the essential organisms in the process to interact more quickly.
Bavarians may drink hefeweizen at any part of the day, but it is most common during second breakfast, which they call brotzeit. In the late morning, sometime around 11 o’clock, many folks will sit down to a small, simple meal of bread, butter, cheese, pickles, veal sausage, mustard, and yep-you-guessed-it hefeweizen. It’s often a staple of the day.
Bavarians simply approach beer in a different manner than we do here in America. They don’t think of it as an agent for producing foggy-headedness and laziness. It’s simply part of their diet. In fact, they refer to hefeweizen in Bavaria as bottled bread, which is why when President of the United States, Barack Obama, went to the 41st G7 summit in Bavaria in 2015, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, welcomed him with a full Bavarian breakfast, which of course included hefeweizen. However, since Obama needed to be sober for the G7 summit, the hefeweizen he drank was non-alcoholic.