the marauder’s guide to cheap-ass german beer

The mission was simple. Five people, fifteen of the cheapest beers we could find, and a blind taste test. It was a cheap beer taste test because we were broke, and since we were almost always broke, we considered ourselves something of cheap beer experts. The good, the bad, and the ugly: we’d drank it, funneled it, and thrown it back up.

So it started–like every night of drinking starts when you’re broke–with a scramble to gather up all the empty bottles and cans since the last drinking frenzy that we could take back to the grocery store for Pfand. (Pfand=bottle return money) Three people, three sacks of bottles, three stores. We’d procrastinated with the shopping until it was too late to get to the really, really cheap grocery stores (Plus, Aldi, and Lidl, for example), so we went to Rewe, Tenglemann, and most importantly (though deceivingly expensive) the gas station. We ended up with about 13 euros and 15 beers.

We didn’t have any standards to guide our grades–from one to ten, one being “reserved for beer from the Sates” and ten being the best damn beer you’ve ever tasted–but we had snacks and a tape recorder and a fridge full of cooling booze. We decided on a blind test–beer in glasses and brand names with held until the last beer had disappeared down our whetted gullets–hoping that would eliminate any brand marketing/nostalgia biases.

But beer bias is harder to lose than you’d think and whenever a beer popped up that tasted decent we automatically assumed that it must be Hansa or 5,0, two of the group’s favorite variations on cheap drunk in a can. Everytime something tasted bad, we all assumed it must be Neptun, one of our collectively hated beer brands. Which, embarrassingly enough, rated as second best of the night. I should probably also mention that along the way we tried to guess which brand we were currently drinking, and we didn’t hit the mark once.

So, for the conscious (hoping to soon be unconscious) consumer of cheap beer, here are a few to try (or avoid), and a few soundbytes from the judges to guide your shopping cart next Friday night.

the great beer verkostung

Paderborner Pils 0,50 L can 4,8%
Origin: Paderborn/Gas Station
Price: 0,89 + 0,25 Pfand
Rating: 3

“It smells like dish water.”

“It smells like a cellar.”

“Pfui! It doesn’t taste like beer. It tastes like Tetrapack.”

“Bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter. Not herb, just bitter.”

Rössel Pils 0,50 L bottle 4,7%
Origin: Karlsruhe/Tengelmann
Price: 0,35 + 0,08 Pfand
Rating: 4

“I see already that there’s more foam than in the last one.”

“You’re the only one with foam in your glass.”

“Well, that’s at least something! And it smells better than the last one.”

“But it tastes like a gas station.”

“Yes! Very gas station-y. Actually, it tastes like lulu.”

“Smells better than it tastes.”

“It’s not as stale as the last one. It has a little bit more spark.”

“You could get drunk on it.”

Dominikaner Pils 0,50 L can 4,8%
Origin: Bernkastel/Gas station
Price: 1,09 + 0,25 Pfand
Rating: 2

“It smells kind of sweet.”

“Oooeeee, it has a really terrible aftertaste.”

“It’s not bitter at all, not like the last two, smells more brackish.”

“It tastes a little bit like river water.”

“It not being bitter just allows the puke taste to come out full force.”

Oettinger Pils 0,50 L bottle 4,7%
Origin: Oettingen/Tenglemann
Price: 0,35 + 0,08 Pfand
Rating: 1

“Very little foam.”

“Smells like a toilet, like piss.”

“It must be all the Spuckschlucke mixed together.” (Spuckschluck=the last sip of a beer that is more spit than beer)

“It tastes terrible.”

*Puking noises, one after the other.*

“Even drunk I don’t think it would taste good.”

“It’s the worst one we’ve had yet.”

Whether this terrible rating had something to do with the remnants of the last three beers in our glasses and mouths, or if it was really that disgusting we’ll never know. What we do know is this: one of the very same testers who rated Oettinger a big, ugly 1, had brought his own Oettinger along to drink between tests. And even worse: we’d served this very same beer in the pub we all more or less run together and had been getting drunk on it nightly for years. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Instead, I’ll tell you about 5,0.

5,0 Export 0,50 L can 5,2%
Origin: Braunschweig/Rewe
Price: 0,35 + 0,25 Pfand
Rating: 6

“Even after a good shake there’s no foam.”

“It smells ok.”

“Mmm, tastes pretty good. Best one so far.”

“It has a neutral taste, goes down pretty smooth.”

“It was a little shy at first, but now, mmmm.”

Henninger Kaiser Pils 0,50 L bottle 4,8%
Origin: Frankfurt am Main/Tenglemann
Price: 0,75 + 0,08 Pfand
Rating: 6

“There’s a little bit of foam.”

“It’s pretty neutral, a little watery, pleasant but nothing special.”

“No after taste.”

“Doesn’t taste like anything. But maybe that’s the brewer’s secret. As long as it tastes like nothing it doesn’t taste bad.”

“I would like to drink some more of it.”

Karlskrone Gold 0,50 L plastic bottle 4,9%
Origin: Belgium/Aldi
Price: 0,29 + 0,25 Pfand
Rating: 3,5

“Eww, it smells like a toilet.”

“But it doesn’t taste quite as bad as it smells.”

“It’s kind of sweet.”

“Yeah, like decay.”

“It’s already gone stale, after barely a minute open.”

“At least it has the courage to taste like something.”

“I think I’m going to throw up.”

Neptun 0,5 L bottle 4,9%
Origin: Hamburg/Gas station
Price: 0,89 + 0,08 Pfand
Rating: 7

“There’s a little foam.”

“Smells ok.”



How embarrassing. We rated our alleged most hated beer a 7 and then begged for more. We almost gave it an 8, but, thinking it was 5,0, took a penalty point for the campaign they do with the German flag on the cans every time there’s a big soccer event. Then again, directly after a Karlskrone, I’d reckon that piss might even taste good.

Licher Pils 0,50 L bottle 4,9%
Origin: Hessen/Tengelmann
Price: 0,69 + 0,08 Pfand
Rating: 1

“It smells unexplainable.”

“And it has an aftertaste like BLGHJKJHUGH.” (That’s one of those barf mimic noises, folks.)

“Delicious!” Scissors was the only one who liked this one. He gave it a 9. “Give me more!”

“Tastes like bitter water. Bitter, bitter water.”

“Pfui Teufel!” (This means something like eww gross ala Deutsch.)

“Somebody shoot me.”

Faxe 1 L can 5%
Origin: Denmark/Gas station
Price: 2,19 + 0,25 Pfand
Rating: 6

“Low foam factor.”


“Tastes like perfume and paint thinner and paint, kind of like people apprenticing as hair dressers smell after class.”

“The after taste isn’t so great either.”

At this point in the taste test, our lovely bartender threw a wrench into things and–since Faxe comes in a liter can–served us Faxe again for round eleven. We didn’t notice, but with a little time to air out, the paint thinner taste had disappeared, and we liked it even more, this time awarding it 7 points. Whether this speaks positively for Faxe or negatively for our judgment, I’ll leave for you to decide, fair reader.

Hansa Pils 0,33 L can 4,8%
Origin: Dortmund/Rewe
Price: 0,35 + 0,25 Pfand
Rating: 5

“Smells like beer. Looks like beer.”

“Gross.” (This from someone who claims to like the stuff under normal circumstances.)

“Not bad, drinkable.”

Eichbaum Pils 0,50 L bottle
Origin: Mannheim/Gas station
Price: 1,09 + 0,08 Pfand
Rating: 3

“Bitter. Ech.”

“But maybe only because we’ve already drank 12 beers tonight.”


Veltins Pils 0,50 L bottle 4,8%
Origin: Grevenstein/Tengelmann
Price: 0,75 + 0,08 Pfand
Rating: 8-9

“There’s foam!”

“It must be Hansa!” (Here come some more of those biases.)

“Tastes great!”

“It’s almost too good, frighteningly good.”

“Tastes really good.”

Though Veltins was one of the cheapest beers at the Tengelmann, it’s considered a decent beer, I’ve been told. Whew. As the highest rated beer of the night, at least you can be certain that our taste buds aren’t completely warped and rotten.

Hasseröder 0,50 L bottle 4,9%
Origin: Wernigerode/Rewe
Price: 0,75 + 0,08 Pfand
Rating: 7

“There are still bubbles!”

“Pretty good.”

“It doesn’t taste like much. Smells intense, but the taste isn’t anything special.”

“Smells good. Tastes like nothing, but pleasantly like nothing.”

“Hey, guys, I think we’re drunk!”

“Hurrah,” we all yelled, finishing off our glasses happily with a chorus of clinking glass.

5,0 Pils 0,50 L can 5,0%
Origin: Braunschweig/Rewe
Price; 0,35 + 0,25 Pfand
Rating: 5,5

“Smells like nothing.”

“It’s ok. Strange somehow. Tastes like can.”

“Not bad. Not good.”

And with that a night of cheap beer debauchery ended as we moved onto vodka soy milk and garlic bread. Hopefully our intrepid advice will help you choose the right cheap beer for you the next time you’re broke in the land of the red, black, and yellow. And remember the wise words of one of our testers: “Just because we’ve been pouring beer down our throats for years doesn’t make us experts!” And how. Bottoms up.

(An abridged version of this text will also be appearing at

0 Comments on “the marauder’s guide to cheap-ass german beer

  1. Too bad you didn’t have any Astra, the most famous cheap beer in the north. It’s sour, bitter, pissy, and skunky. I’d rate it a 0 because even the ads for Astra are gawd-awful. I remember one that was splashed on all Hamburg’s bus stops for a while – two guys stumbling out of a whorehouse/strip joint with the caption: Das Bier war Klasse.

  2. drinking 5,0 Pils now. its been in the freezer. i am dreaming of a königpils. still its better that fucking gaymo altbier.

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