If you’re not a fan of football, you can probably get away with ignoring it most of the time. However, the month of Brazil-based football madness that’s currently in progress is probably very hard to avoid. Here in Wiesbaden, there’s a tangible buzz of excitement in the air about the 2014 World Cup (except in this flat, following England’s confirmed early departure) and merry bands of drunken football fans in town, flags painted on their sweaty cheeks and draped proudly over their shoulders. The black, red and gold of the German team flutter on balconies, car bonnets and bicycles; even the ladies in the Karstadt food hall were wearing Germany’s full team kit before the first German game last Monday.
There are a lot of late matches because of the time difference between Brazil and Germany, so if you’re watching the games at home here, you’re going to need some cold drinks and simple snacks to sustain you. There are all sorts of patriotic nibbles available to buy, from chocolates to pasta (see photograph above), but if you’re not wearing black, red and gold this June, you can still take the lead from the Germans on the football refreshments front. Here are 5 classic German drinks and snacks to keep you going through the long nights ahead.
1. Wheat beer (Weizenbier)
Weizenbier is the classic German beergarden drink, a cloudy, aromatic beer drunk from vase-shaped glasses to keep the sweet aroma in and allow plenty of room for a big, frothy head. The best known varieties outside Germany are probably Paulaner and Erdinger, but alongside Weihenstephan and Andechser one of the best known and most widely available here in Germany is Schöfferhofer, which is very popular during the summer months and easily recognised by its bright orange label (Weizenbier is usually served in bottles, not from the tap). Toast your team with either classic, light (helles), dark (dunkles) or alcohol free wheat beer (alkoholfries Weizenbier).
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are plenty of small, local breweries producing Weizenbier, too. My husband’s current favourite, Stromberger Urbräu, produced at a small brewery close to Bingen, is a cloudy, earthy wheat beer with much more flavour and character than the big brand “television beers” mentioned above. If you’re in Wiesbaden, you can pick up a bottle – or crate – at the drinks market at Emser Straße 56.
2. Pilsner (known as Pils)
The most classic of all beers to watch football with (and the most common beer in Germany), Pils is a pale, clear, golden-blond lager that comes both in bottles and on tap. It’s served in a glass that looks a bit like a champagne flute, in order to keep the smell of the beer close to your nose as you drink. The most well known brands include Bitburger, Becks, Krombacher and Jever but unlike in pubs in the UK, a traditional German drinking establishment will usually only have one brand available on tap, as opposed to a selection – something that’s often disappointed visitors from across the Channel.
3. Strawberry punch (Erdbeerbowle)
A blend of fresh strawberries, Riesling, German champagne (Sekt) and any one of a number of other aromatic additions from elderflower to mint, the Erdbeerbowle is a perfect summer drink, and one guaranteed to liven up any picnic or barbecue – it’s far more potent than you might suspect. Vast bowls of strawberry punch are on offer at various local festivals here over the summer months; I’ve been perfecting my own recipe to share here next week, but if you can’t wait to get started, well, experimenting’s half the fun, right?
4. Fresh cheese dip (Spundekäse) with pretzels
Spundekäse is a cream cheese dip that’s a speciality of Mainz, where you can scoop it up on tiny, crunchy pretzels and enjoy it with a glass of Riesling in the very many wine taverns dotted all over town. It’s incredibly straightforward to make, just note that if you haven’t already alienated yourself from your partner with your incessant football chants, you probably will with this garlic.
200g cream cheese (Frishkäse)
1 small yellow onion, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
Ground sweet paprika
Small salted Pretzels, to serve
Mix the cream cheese, quark, onion and garlic together in a medium bowl until you have a smooth, creamy consistency. Continue to stir, carefully adding paprika until your dip is a very pale orange colour. Sprinkle a little extra paprika on top to garnish and serve with a heap of crunchy pretzels.
Essentially a refined German take on pizza, Flammkuchen has a thin, crispy base that’s slathered with sour cream (Schmand) and sprinkled with various toppings – the classic Elsass (Alsace) version being crunchy, sliced onion and diced bacon. You can buy ready-made Flammkuchen dough in the supermarkets here (in the cold section alongside fresh pasta and the like), so why not roll a sheet out, smear it with Schmand and treat yourself to the topping of you choice. How about something that reflects the football team you support: shredded chicken, green chillies and grated cheddar for Mexico, perhaps? Or Italian black olives and parma ham?
What will you be consuming whilst you watch the World Cup? And who do you watch with? Who are you supporting? Do you even care?