PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 June, 2006, 12:00am


Every German barmaid knows how to pour a beer. This is an esoteric art, and not something you and I can do. Having a head on a beer is very important in a country where it is virtually the national drink. Germany has nearly 1,400 breweries producing almost 5,000 brands of everything from ale to lager, which is brewed using just four ingredients - malt, yeast, hops and water.

Germany produces 10 per cent of the world's beer, but most is drunk domestically with only 10 per cent exported. These 82.4 million Germans are a thirsty lot. So imagine the dismay when fans found out their favoured brew wouldn't be on sale at the 12 stadiums being used for this World Cup.

German-sounding American beer Budweiser is the official sponsor. It is made by Anheuser-Busch. Due to legal issues, the beer is sold in Germany under the Anheuser-Bud name. The bottom-line is that German beer - apart from some small home-town brews - cannot be sold at any stadium.

'It is a shame that being in Germany we cannot drink the German beer of our choice at the stadium,' said Australian car-dealer Jim Waldon from Perth. 'But this is big business I guess.'

He is right. Fifa sold the beer rights to Bud which has half the market share in the United States. Never mind the rich heritage of German beer.

The locals don't like the official World Cup beer because it is not 'pure'. Stringent laws govern how beer is made in Germany. A law passed in Bavaria in the 16th century - the German Reinheitsgebot (purity law) - is still applied nationwide and demands that brewers use only the four ingredients mentioned earlier.

The problem with Budweiser is that it is made with rice - and to a purist German beer-drinker, this is sacrilege. I have tried four different types of German beer, and I must say the Bitburger is the one I really fancy.

'We love our beers,' says Philipp Engel, who owns a restaurant in the quaint town of Speyer, near the French border. 'It was a real shock for us to find out the popular local brews wouldn't be on sale at the stadiums. But maybe this is the fault of our beer companies for not trying to win the rights from Fifa.'

I bumped into Engel after the game between Australia and Japan in Kaiserslautern. Obviously the Australian fans were not worried about what beer was being sold at the ground after their fantastic 3-1 win over Japan. All that mattered at that stage was that it was beer.

Engel, however, invited me to try out a couple of the brews made by smaller breweries in his town. The Domhaus beer went down very nicely, especially after surviving the stresses of the day - and finding out that my hotel was 150 kilometres away from Kaiserslautern.

I had to agree with Engel - the German beer had a rich taste to it. And it tastes even better when it's free. But I had to draw the line after a few steins when he began to ply me with apple wine, another favourite German tipple. All those Bits and Doms were taking a toll and I had a long train ride to Berlin in the morning.

Number of the Day: 121 - Germans drink 121 litres of beer per head per year, a sharp decline from 142 litres in the 90s. The world's biggest beer drinkers, however, are the Czechs followed by the Irish.