From David- the founder of Sommbeer:
It had been a long day and it was only 2 pm. I had walked every one of the 6 stories at the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart Germany. Now I was exhausted and needed to find a place to eat.
(Almost) nothing is open on Sunday in Germany.
I had no car so I walked and walked trying to find anything that had food. My smartphone alerted me to something called a sports bar nearby. I had already walked 8 miles that day but my pace quickened at the anticipation of food and beer. I walked onto their outdoor patio, ordered a beer and food and enjoyed a local soccer match all next door to Mercedes stadium – this was going to be a fun afternoon.
A moment later a group of 3 young kids and their grandmother sat at the table next to mine. The waiter promptly walked up and with everyone speaking German it could easily be assumed they had placed their order. I was focused on the soccer match and my fine Dunkel. On this hot day it was perfect with the meat and cheese dish I had ordered.
The waiter walked up to the table with 3 kids and grandma to serve then their drinks. He placed two beers and two pops on the table, 2 beers 2 pops – 3 kids and grandma. My mind couldn’t register this and I kept my focus on the game. Finally, I awakened to this surreal experience going on next to me. The oldest youngster had a beer in front of her bigger than mine, or so it seemed. She looked like she was 14, 15? I have no idea but she was clearly not 21. Kids can drink beer as early as 16 in Germany – and this is the basis for my story.
I had traveled on foot and train all over western Germany for 2 weeks. My sampling of German culture occurred as early as 6am and as late as midnight on the subways. During all of these times I saw teenagers and young adults enjoying themselves by socializing, playing and drinking. Obnoxious behavior was limited and restrained. Kids can drink beer in Germany but only I seemed to be fascinated by this concept – they certainly were not.
German Youth drinking age
14 Years – Beer and wine with a custodian
16 Years – Beer and wine without a custodian
18 years – Liquor
On a Saturday evening I stumbled across a beer garden in Munich – St Augustiner Keller. I enjoyed my sausage and beer(s). Next to me was a table full of 5 teenagers clutching ginormous glasses of half drunken beer. They were boisterous but well behaved. They seemed to understand the boundaries of what they were allowed to do with their drinking privileges.
Allowing kids to drink early in life while maintaining strict rules and boundaries, seemed to take some “pressure off the dam”. They didn’t explode into crazy drunken behavior likes kids in the US do once they are free from parents at college. I am certain there are plenty of exceptions in Germany. In fact, some Germans told me that drunken youths are causing some issues but overall it seemed to be working in Germany. Does the practice of early age drinking create a population of more responsible adults? I say yes.
Now it’s important to note that excessive drinking at a young age is the last thing we want to encourage. Young brains are developing and are vulnerable to damage. Truthfully, moderation in all things is good for us all.
It is also important to note that Europe and Germany have very very strict drinking and driving laws (read this link if you truly want to be scared ). It could be argued that giving kids beers while allowing them to drive is insane and I would agree. For this reason, we could not simply flip the switch here in the US and allow teenagers to drink beer. Laws, customs and culture would all need time to adjust. That said, once the social change was digested culturally speaking we would be much better off. The explosion of drunken stupidity on a beer fueled spring break for example, just wouldn’t have the same energy if those same kids had access to an occasional beer since the age of 16. Ditching the high school football game to drink behind the bleachers wouldn’t have the same appeal if they could simply drink openly.
Kids are going to drink. Your kids are going to drink. My position is that we allow them to do so under strict rules and guidance. I would rather my kids drank and learned the good and bad (hangovers are awful) under my supervision than at a frat house or worse.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them.
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