What is set up as the master-vice among ourselves is in him a sort of amiable weakness. He is like the husband who was pronounced "a good kind of a drunken body, with no harm in him." "He does not take raw spirits like our wretched working classes," you say but even that is not strictly true. The Schnaps is a considerable institution in Germany, and if you are an early riser you will often see a glass of brandt-wine or kirschen-wasser, or bitters taken, to fortify the stomach for the heavy beer-drinking of the day. But let us look at fermented liquors alone. It will shock no German to impute to him the consumption of a couple of bottles of wine in any given day - not though you should make it out to be three or four. Now the sages in chemistry tell us that the mildest wine made has 8 per cent, of alcohol in it - that without that it cannot be wine at all. Strong ports and sherry have 24 or 25 per cent. Take the average German vintage at half of this - 12.5 per cent. Well, in proof spirit, which is a good deal above the average of the gin-palace, the amount of alcohol is 50 per cent. It follows that in a couple of bottles of this very harmless stuff there is as much spirit as in half a bottle of good gin or brandy. Then we are told that the strength of the strongest malt liquors just comes to 8 per cent. — that of the weakest wines. If we suppose that excellent liquor, Bavarian beer, to be half as strong as this, there is room for it to communicate a good deal of fire when consumed on the enormous native scale. In any place of entertainment in Bavaria, if a Kelner sees your beer-flagon empty, he immediately fills it for you without request or hint. Bavarian nature abhors such a vacuum, and the nerves of a kindly Kelner will not permit him to behold such a type of misery as an empty beer-flagon. I was told in this region that the universal passion for beer was made a highly available instrument in the suppression of crime — seeing that in countries where nothing of the kind prevailed, it is impossible to bring punishment up to so afflictive a height, consistent with the preservation of the criminal's health, as the stopping of a Bavarian's beer; while, for the purposes of prison discipline, the power on some occasions slightly to relax the prohibition was a bribe to good conduct, so potent to leave far behind anything we can accomplish through our inferior social institutions. How much beer the inhabitants of this or any other part of Germany habitually consume, can only be matter for guess-work ; but any one who knows the country will not denounce from one to two gallons per day as extravagant. Now, on the supposition of the 4 per cent., a gallon of beer is equivalent to half a bottle of spirits. In the novel by Freytag, called "Debit and Credit," supposed to be so accurate a picture of German manners, we are told that the average allowance of beer to a packer — the allowance which it is not creditable to him to exceed - is forty pints a day — more than three gallons, and certainly endowed with more alcohol than a bottle and a half of ordinary spirituous liquor.— "My Latest Vacation Excursion," in Blackwood's Magazine." Kentish Gazette - Tuesday 08 November 1864, page 2.
That description of starting the day with a schnapps or two to set you up for a day's beer-drinking could be about me when I'm in Germany. I'm glad to know that I'm fitting right in with German traditions. German spirits are still on the weak side. Much of the impulse schnapps I slurp down on my hols is only 30% ABV.
Bringing you a new beer when your glass is empty? That sounds more like the Rhineland than modern Bavaria. I wonder when that practice died out? I could have done with that sort of action during my Long Wait in the Hofbräuhaus (more than 60 minutes - I've not been back since).