How Old To Drink In Germany

Traveling to Germany with a minor and wondering if they will be able to purchase or even consume alcohol?

This is a question for many tourists. While parents may allow their teenagers to have a small glass of wine with dinner now and again, it can still be against the law. 

In this article we will cover the legal drinking age in Germany and whether you can permit your growing teenager to have a sip of beer or wine whilst traveling the beautiful streets of Germany.

We will also discuss if there have been any changes to the law and how the drinking culture in Germany could impact your trip. 

Legal Drinking Age In Germany 

In Germany, the legal drinking age is 16 years old for the consumption of beverages such as beer and wine.

However, to purchase and consume spirits and harder liquor varieties, the consumer must be at least 18 years old. 

If you are under the age of 18, proof of age will be required when purchasing alcohol.

This can be a passport, ID card or driver’s license.

You must also present identification as evidence of age when purchasing any alcohol, regardless of how little alcohol is present and no matter your age.

Legal Drinking Age In Munich 

It is often misconstrued that the legal drinking age in Munich is different from other parts of Germany. This is not true.

The legal drinking age in Munich is still 16 years of age  for fermented beverages and 18 years of age for anything stronger. 

This miscommunication is often caused by the famous Oktoberfest.

Here, younger people are often seen holding large steins of beer and consuming beer in large quantities. This is often not the case.

People younger than 16 attending Oktoberfest are generally consuming a Shandy (Radler), which is half beer and half lemonade or even an Apple Juice Spritzer which is half apple juice and half sparkling water.

These beverages can have the same appearance as beer when served in a stein glass making it seem like they are consuming alcohol. 

While Munich may seem much more relaxed on their drinking laws, this is not the case.

You must be 16 years of age in order to drink beer, cider or wine and 18 for spirits and other alcoholic beverages.

Without proof of age you may be denied the purchasing and consumption of alcohol. 

Restaurants & Bars 

So, anyone over the age of 16 can purchase and consume alcohol without the permission of a legal guardian. But what about when a legal guardian is present?

When sitting down for a meal at a restaurant, a person over the age of 14 is able to consume and possess alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine with the permission of a Custodial Person. 

Now, you won’t see a young person under the age of 16 going to the bar and purchasing alcohol.

But you may see someone of 14 sitting at a table, having a meal with their family and enjoying a cold beer or a nice glass of wine.

A legal parent or guardian must be present and give their permission in order for the alcohol to be purchased. 

This is rather normal practice in Germany and throughout many other parts of Europe.

Proposed Changes To Germany’s Legal Drinking Age 

At the beginning of 2022, the German government’s drugs czar presented an argument to raise the legal drinking age of beer and wine from 16 to 18.

It was also proposed that there may be more regulations on alcohol and tobacco advertising. 

The rule allowing young teenagers at the age of 14 to have a fermented beverage in the presence of their legal guardian was to be abolished.

Raising the legal age of all alcoholic purchasing and consumption to 18. 

Many disagreed with the proposal claiming that having a supervised alcoholic beverage was more beneficial that getting intoxicated at a party with friends. 

In March 2022, the proposal was dismissed meaning that the legal purchasing and drinking age of fermented beverages remains 16, with strong beverages being 18.

Young people of 14 are still allowed to consume fermented beverages such as beer, wine and champagne in a public place with the permission of a legal guardian. 

German Drinking Culture 

Although the rest of the world might view Germany’s legal drinking age as being rather lenient, this does not mean that you should let youngsters or minors who are under your supervision and who meet the legal drinking age in Germany just go ahead and drink.

As you walk the streets of German cities and towns you will rarely see Germans being drunk and disorderly in public.

This is often a shock to tourists due to the image festivals such as Oktoberfest create around the country. 

Germans will often have a glass of wine or a pint of beer with a meal before heading home for the evening.

Young Germans may partake in club culture on weekends and may cause more noise. Although it is rarely aggressive. 

Many Germans prefer drinking in the comfort of their own home over drinking at a bar or restaurant.

Although, you may still struggle to get a table if you head out for dinner or a late evening meal. 

Drinking In Public 

Unlike the majority of the US, drinking in public in Germany is tolerated. It is not always legal and if you are disrupting the peace, police are allowed to stop you.

However, if you wish to have a beer with your picnic, you will be left alone. 

Final Thoughts 

While the laws around alcohol in Germany seem pretty lax compared to other countries, there are regulations in place. 

Anyone over the age of 16 can purchase and consume fermented beverages such as beer, wine and champagne without the permission of a Custodial Parent.

You must be 18 years of age in order to purchase strong alcoholic variants such as spirits and have proof of age. 

So if you are 16 or older you can enjoy a refreshing alcoholic beverage throughout your trip. Just don’t forget ID!