“Frühschoppen” usually happen on Sunday mornings and is an occasion or ritual which is highly treasured by the participants. It usually brings together some members of the Stammtisch (explained on another page).
On Sundays after church while the women go home and start preparing the “Mittagessen”, the big meal served at noon, the men make a beeline to their local beer parlor for a cool beer and the possibility to discuss the local news, “male” gossip and review the bygone week. Even discussing politics is not taboo and some of these discussions can become quite lively. Yes, they do serve beer before noon in Bavaria. Growing up I remember the pastor of a church in a nearby town actually starting his “Frühschoppen” already before church, when the time came he covered his glass with a “Bierfilz” (What is it? Follow the link), went to church to do his job and afterwards you found him back enjoying the rest of his beer with some of his parishioners.
It also has a daily counterpart called the “Dämmerschoppen”, from “Dämmerung” or dusk. In many cases it is now a mixed gender occasion to relax, informally get together with friends and reflect on the day.
As “Schoppen” or small beer implies, these gatherings do not mean overindulging and most participants really will only have one drink before going home.
The American equivalent would be the men seen gathering at a local diner for a cup of coffee in the morning and others stopping for a drink on the way home from work.