Kellerbier, Zwickelbier, Zoiglbier, Landbier and Lagerbier

On the names and types of German country beer.

Kellerbier

There is enough beer in the states using the term Keller that most people understand it to be unfiltered lager, usually Pilsner. In Franconia, though Kellerbier is not referred to as a strict style by brewers, there are common appearance and flavor properties found in those that use the name Keller, rather than Landbier, Pilsner, Lagerbier or Zwickel. Some describe Kellerbier as a process rather than a recipe, where the beer is served from gravity keg primed naturally with carbonation, sometimes from Kräusening, and to be legally classified as Kellerbier, the beer must remain unfiltered. What many breweries call Kellerbier could also be called unfiltered Pilsner (Pilsner malt, Spalt and/or Hallertauer hops, no filtration), while other examples using the name Kellerbier are more malty, often with a touch of Munich malt to darken the beer and provide a sweeter, more savory mouth feel.

I have found that truly superb Kellerbier rarely survives in a bottle. There are a few examples imported into the United States, most notably Mönchshof and Mahrs Bräu Ungespundet, which tend not to arrive in good shape. It’s not the fault of the distributor or the importer, bottled Kellerbier in Germany isn’t much different, even when fresh. In Franconia you can easily find dozens of bottled Kellerbier in a single day, but few retain freshness and vibrancy, even when bought direct from the brewery. Very, very few bottled Kellerbiers can recreate the frothy natural carbonation poured from gravity barrel.

Top Rated Kellerbier

Gänstaller Bräu Kellerbier

Gänstaller Bräu
5.3% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(4.5/5)
first had on draft at Beck Brauerei in Trabelsdorf before Andreas left to start on his own. since then I’ve had it twice more at the Zoiglstube in Strassgeich. I rate it around 4.3-4.5, but give it a 5.0 because it’s a personal favorite, one that I dream of drinking every day. notice the ratings drop off the further you get from the brewery (and in bottles too, which Andreas has stopped doing for this beer in recent years). If you want a taste of the best kellerbier in Germany, make the effort and travel to Bamberg and then Strassgeich. the old rating: heavy cloudiness, light copper in color. nose of creamed semi-sour peach skin, snappy/woody/pine-nut hops. creamy and rich texture, exceptionally well structured with tight carbonation and a soft, silky mouthfeel. pear skin, grapefruit rind, prickly and spicy yeast... expertly crafted.

Roppelt Kellerbier

Brauerei Roppelt
4.9% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(3.7/5)
draft at Brauerei Roppelt in Stiebarlimbach, as Roppelt Lagerbier. hazed pale gold body with a creamy and fine white head. cheesy and musty and spicy German hop nose reminds me of Ganstallar Zwicklpils, though much less yeasty. astoundingly soft velvet texture with fine creamy carbonation. musty, grassy, cheesy, lightly spicy hops character with a full dose of fruit nectar and jelly. very hop-focused experience, which is somewhat un-Bavarian. lemon and lime oils, perfume / potpourri, grasses / herbs all dance with energy. snappy crisp to the back-end of an otherwise perfectly soft malt body. juicy, bitter, fresh and endlessly drinkable.

Again in November 2013, it was limp, watery, fruity, apple-y / green. Probably 3.2 level stuff. I’ll keep the 4.4 high water mark but say it varies like a lot of Franconian beer, more than you would think initially.
March 2015: okay, a little odd / metallic, not as hoppy or grassy, malt kind of flabby. 3.4-3.6 level stuff.

Griess Kellerbier

Brauerei Griess
5.1% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(4.1/5)
From wooden gravity keg at the brewery in Giesfeld (June 2008). hazy body with a patchy off-white head. Nose of old fruit and nuts, some grassy hops. Wet grain / bread, hay, wheat, etc. Toasty and soft.

re-rate May 2013: quite nice, very floral, lemony, flowery and fresh. smooth malt texture, creamy low carbonation. definitely in good shape, a surprise to find again.

again in November 2013: Nectary, lemony, doughy, juicy, some Vitamin b and sulfur. less hoppy than before. still solid.

Krug-Bräu Kellerbier

Krug-Bräu Breitenlesau
5% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(4.2/5)
Draft at Fränkisches Bierfest Nürnberg.
Juicy and floral lemon hop aroma, very expressive.
Superbly soft malt plays with minerallic water, crisp body and prickly, grassy, green-ish hops.
Pilsner malt and German hop beauty.
Dry, crisp, clean, wonderfully expressive with both malt and hop.
Yeast rounds and mellows and doesn’t overstep into masking.
Enjoyably bright and clean malt expression.
Cheese, cream, lemon oil, melon, tropical / citrus hints.
Wonderfully balanced and flavorful.

Rittmayer Hallerndorfer Kellerbier

Brauerei Rittmayer Hallerndorf
5% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(3.6/5)

Nov 2012: bottle at Brauerei Rittmeyer in Hallerndorf. clear rusty orange body, a color found often in vienna and marzen. toasted and burnt red malt and orange pulp hops in the nose. grainy and husky, both in smell and taste. starchy and crunchy malt is redeemed slightly by the juicy orange hops, but it’s still too sweet and husky to be a treat. as it breathes there are more dominant burnt corn kernel and burnt nut smells and flavors. no doubt would be a better experience on draft, fresher. (3.1/5)

May 2013: draft at Rittmayer keller Kreuzberg.
Grainy dog food aroma and flavor. Acidic and course. Solvent and acid and stale cracklin’ oat bran and dry pet food mix. Really awful shape. (2.4/5).

May 2013: draft at Brauerei Rittmayer in Hallerndorf.
Here it is in fine shape. Juicy orange gelatin malt and equally juicy orange and lemon hops. Clean smelling, no defects, sweet, moderately bitter, minerallic and quenching. Wish it could be like this every day. (4.0/5).
I guess just beware of condition. I’ve had it at the brauhaus twice, once fantastic, once not so good. It’s a shame that the beer isn’t more consistent, but maybe it’s just not cared for, even in the brewers own house.

Lieberth Kellerbier

Brauerei Lieberth
4.8% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(3.9/5)
draft at Lieberth in Hallerndorf. incredibly deep and rich nose of spicy, pungent spalt hops with a superbly clean pilsner malt honey sweetness, it’s both brilliantly spicy and magically juicy, cracker-y and dough-y with perfectly soft carbonation and a soft, creamy mouthfeel from two-stage decoction mashing. balanced between sweet and bitter at the exact perfect spot, with soft, velvety carbonation, fruit spice edel hops, soft malt texture and a rich rustic-ness provided by the yeast. a superb lager, legit mid-4 raised to 5.0 because it’s a personal favorite experience from November 2012, but in May 2013 the batch was grainy, simpler, less juicy and much less soft. so, at one point this was a 4.5 for me, but less than a year later this is probably a 3.6.

Zwickelbier, Zwickel-Pils, and Zwick’l with the apostrophe

Another non-style, more of a method. To put it simply: zwick’l is to be poured directly from the tank spigot. Many lagers labeled zwick’l are made entirely from Pilsner malt, but what one brewery calls Zwickelpils, another may call Kellerbier. It is typical to find most beers labeled Zwickel brewed in the style of Pilsner, but left cloudy in keg and bottle, which isn’t much different than calling it Kellerbier or Landbier.

However, true Zwickelbier is bunged in the tank to increase carbonation, something that is usually not done with Kellerbier. To put it another way: it’s not a style, it’s a method, but it’s a method usually applied to what we classify as unfiltered Pilsners. If you have a naturtrüb Pilsner, or maybe somebody calls it hefetrüb Pilsner, you would be right calling it Zwickelpils. But some Zwickelbier may be made with a touch of Munich or Caramel malt, and it’s not uncommon to find Zwickelbier Dunkles in Franconia.

Also you may want to throw in that apostrophe for Zwick’l to suggest an inflection is necessary. In German it is common to see an apostrophe stuck in for a missing letter, in this case the e in Zwickel.

Top Rated Zwickel

Brauerei zur Sonne Zwickel

Brauerei zur Sonne
5.3% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(4.1/5)
fom vass at du sonne in bischberg. light yellow, faintly cloudy. creamy, silky pure white head. beautiful. zesty, crisp, hoppy, juicy, wonderfully balance of light crispness and pillowy/foamy yeast with a frothy/full and thick texture. fills the mouth. zesty lemon grass and pine nuts along with some honeydew, honeysuckle, dried lemon rind and mild floral perfume. amazing zwickel. shamefully unappreciated here on ratebeer.

Hennemann Zwickelbier Naturtrüb

Brauerei Hennemann Sambach
4.9% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(3.8/5)
draft at Hennemann in Sambach. called Zwicklbier dunkel. amber body, lightly hazed and effervescent with a small off-white head. beautiful initial whiff of Munich malt cookie batter and sweet pastry with toasty, minerally. nice firmness. rich and succulent cookie and honey malt showcase. there’s actually some gamey notes and a small corn twang that creeps up as it sits in the glass, but even that is pretty pleasant. this is a Munich malt lager with only a small amount of yeast, and it’s absolutely delicious.

Gänstaller Bräu Zwickelpils

Gänstaller Bräu
5% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(4/5)
draft at the zoiglstube, pulled from a keg in the cooler. a synergy of tangy, bright, pungent lemon zest noble hops with wheat-like smoothness and creaminess. doughy and fluffy and light bodied and pillowy throughout with lemon / orange pith hop flavor, honey biscuit malt flavor and immensely pleasant dryness. it’s like you can taste the just-picked hops, just-cut barley and the dust of the earth itself. retate in 2013 from multiple samples: just too damn yeast. cheese rind mustiness and dish soap esters abound.

Villacher Zwickl

Vereinigte Kärntner Brauereien
5% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(3.6/5)
draft at bieradies in vienna, called villacher kellerbier. faintly hazed golden colored body with a frothy white head. nose is toasted grains, toasted/smoked crackers/dried barley. snappy malt boy, medium thickness, could use some more heft. butter noticed but mostly it’s clean honey and biscuit malts with a small amount of doughy yeast. carbonation is a little too fizzy but body is hefty enough to make up for it. crisp, lightly sweet, syrupy, medium to light hop presence. decent.

Landbier

In German it simply means county beer. Beer of the land. Like Kellerbier and Zwickel, not really style, but not for the same reason. Landbier is a catch-all name that Franconian brewers have used for hundreds of years, so it’s more of a marketing term than a beer style. At many of these small breweries, the simplicity of the beer menu goes no further than pale, amber and dark, each one could be called Landbier. Landbier Helles and Landbier Dunkles essentially mean Hell and Dunkel and no more, but there are also a number of extremely hoppy beers called Landbier that could just as well be called Kellerbier or Pilsner (if filtered). Makes sense, right? The term Dunkles Kellerbier is used occasionally, which makes it confusing as to where it should be classified in online beer databases, Dunkel or Zwickel/Keller/Landbier? Flip a coin.

Witzgall Landbier

Brauerei Witzgall
5.2% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(4.8/5)
draft at Witzgall Keller. lightly hazed orange body with a fluffy white head. tremendously vibrant peach and mandarin orange esters in the nose. a lot of tart stone fruit skin, strong fruit juiciness, significant floral / herbal esters. as it opens and breathes it shows more lemon and spice hoppiness. medium-full mouth presence, soft, low carbonation with strong froth. rich and expressive hop juiciness throughout. sweet muffin and bread malt with the medium/medium-high bitterness seems very well in-balance. one of the hoppiest and juiciest Franconian lagers.

Schroll Nankendorfer Landbier

Brauerei Schroll Nankendorf
5.2% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(3.9/5)
draft at Café Abseits in Bamberg, on the menu at Landbier Dunkel, and bottle afterwards. it’s a toasty malt showcase - that’s my new phrase, yes. toasty and crunchy oats and kilned barley and low but adequately-matched noble hop bitterness. light caramel residue, medium dry, medium acid, medium-low bitterness. delicious.

Ammerndorfer Landbier Dunkel

Dorn-Bräu Ammerndorf
5.6% Dunkel/Tmavý
(3.9/5)
fresh bottle. clear brilliant chestnut brown body with a small foamy off-white head. straight shot showcase of Munich malt in the nose with lovely scents of toasted nut oils, toasted cereal, light toffee, crunchy bunt cake, etc. rich, tangy, deep nose from the first sniff. soft minerals and baked cookie malt. frothy, full carbonation with a moderately chewy medium-heavy texture. medium sweetness drying across the back and warming late, which is especially pleasant with the toasty, crunchy, lively, clean and deep Munich malt flavor.

Knoblach Schammelsdorfer Dunkles Landbier

Brauerei Knoblach
5% Dunkel/Tmavý
(3.6/5)
Draft at the brewery. Chestnut brown body, clear with a fine white head. Crusty bread / toast malt in the nose with some grassy / herbal hops which show up as a strong green bitterness in the finish, out of balance bitterness even, which is strange to find in Franconia. Lingering bitterness, how did this become a staple here? Leafy green herbalness. Cookie and toast and grassy hops, a fun one for sure, though I’ve had bad versions which are more simplr cola-malt oriented but my friends seemed to enjoy more.

Rittmayer Hallerndorfer Landbier Hell

Brauerei Rittmayer Hallerndorf
4.9% Dortmunder/Helles
(3.8/5)

November 2012: Draft at Brauerei Rittmayer in Hallendorf as lagerbier.
Filtered gold body under a billowy and soft white head. Bright and hoppy nose, peppery and clean, sweet and thin honey and biscuit-flavored pilsner malt with moderate bitterness. Soft carbonation, good froth. Mild to medium German hop expression seems unmatched for the body and sweetness, and impart a minty greenness and leafiness on top of the already-sweet pale malt. (3.4/5)

May 2013: draft at Rittmayer keller Kreuzberg.
Fine shape. Clean, malty, lightly doughy, very cracker-y. Mild lemon hop aroma. Oily / soapy texture. Crisp finish. (3.5/5)

May 2013: draft at Brauerei Rittmayer Hallerndorf.
Even better. Clean, crisp, more expressive aroma (though probably just the state of my nose at the two times). Smooth and crisp, well-lagered. Still quiet. No soapy finish. (3.8/5)

June 2013: bottle as Plop Landbier.
Kinda flabby, apple-y and butter-y. Limp malt mouthfeel. Low carbonation. Slightly stale. Not a good representation. (3.0/5)

St. Georgen Bräu Landbier Dunkel

St. Georgen Bräu
4.9% Dunkel/Tmavý
(3.7/5)
draft at eulenspiegel in bamberg. dark caramel colored body, clear. rich and tangy, sharp and slightly sweet with toffee and sweetened vanilla malt and a hint of cocoa. much like a dunkler bock but hoppier like an altbier. rich, tangy, crisp, malt-driven, snappy and sharp. wonderful.

The lesson is: you may have two exactly similar beers brewed a kilometer apart but given different names. The Germans aren’t hung up on style classifications like us Americans, they are giving you a general description of what the beer is: dunkles landbier means “dark countryside lager”, plain as day.

Zoigl

Unfiltered, usually pale, countryside lager of Oberpfalz (the Upper Palatinate) region of Bavaria, bordering the western edge of Czech Republic. To be authentic Zoilgbier you must satisfy three criteria: 1) be produced by a family with brewing rights at a community-owned brewery (Kommunbrauhaus), 2) which is entirely wood-fired (no electricity), and 3) be fermented inside the family home. There are a lot of beers which appropriate the name Zoigl but are not authentic Zoiglbier, and while it’s not a style, there are some common flavor and appearance benchmarks that brewers try to follow in order to recreate Zoiglbier: usually darker than just Pilsner malt, typically light amber and malty and many times sweet and sometimes very musty. But authentic Oberpfalz Zoiglbier ranges from pale to dark, malty and sweet to hoppy and dry, low to high effervescence, clean to yeasty, and so on. It’s not uncommon to find a funky odor in a Zoiglbier, game-y yeast and infection during fermentation is possible. It is up to you to determine if that character is desirable or not.

Top Rated Zoigl

Kommunbrauhaus Windischeschenbach Posterer Zoigl

Kommunbrauhaus Windischeschenbach
5.1% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(4.1/5)
draft at Zum Posterer in Windischeschenbach
hazed honey amber body with a fine and soft white head. rich and creamy mouthfeel, full-bodied with frothy full carbonation. toasty biscuit pilsner malt with spicy peppercorns and mildly musty / pungent yeast, turning to shades of mushroom, soil and wood, then to minerals and seasalt, then to fresh, juicy, pulpy nectar and toffee crackers / sugar-glazed almond pastries. one of the gems from this leg in zoigl land.

Kommunalbrauhaus Neuhaus Bahler Zoigl

Kommunalbrauhaus Neuhaus
5.1% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(4.3/5)
October 2009: the first and last zoigl of the night. first impressions were a bit wonky as they had just begun pouring and the carbonation and body seemed flabby and lifeless. but later that night it’s conditioned had changed remarkably and it was "on". appearance was hazy golden wheat with a rocky and soft fine-bubbled white head. nose is malt/grain-rich with spiced / rustic honey, apples, butter and hay, with snappy malt and a minerally and zesty yeast quality. amazingly fresh and vibrant, exceptionally deep and complex, and immeasurably drinkable. froth and rich texture, perfectly mashed, perfectly structured. i drank a lot of this later during the night. (4.3)

August 2014: We wedding crashed Zoiglstube Bahler on a Saturday night, sneaking inside to taste a small glass and being told to sit outside next to the wedding guests where they poured us a small glass of the Zoiglbier. Unfortunately it was in terrible shape. Strong diacetyl, lots of sugar, flabby mouth feel. Boo on this. (2.4)

Kommunbrauhaus Windischeschenbach Weisser Schwan Zoigl

Kommunbrauhaus Windischeschenbach
5% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(3.7/5)
Wonderfully floral and biscuity nose, the malt is sharp and crunchy, the hops are bright and prickly and the carbonation is effervescent, prickly and tight. floral dried hops impart a wonderful rustic character on top of a sharp, firm and minerallic malt body. chalky, resinous, minerally, just freaking amazing from front to back. (4.3)

That’s the experience when it’s "on", but I’ve had it in bad shape so many times that I have to lower my score... they have a problem with cleanliness where the beer smells like dish rag and white vinegar, and it’s happened more than once. Shame that it’s one of the best beers in Germany in good shape, and one of the absolutely worst when it’s not treated with care.

Kommunalbrauhaus Neuhaus Schoilmichl Zoigl

Kommunalbrauhaus Neuhaus
4.8% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(4.2/5)
October 2009: Draft at Schoilmichl in Nuehaus, Tag der Kommunbrauer. Hazed golden body, rocky white head.
Zesty and effevescent. Peppery, sweet, honey malt, wheat, hay, dried hop cones. Bitter, juicy, carbonic. (3.4)

November 2012: Draft at Zum Waldhauser in Neustadt i.d. Waldnaab, as Waldhauser Zoigl. Hazy golden orange with a billowy head.
Aroma is juicy orange and lemon Noble hops. Juicy, slighly musty, quite rustic. Quenching acidity, satisfying sweetness, sulfuric-lemon focused with a savory dash of darker malt. Hoppy and bitter and quenching. (4.2)

August 2014: Draft at Schoilmichl in Nuehaus.
Sulfur, lemon, cheese rind, faint game-y skin sweat notes. Carbonic and sharp, minerallic and crunchy. Sweet pastry bread honey malt with bitter noble hops. Strongest mineral character of any Zoiglbier in my experience. (4.2)

Kommunalbrauhaus Neuhaus Sausewind Zoigl

Kommunalbrauhaus Neuhaus
5% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(2/5)
Retried November 2015 and it was in horrible shape! Lightly hazed gold, smells of dirty dish rag and vinegar, thin and watery body, sour and sweet, doesn’t even resemble beer much. (2.0)

draft at hotel waldnaab/sausewind stube, 2009 tag der kommunbrauer. dimpled mug. mostly clear light honey colored body with a silky fine-bubbled white head. frother, fresh, zesty and hoppy, smells and tastes of hearty/husky wheat and cracked cereal grains. wet and oily but a little more zest and bite than other zoigls, and has a heftier malt body. clean and snappy. pick up a little bit of soured mashed potatoes in the finish but that’s not as bad as it sounds. a wonderful zoigl - fresh, zesty, hoppy. (4.0)

Lagerbier

The term lagerbier has become known as a type because of the few Franconian breweries that continued to call it such. Lagerbier is understood to be gold to very pale amber, lightly hopped, sweeter and with an alcohol range around or slightly higher than Helles or Pilsner, and generally lower than Festbier. Many are very malt-driven and rich, like a fuller Munich-style Helles. Sometimes filtered, sometimes cloudy. There are no rules. That’s the important thing to learn.

Lieberth Lagerbier

Brauerei Lieberth
5% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(4.2/5)
10-day old bottle from the brewer. lagered for 8 weeks. ridiculously luscious hallertauer perfumed stone fruit with zesty and peppery spalt spice. soft doughiness and mineral content with frothy, full, lively carbonation, medium-low pale malt sweetness with touches of toasted cereals, superbly clean, delicious and satisfying.

Roppelt-Bräu Lagerbier

Roppelt-Bräu Trossenfurt
4.9% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(4.1/5)
draft at the brewery in trossenfurt. called the pils or helles, to be honest i’m not sure, it was the only beer available and it sure as hell wasn’t a dunkel. rich, frothy, crisp and wet, snappy, minerally, amazing. minimally hoppy, leans to the sweet side with biscuit and honey flavored malt, very clean, very lush, very frothy and dense for such a light beer. little bit of hay and dried straw in the finish, small amount of tingly hop bitterness. another incredibly good franconian lager that gets no love on ratebeer.

Aecht Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier

Brauerei Heller
4.3% Dortmunder/Helles
(4.5/5)
Perfectly clear deep gold color, sizeable white head with large bubbles popping and leaving a spider web of lacing on the glass. Stone, dried hay, honey-ish melanoidins ala Heller Bock, subtle char, burnt biscuits against citric-herbal, peppery, sticky hop oils. It’s more bitter in 2017 than it’s ever been, perfectly balanced by lush and firm carbonation. Masterwork.

Fässla Lagerbier

Brauerei Fässla
5.5% Dortmunder/Helles
(3.9/5)
Draft at the brewery in Bamberg. Clear yellow. Savory and full bodied. Noble hops, malt-forward, rich.

Löwenbräu Buttenheim Ungespundetes Lagerbier

Löwenbräu Buttenheim
4.8% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
(3.8/5)
croc at Löwenbräu Buttenheim
huge rocky soap foam head. medium-light body with snappy clean malt and grassy, herbal, spicy hops. with the medium-low body and low carbonation is does seem to be a bit flabby, mostly in the finish. the fresh German hop character is quite nice: snazzy, bright, zingy acid seems to keep the body held together enough. lightly toasty malt is pleasant and clean, but this is really a hop vehicle, nice juicy / citrusy expression, with a nicely old-world doughy yeast character as well. very nice.

Krug-Bräu Dunkles Lagerbier

Krug-Bräu Breitenlesau
5% Dunkel/Tmavý
(3.7/5)
Draft at Fränkisches Bierfest Nürnberg.
Clear chestnut brown with a large off-white head.
Toasty, nutty, doughy, bready, inviting aroma.
Okay so there’s some wet dog hair but that’s probably just me.
Medium body and dry.
Toasty, nutty dark cara malts; crunchy.
Faint just-roasted dark malt.
Fantastically frothy and vivid in the mouth.
Presence, buddy.

You can see I’m not interested in making rules. I’m only attempting to explain a complicated venn diagram of German country lagers in terms of common appearance, aroma, flavor and texture characteristics.

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BJCP-certified beer judge, photographer, and software developer from Boulder, Colorado. I use this site to chronicle my worldwide beer adventures shared through photography and stories, with a focus on traditional old world brewing practices.

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