On the names and types of German country beer.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.