Watch Out IPA, Here Comes Zwickelbier -
by Tom Noomay
Zwickelbier, a centuries-old style of unfiltered German lager named after the spigot that brewers use to
taste still-fermenting beer. In a business brimming with over-the-top I.P.A.s and aggressive stouts,
American brewers are embracing German tradition to create beers that they believe can have broader
appeal. In effect what they've done is take something that’s been done for hundreds of years and all of
the sudden made it seem fresh and cool to countless beer drinkers.
For centuries, German breweries have made unfiltered beers, from malt-rich lagers to wheat ales
evocative of bananas and cloves. Though their alcohol levels are moderate, they have multifaceted
flavor; the residual yeast and proteins supply a fuller body and a cloudy hue.
Recently, AleSmith has started making kellerbiers, a closely related type of unfiltered German ales and
lagers. (They’re named for the cool cellars. keller-style pilsners and Mexican lagers are fermented for
shorter periods of time; yeast and proteins remain in the finished product, floating in suspension.
With unfiltered beers, freshness doesn’t mean they always taste best on Day 1. The flavors of yeast-rich
lagers evolve over several months. t’s a different drinking experience from week to week. At one and a
half or two months, they’re outstanding though some reach their peak (like pilsners) only after a few
weeks of age.
Some brewers describe their lagers as “unfiltered” instead of using the German jargon. For them the
word ‘unfiltered’ helps convey what the beer is better than the term ‘zwickel.’ Other breweries proudly
wave the keller and zwickel flag. For example, buoyed by brisk demand, Summit Brewing Company, in
St. Paul, Minn., made its Keller Pils a year-round offering in January. Many other brewers make a “zwickel
lager” that can be found nationwide.
For American brewers accustomed to lobbing grenades at orthodoxy, producing zwickel and keller beers
is especially appealing. What these loosely affiliated beers share is a general approach rather than rigid
Zwickelbier is really open to interpretation,” said Nick Griffin, the head brewer at Five Boroughs Brewing
Co., in NY . Last year, he brewed a zwickelbier with New York State hops, then aged the lager in red-wine
barrels for several months, adding a tannic nuance. “There are not these strict rules that are pushing
brewers from one direction or another,” he said.
The revived appeal of zwickelbier and kellerbier has not been lost on European brewers. Last year, the
beer importer Artisanal Imports brought several unfiltered German beers to the American market,
including a canned kellerbier called Grevensteiner Original.
Consider it a return to more classical methods of making beer. “If you take the long-range view, that’s
what beer drinking has been all about,” said Mark Stratton, Artisanal’s German portfolio manager. “There’s
nothing new under the sun, as they say, but this seems new to a lot of people.
beernexus.com - SPECIAL REPORT
Unfiltered Lager Makes Comeback
|From an article by
Joshua M. Bernstein
in the NY Times
| Submitted material for authorship
for this page is not verified.