Zoigl(bier), Zwickelbier

Pronunciation guide for English-speakers:

Literally "cellar beer," this is an unfiltered lager, usually strongly flavored with aromatic hops. Kellerbiers come in a wide range of strengths, but they are often brewed to an Okoberfestbier-Märzenbier strength of about 5 to 5.3% alcohol by volume. More often than not, a Kellerbier is deep amber in color, perhaps with a reddish tinge, as a result of a good addition of slightly caramelized malt (called Munich malt) to the grain bill. Authentic Kellerbiers have very little effervescence, because they are typically served "ungespunded" (unbunged) meaning they are matured in wodden casks with the yeast still active, but with the bung ("Spund" in German) not tightened. As the yeast ferments the remaining sugars in the brew and converts these into additional carbon dioxide gas, the gas is allowed to escape through the bung hole ("Spundloch"). When tapped under just atmospheric pressure, a traditional Kellerbier is very yeast-turbid and has next to no head because of the lack of carbonation. It finishes very dry with both noticeable hop and malt notes in balance. Kellerbiers are great as aperitifs served before dinner to stimulate the appetite. This unpasteurized brew originates with the small artisanal breweries of Franconia, where Kellerbier is still a favorite beverage in the local beer gardens. It is usually drunk out of earthenware rather than glass mugs.

Most Kellerbiers are served only locally, right out of the casks in which they are allowed to age. For transport to more distant markets, however, several Kellerbier brands are available in bottles and kegs. Kellerbier intended for packaging is usually aged in uncapped steel tanks. It may be mildly filtered before the filling process to remove some of the beer's natural cloudiness, and it may be artifically carbonated for just a touch of effervescence. Perhaps the most readily available bottled Kellerbier in the United States is the St. Georgen Bräu Kellerbier from the small Franconian village of Buttenheim, sightly south of Bamberg. The St. Georgen Brewery has been in the same family since 1624. Its Kellerbier is aged in sturdy unbunged oak casks in rock caverns right outside the village, the way it was always done in the old days, before the invention of refrigeration.

Related beer styles:
Zoigl, Zwickelbier

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Illustrations courtesy of (top left and right), Elva Ellen Kowald (middle); and St. Georgen (bottom)