Kellerbier, Zwickelbier, Zoigl

Pronunciation guide for English-speakers:
"Tzoy-gel-beer" ("oy" as in "boy" and "gel" as in the last syllable of "bagel")

Zoiglbier is essentially an effervescent form of a Bavarian Kellerbier (see there), but brewed from more highly kilned malt, which gives the beer a slightly darker, deep amber, color. It is also less hop-accented. Its alcohol content by volume is usually below 5%. The name Zoiglbier stems from "Zoigl," the Franconian vernacular for "sign." In Franconian home brewing, a Zoigl was a six-pointed blue-white star, shaped from two triangles similar to a Star of David. The star was made from wooden slats. In the center was a cutout of a beer mug or a pine branch. In the feudal system of the 13th and 14th centuries, every Bavarian home- and landowner in the region north of the River Danube also automatically owned the right to brew beer, and these medieval burghers and farmers used to hang the Zoigl in front of their doors wheneverthey had homebrew ready to drink. The Zoigl was in invitation to their neighbors to come over and have a few. These early burgher-brewers often also made their Zoiglbier in communal brew houses...a natural precursor to the brew's communal consumption under the Zoigl.

One triangle of the Zoigl symbolized the three "elements" involved in brewing: fire, water and air; the other symbolized the three "ingredients" used in brewing: malt, hops and water. The function of yeast had not yet been discovered in the Middle Ages. Rather yeast was considered a byproduct of fermentation, known as "stuff" ("Zeug" in German) to be discarded.

Nowadays, Zoiglbier is brewed exclusively with noble hops from the Hallertau region of Bavaria (slightly north of the Danube). Like Kellerbier, Zoiglbier is unfiltered, unpasteurized, uncapped ("ungespundet"), and low in carbonation; but unlike Kellerbier, it is aged for only of few weeks, before it is served. It tends to have a shorter shelflife than Kellerbier and is generally not sold outside Bavaria. Several breweries nowadays package their Zoiglbier in bottles and kegs, in which case the beer tends to be slightly carbonated.

Related beer styles:
Zwickelbier, Kellerbier

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Illustrations courtesy of the German Brewers Federation (top) and of http://www.food-from-bavaria.com (bottom)