Exploring the Obscure Beer World: Zoiglbier
By Paul Klein
For me, traveling to a new brewery and sitting down with a fresh draft beer while taking in the funky-sweet-hoppy rainbow of aromas is one of the little wins in life. Being there, in the middle of the magic happening, seems to somehow elevate the beer beyond a beverage. When a writer is able to capture the essence of these experiences and transport a reader with the “taste of a place,” this is the core of great beer-centric travel writing.
Recently thumbing through an issue of Zymurgy, while daydreaming about all of the shiny stainless steel pictured in the advertisements, I came across a strange beer name I had not heard of before: Zoiglbier.
Franz D. Hofer, takes readers along on his adventure through Oberpfalz, Germany in search of Zoiglbier. Along with the savory details of the libations, Hofer also illustrates the history behind the German communal brewhouse tradition originating in the Middle Ages. This nearly forgotten tradition has passed through generations seemingly unchanged by time.
Families with brewing rights pay a fee to use the communal brewhouse in their village during an allotted time frame. After the beer is brewed over wood fueled fires, the families will convert their homes, butcher shop, or in one case, a former post office into taverns, serving their brews to friends, family, and neighbors. Zoiglbier is traditionally open-fermented and described by Hofer as somewhat like homebrewing, as it will “taste a little different each time.” Zoiglbier’s time-honored tradition “rejects both the standardization…and homogenization of taste represented by international beers that taste the same everywhere.”
Hofer’s depiction of Zoiglbier seems to fill in the gap between homebrew and mass production. It probably sounds very similar to an experience most homebrewers have felt: the passion and excitement of inviting friends, families, and neighbors into our homes to share what we have put love and time into brewing.
Hofer visits three of the elusive Zoiglstuben, designated by their six-pointed brewer’s star hanging from the facades. Hofer describes the Kramer-Wolf’s Zoiglstube as radiating with “rustic charm, its yellow walls bedecked with musical instruments that entertained peasants well into the night after a hard day’s work. Kramer-Wolf’s Zoigl is a hazy amber-orange brew combining spicy noble hops with toasty malt accentuated by honey and a hint of caramel…light effervescence and peppery finish.”
Like many other Zoiglstubes, Kramer-Wolf also functions as a butcher shop. Hofer describes the hearty food paired with his Zoigelbier: “the Schlachtschüssel, an ample dish of liverwurst, blood sausage, and juicy pork belly… [a]ccompanied by a veritable mountain of sauerkraut.”
Before landing on this article, I had never heard of Zoiglbier. Coming of drinking age in the Midwest, before the craft brew explosion, my view of the greater world of beer was limited to American lagers—perhaps this is why so many elder-millennials like myself were seduced into homebrewing. Being able to experience the world through articles similar to Hofer’s, is not a substitute for truly being immersed in the environment. Well written beer exploration articles can serve as an affective vessel to help us learn about the personal perspective and emotions the writer experiences–many times, a place, which might be beyond the typical reader’s reach.
1.Hofer, Franz D. "Zoiglbier, Brewing Up a Living Tradition in Bavaria's Oberpfalz." Zymurgy, Jan. 2022, pp. 46-53.
Photo Credit: By Richard Huber - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
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