Nick Carr on July 20, 2016 1 Comment History of Kellerbier Kellerbier is a pretty obscure style here in the United States. It is a version of German lager originating in Franconia, Bavaria and dates to the very beginnings of lagering in the latter half of the Middle Ages. Lacking any type of refrigeration technology, brewer’s would brew their beer during the cool months of the year and then lager them in caves. These caves acted like natural cellars allowing the beer to remain at stable, cool temperature for the length of their slow maturation. Kellerbier translates to “cellar beer,” an obvious reference to the cooler temperatures the beer is brewed and conditioned under. But the brewers also used a peculiar set of conditioning techniques that set it apart from the other lager styles. It is unpasteurized and traditionally conditioned in an oak cask that was open to the environment through an unplugged bug hole. This allowed any CO2 from secondary fermentation to escape, and anything in the immediate environment in which, even in the relatively stable environment of a cave, no doubt created nuanced differences in the Kellerbier. The bung hole was only sealed for shipping and the beer was served from the same cask it had matured in. So, the resulting pour would have been minimally, if at all carbonated, and quite cloudy with yeast and nutrients that neither settled out, nor been filtered out. There are a couple even more obscure sub-styles of Kellerbier. Zwickelbier is basically a younger, weaker, less hop-forward, and usually darker version of the same “Keller” song. It isn’t allowed the same maturation time as Kellerbier. In fact, right before fermentation is complete the bung hole is sealed giving the beer decent carbonation and as soon as the yeast has finished its work, it is served. Its name is taken from the German name for a beer sampling device that is hung on the outside of fermentation takes, the Zwickel. The other sub-style, Zoiglbier, is pretty hard to tell apart from Zwickelbier. Just like Zwickelbeir it is less hoppy, weaker, darker, more carbonated, and served younger. It may be slightly less carbonated, maybe a little darker in color, but it would be pretty hard to tell the two styles apart. The pale-style Kellerbier, outlined below in “Characteristics,” is a modern adaption of the original darker Franconian style. It is more along the lines of a Helles than a Märzen, and is more popular, at least outside Franconia, than the traditional style. Kellerbier in all its forms has survived in large part because of Franconian love. It still enjoys vast popularity in its place of origin, which, no doubt has saved it from total extinction. Style Profile & Characteristics The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee have given Kellerbier two distinct sub-styles, which we will compare below. These two sub-styles include — Pale Kellerbier & Amber Kellerbier. The BJCP classifies the Kellerbier style, as well as their distinct sub-styles, as an “Amber Bitter European Beer” and it can be found in their guidelines as category 7C, right below to Vienna Lager (7A) and Altbier (7B). Amber Kellerbier This is the guidelines for the historical Amber-style Kellerbier set by the BJCP Style Committee. The amber Kellerbier is a close representation of the original style brewed and lagered in caves. The below details are a summary of what you should expect when tasting, buying or brewing this beer style. Quick Characteristics Color Range: 7–17 SRM Original Gravity: 1.048-1.054 OG Final Gravity: 1.012-1.016 FG IBU Range: 25-40 ABV Range: 4.8 – 5.4% Appearance: Deep gold to reddish-amber; Clarity will range from good to poor, depending on aging process; The use of a cask will affect carbonation and head retention. Aroma: Maltiness at moderate intensity with bready and toasty notes; Medium-low to moderate levels of hoppy aromas; Slight diacetyl possible. Flavor: Malty sweetness with notes of bread; Hops will low to medium-high with peppery, spicy or herbal taste; Finish should be dry with bitter edge; Low diacetyl flavors possible; Malty aftertaste. Mouthfeel: Medium body with smooth and creamy texture; Carbonation will vary due brewing and aging process, ranging from none to medium. Serving & Storage Temp.: 40-45°F Shelf Life: 3-6 Months Suggested Glass: Earthenware Mug or Traditional German Stein Food Pairings: Steak, Venison, German Sausage, Shish Kebabs With Grilled Veggies, Jalapeño Jack & Limburger Cheese, Nutty or Smooth Desserts. Appearance: Color will be deep gold to a reddish-amber. Haze will depend on the beer’s age and can vary from slightly cloudy to clear. The size and condition of the head will depend on whether it is served from a cask or not. Cask serving will result in little carbonation and not much of a head, otherwise expect a small off-white creamy head. Aroma: Malt aromas will be of medium intensity playing a range of rich bready, toasty notes with tones of bread crust, but any roasty, biscuit-like, or caramel would be out of place. Peppery and spicy qualities are provided by the hops at medium-low to moderate levels. Slight diacetyl presence possible. Very low green apple and med-low sulfur and/or other notes created by the yeast are possible. Mouthfeel: Not sweet or cloying, but a medium body with a smooth creamy texture pushed. Carbonation will again vary by type of serving and can range from medium to none at all. Taste: Front of the palate may find some malt sweetness along with a complex array of toasted bread notes. Any roast or caramel is inappropriate to the style. Hop flavor appears peppery, spicy, and herbal, with a range from low to med-high. Bitterness is moderate to med-high. Balance can show off either the hops or the malt, but the finish should not be sweet. Rather it should be medium-dry to dry, with a bitter edge. Possible very low diacetyl, along with very low yeasty flavors, such as green apple. Aftertaste is malty. Food Pairings: The traditional amber-style Kellerbier is similiar to Marzen/Octoberfest when it comes to food pairing. It’s malty backbone and good hop presence goes will with charbroiled steak, venison, and of course the mother of all German foods, sausage. Another great combo is grilled shish-kebabs where those grilled vegetables take on some sweet elements and play amazingly with the maltiness of the beer. Jalapeño jack cheese brings spice to match the hop elements and Limburger, especially served as a limburger sandwich on dark dye bread with onions, will usher in some real magic. For dessert, try something slightly nutty and smooth like coconut flan. Serving & Storage: For best presentation and greatest appreciation, an Amber-style Kellerbier should be at around 50-55°F in an earthenware mug. They are best stored at cellar temperatures away from light and enjoyed young. *Reference: The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines Pale Kellerbier This is the guidelines for the modern Pale-style Kellerbier set by the BJCP Style Committee. The pale kellerbier sub-style is a very popular summer beer in Bavaria. The below details are a summary of what you should expect when tasting, buying or brewing this beer style. Quick Characteristics Color Range: 3–7 SRM Original Gravity: 1.045-1.051 OG Final Gravity: 1.008-1.012 FG IBU Range: 20-35 ABV Range: 4.7 – 5.4% Appearance: Hazy, pale yellow to light gold; Haze should be present in moderate levels; Creamy white head with good retention, unless served from cask. Aroma: Clean malty aromas with notes of sweet-cereal; Hops will range from low to moderately-high with spicy, herbal or floral notes; Whispers of diacetyl or Dimethyl Sulfide possible. Flavor: Rounded and sweet maltiness with grainy notes; Moderate hoppy bitterness with spicy, floral or herbal notes; Low to moderate diacetyl. Mouthfeel: Medium body with creamy mouthfeel; Low to medium carbonation, dependent on if it served from cask. Serving & Storage Temp.: 40-45°F Shelf Life: 3-6 Months Suggested Glass: Earthenware Mug or Traditional German Stein Food Pairings: Chicken Sandwich with Cilantro; Tex-Mex, Indian or Thai dishes; Light Seafood Dishes; Sharp Cheddar & Gruyere Cheese; Short Bread & Rice Pudding. Appearance: Will be a hazy pale yellow to light gold color. Haziness should not be to the point of murkiness. If served on cask it will have extremely low carbonation and low head. Head will be creamy-white with good retention. Aroma: Malt will be clean and have a sweet-cereal character; possible slight whispers of DMS. Low notes of diacetyl; may have very low yeasty characteristics, such as green apple. The hop profile of spicy, herbal, or floral aromas is often the strongest element in the aroma with low to somewhat high levels. Mouthfeel: Low to medium carbonation, often dependent on whether the beer is served from a cask. It will have a medium body. Yeast, left in suspension, may create a creamy mouthfeel while diacetyl, if present, will likely present as a slickness across the tongue. Taste: Malt presents as a rounded grainy sweetness. Moderate hop bitterness comes after a low to somewhat high spicy, floral, and/or herbal hop flavor. Diacetyl should remain at a pleasant low to moderate level, balancing but not overwhelming the beer’s nuanced character. Light presence of green apple and other yeast flavors are possible along with a low note of DMS; though none of these are required. Food Pairings: The paler and more modern version of this style doesn’t have the same bready malt elements trading it instead for grainy sweetness. It’s still substantial bitterness gives it some of the same qualities of a German Pilsner when it comes to pairing, though it is missing Pilsner’s palate cleansing carbonation. Try a chicken sandwich with a little cilantro. It can also work nicely with mildly spicy Mexican or Indian dishes. It will also work quite nicely with light sea foods such as oysters and scallops. A roast chicken salad is another great pairing. Cheeses like Gruyere or sharp cheddar will cozy up nicely. Short bread and rice pudding might be a couple of chooses for dessert. Serving & Storage: For best presentation and greatest appreciation, Pale-style Kellerbier should be at around 45-50°F in an earthenware mug or Lager glass. They are best stored at cellar temperatures away from light and enjoyed young. *Reference: The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines Award Winning Examples Of The Style Baumgartner Junghopfenpils from Brauerei Jos. Baumgartner (Schärding, Austria) Pale-Style; World Beer Cup Winner, Gold, 2016; Available: Unknown. Ulmer Hexensud from Familienbrauerei Bauhoefer (Renchen, Germany) Pale Style; World Beer Cup Winner, Silver, 2016; Available: Unknown. Pilsner from Marble Brewing Company (Albuquerque, NM) Pale-Style; World Beer Cup Winner, Bronze, 2016; and Gold, 2014; Available: Year Round. STS Pils from Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa, CA) Pale-Style; Great American Beer Festival Winner, Gold, 2015; Available: Seasonal Draft. TAPS Kellerbier from TAPS Fish House & Brewery (Brea, CA) Great American Beer Festival Winner, Silver, 2015; Available: Unknown. Fargo Original from Fargo Brewing Company (Fargo, ND) Pale-Style; Great American Beer Festival Winner, Bronze, 2015; Available: Rotating. Gold Beach Lager from Arch Rock Brewing Company (Gold Beach, OR) Pale-style; Great American Beer Festival Winner, Gold, 2014; Available: Year Round. Surfliner from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company (Santa Barbara, CA) Pale-style; Great American Beer Festival Winner, Silver, 2014 & 2013; Available: Rotating. 18th Rebellion from Horse Thief Hollow Brewing Company (Chicago, IL) Pale-style; Great American Beer Festival Winner, Bronze, 2014; Available: Year Round. Viæmilia from Birrificio del Ducato (Busseto PR, Italy) Pale-style; World Beer Cup Winner, Silver, 2014; Available: Year Round. Wilderer Dunkel from Brauerei-Gasthof Eck (Böbrach, Germany) Amber-style; World Beer Cup Winner, Bronze; 2014; Available: Unknown. More Popular Kellerbier Examples To Try: Münchner Kellerbier Anno 1417 from Hacker-Pschorr Brewery (Munich, Germany) 30th Anniversary Keller Pils from Summit Brewing Company (Saint Paul, MN) KillaPilz from Voodoo Brewing Company (Meadville, PA) Hell from Surly Brewing Company (Minneapolis, MN) Zwickel Bier from New Glarus Brewing Company (New Glarus, WI) Keller Pils from Southampton Publick House (Southampton, NY) Kellerbier from Creemore Springs Brewing Company (Ontario, Canada) Tips for Brewing Kellerbier Brewing Kellerbier? Start With An Oktoberfest Beer Kit The main differences that set Kellerbier apart from other similar styles include: being unflitered and cask conditioning. Not only cask conditioning, but specifically “unbunged” or unsealed cask conditioning, which results in minimal carbonation. Being unfiltered, having low carbonation, and serving it relatively young are all points especially suited to the homebrewer. Plus, its lack of popularity means brewing Kellerbier may be the only way you get try this rare style. Grain Bill: The grain bill for a Kellerbier is much like any other German lager or Pils. To start you want a high quality German Pilsner malt. If you’re going for the more modern Pale-style, than this is your grain bill…100% German Pilsner malt. Though, a few ounces of carafoam malt to enhance body could also be thrown in. If you are looking to make the more traditional amber-style you’ll need some Munich malt. The amber-style follows much the same path as a Märzen recipe. Munich malt can make up as much as 50% of your grain bill. You can play with both light and dark Munich, though watch your color calculations and drop the percentage if you start using a lot of higher lovibond (20°L) Munich — that is, if color matters to you. Create your grain bill to give you a light to medium amber color. Stay away from roaster specialty grains. Any sort of roast, even biscuit, is inappropriate for the Kellerbier style. An extract brewer should look for a high-quality Bavarian Pils malt extract for your base. If going for the traditional amber-style, either do a mini-mash with a quantity of Munich malt or add some Bavarian Dark Malt extract. You could also either go with a German Pils kit for the pale-style or a Märzen/Octoberfest kit for the traditional style. Hops: Kellerbier should have a noticeable hop presence. Traditionally, spicy aromatic German hop varieties are used. Varieties that would work could include Saaz, Tettnanger, Hallertauer, Hersbrucker, and Spalt. The amount of hops used and when they are added is going to be up to how much of a presence you want them to be. The authentic amber-style Kellerbier can have a balance either scaled toward the malt or hops. At the very least one bittering addition and one flavor/aroma addition should be part of the plan, but I’ve also seen recipes with multiple additions of each and dry-hopping to boot. There’s no hard and fast rule here, but remember that in this beer style the flavor/aroma part of the hop profile is just as important, if not more so, than the bittering part. The Mash: To create a slightly “weighter” mouthfeel than say that associated with a pale ale, it’s a good idea to use a step mash here. Most German style beers have a higher protein content which translates to a smoother rounder feel. To get this extra protein you need to take steps to degrade more protein, and in turn, keep these proteins from settling out with the trub during boil. So, a three-step mash is our goal when brewing Kellerbier. First, mash in at 122°F for protein rest, keeping your mash as thick as possible. Stay at this temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. Then add hot water to raise the temperature to 148°F for beta saccharification. This will also thin your mash allowing the enzymes responsible for saccharification to work better. Allow 15 minutes. Then add hot water or direct heat (depending on mash thickness) yet again to bring the temperature up to 153-156°F and alpha saccharification temperatures. Hold for another 15 minutes before mash out at 170°F. Keep your mash temperature at 170°F while you sparge. Yeast: You have a lot to choose from when it comes to the yeast. Any German lager yeast or Märzan yeast will work well on a Kellerbier fermentation. A few to consider are: Wyeast’s Bavarian Lager (2206), Munich Lager (2308), or even their Octoberfest Lager Blend (2633); White Labs Southern German Lager (WLP838), Munich Helles (WLP860), or Old Bavarian Lager (WLP920). If you plan to use dry yeast, you have a few good ones to choose from, including Fermentis Saflager W-34/70 or Saflager S-23. Another option would be Mangrove Jack’s Bohemian Lager (M84), though not as well-known, it looks like it would work well when brewing Kellerbier. Oak Conditioning: One of the trademarks of Kellerbier is conditioning in oak for several months. In most cases, this is just not feasible for a homebrewer (if you can do this, I’m jealous). Some semblance of this conditioning can be had though, by using oak chips. You can either put them directly into your fermentor or make a tea that would then go into the fermentor (or do both). The amount will have to be experimented with to get the level of “conditioning” to suit your own taste. But keep in mind, that in most cases the conditioning adds mellowness and dryness without adding much in the way of actual woody flavors. A good place to start is 2 cups of oak chips for a 5 gallon batch. You may even want to toast them in an oven for 30 to 60 minutes prior to using them. This will help bring out a bit more character. Another thing to experiment with. To make the tea, simply put the chips in a well-sealing jar and add close-to-boiling water on top. Close the jar and let steep until cool. Once cool, put it in the refrigerator and it’s ready to add to the fermentor. If using just the oak chips without making the tea, be sure to put them in hot water for a couple minutes to sterilize them. Fermentation: Ensure you cast the right amount of healthy yeast for your batch size. Lager yeast strains can have a pretty wide temperature range, going from as low as 38°F up to 62°F, so pay attention to your chosen yeast strain’s range. Like any other batch of lager beer, you’ll need to have good temperature control and the capacity to ferment at a cooler than normal temperature. Cooler fermentations and adequate temperature control can be had in several different ways; a little extra room in your regular refrigerator can work for smaller batches, while an extra dedicated refrigerator or freezer, or even a well maintained ice bath can work for any batch size. After the end of fermentation, approximately 3 to 4 weeks, rack it to a secondary. Allow it to warm up into the upper 60°Fs for a two day diacetyl rest. After this time has passed, the next step would be lager conditioning in oak, but if you’ve used the oak chips, rack it into a clean carboy and store it for two to several months at cellar (≈50°F) temperatures. Packaging: Once you’re done conditioning, it’s ready to drink. Because of the tradition of serving Kellerbier from its conditioning cask it has very low carbonation. Think, English cask ale low. If you’re bottling, be stingy with your priming sugar. A volume of 1 to 1.8 is probably about right. The same goes for kegging. Only use enough pressure to serve the beer. Drink up! This beer isn’t meant to be saved once it’s ready to drink and will deteriorate quickly, so share it around and let all delight in your labors. Cheers!