In the current issue of DRAFT, we featured one of my new favorite styles, the zwickelbier, masterfully crafted by Florian Kuplent of St. Louis’ Urban Chestnut. But, like many things worth loving in the world of beer, there’s nothing new about zwickelbier.
A style that pre-dates the pilsner, zwickelbier is essentially a more effervescent version of kellerbier, a once popular naturally carbonated, cask-conditioned lager. But, unlike kellerbier, zwickels ferment in tightly sealed vessels to capture the beer’s developing carbon dioxide. In the case of Urban Chestnut Zwickel the process results in an extremely fluffy lager that dances across the tongue with a balance of light bready yeast notes, deliciously grainy malts and a timely bitter snap to cap it off.
To learn a bit more about the beer, and to find out what other beers are coming up in Urban Chestnut’s Old World-focused Reverence Series, I caught up with Kuplent:
What’s the origin of the word “zwickel?”
“Zwickel is the German (brewers) term for the sample valve on a maturation tank. Normally the valve is only accessible with a special key that only brewers have access to. Using the zwickelschluessel the brewmaster can taste the beer during maturation to evaluate its quality.”
Do you serve the beer in a mini-boot at the brewery?
“We used the mini Stiefel (boot) as a festival glass for our anniversary Wolpertinger festival this year but currently don’t serve any beers in it at the tasting room. The boot can be bought at the brewery tasting room and we are probably also going to add it as an item to the web shop.”
Is there a particular zwickelbier in Germany that’s a must-try for visitors?
“Very few breweries actually sell their zwickelbier in bottles. The best way to get to try this style is go to the brewery directly and either get a sample straight from a tank during a tour or see if the beer is available unfiltered in the braeustueberl (tap room).”
What other rare German styles have you resurrected?
“We brewed a Berliner weisse about a year ago which was very well received. I am always looking to brew some styles that may have been forgotten.”
What’s next in your Reverence Series?
“We just brewed a Belgian wit that will get released very shortly—it’s named Pierre’s Wit in honor of Pierre Celis.”