f beer trends followed a logical path, we’d be starting to see the zwickelbier craze take off.
After all, zwickel sits in the middle of a number of disparate currents that breweries across the country have latched onto: unfiltered, hazy beers, such as New England IPAs; sessionable, well-crafted lagers; and a hyperfocus on freshness.
Zwickelbier is an unfiltered German lager that’s cloudy, refreshing and sessionable. It’s a bready, yeasty beer that’s balanced and unpretentious. It can appeal to those who want a “beer that tastes like beer” while at the same time having enough complexity for those who want to think about what they’re drinking.
“It’s a beer to drink Friday after work or with complex cheeses or on a warm day after mowing the grass. It can suit just about any occasion,” says Florian Kuplent, brewmaster at Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., which has been brewing its own take on the style since opening in 2011.
Sounds ideal for the current climate, right?
The only problem is that when it comes to trends, one plus one doesn’t equal two.
And so while an obscure German style like gose may suddenly take off in the course of a few months, zwickel remains relatively unknown. That remains the case, even though the style has cemented its place in certain breweries’ lineups. For example, Urban Chestnut’s Zwickel accounts for about 40 percent of the St. Louis brewery’s sales, and Metropolitan Brewing almost always has Heliostat on tap on its taproom. (It’s more widely distributed in July and August.)
One reason zwickelbier remains relatively rare is that it’s best consumed extremely fresh, which is why Metropolitan doesn’t bottle Heliostat.
“It should taste like it’s straight off the tank,” says Doug Hurst, co-founder of Metropolitan.
In fact, zwickel refers to a port in tanks that allows brewers to taste and test the progress of fermentation. While zwickel lagers are allowed to mature, brewers leave them unfiltered with a significant share of the yeast left in to give it a distinct mouthfeel and flavor.
Now that there’s a brewery just about everywhere you look, the timing might be right for a style that revels in freshness.