I used to think that zwickel was just another name for kellerbier and the zwickel/kellerbier was simply helles that was unfiltered and unpasteurized. Now I believe this view to be wrong and am not really sure what a zwickel is. It seems that it's a light kellerbier, with a bit less alcohol and less hoppiness. Oh, it also features more carbonation because, unlike the kellerbier, the bung is firmly in place on the tanks so the precious carbon dioxide does not escape. It also seems that kellerbiers and zeickels are lagered for differing lengths of time but I cannot confirm this. Oh, and a kellerbier seems to be, in extreme shorthand, a hoppy, still Märzen. Which I guess means that the zwickel is, in extreme shorthand, an unfiltered, unpasteurized helles. It would seem that a trip to Franconia is in order to clarify matters.
Unfortunately I won't be stepping foot in Germany any time soon but luckily Urban Chestnut's brewmaster, Florian Kuplent, hails from Munich and began to learn his craft there. And I am also fortunate that he brews Zwickel
Kuplent's zwickel pours a lovely deep yellow and has the requisite turbidity with all that tasty yeast still in there. This was quite an effervescent brew as I got a nice fluffy white head which was in no hurry to go anywhere. In addition there were lots of bubbles forming at the bottom of my glass only to make their way upwards.
The aroma was a little bit of heaven. It smelled like bread - full of yeasty, grainy goodness. There was also a note of spicy hoppiness from the Hallertau Perle und Mittelfrueh varieties. Zwickel tastes like fresh bread. There was a bit of mild doughy sweetness (which veered towards apricot as the beer warmed) but Zwickel had a lot more of that superior bread crust-melanoidin flavor. The yeast also added to the impression that one was drinking liquid bread. More beers ought to remain unfiltered, in my humble opinion. Finally, the plentiful carbonation lent a little dryness to this decidedly malt-focused brew.
There wasn't much to taste of hops until the finish where the Noble Hallertaus exerted some peppery bitterness and helped Zwickel finish on a dry note. My glass ended up with a couple moderately sized patches of Schaumhaftvermoegen.
While I can imagine that Zwickel tastes exceptional coming right from the tap at Urban Chestnut, St. Louis is much closer than Franconia and it still tasted fantastic to me. Just as hopheads are going ga-ga over Citra hops these days, I get my thrills with that bread crust kind of flavor that European malts seem to provide. And there's no shortage in Zwickel. At 5.2% A.B.V. it is perhaps a bit stronger than is traditional and the bready flavors are at the fore here but this is not a very hearty brew. It has a nice medium-light body, is not very sweet, and is bubbly making it quite suitable for warmer weather.
I'd love to taste Zwickel fresh down in St. Louis. I have friends who swear that Pappy's Smokehouse
is the best BBQ on the planet and there's an Urban Chestnut outpost less than half a mile from Pappy's. But, since there's no trek to St. Louis in the near future…
Junk food pairing: Pair Zwickel with Pepper Jack Cheese Nut Thins. Both are relatively light fare but the chili makes for a nice contrast to the mellow, bready flavors of the beer.
Labels: Beer, Kellerbier, Urban Chestnut Brewing, Zwickel