Friday, September 05, 2008

Kellerbier kraziness - Session #19

Today, being the first Friday of the month, is the day for 'The Session'.

The SessionThe Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community which was started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session,
choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s nice archive page.

September's theme —as selected by blogger Lootcorp 3.0— is German beer.

I'm going to blog about kellerbier. But first, read this 2006 thread at about a tapping of a cask of Clipper City Brewing's Small Craft Warning Über Pils at the Brick Store in Decatur, GA:
  • Pils on cask???? A bit odd isn't it?
  • Mmm, I don't think that a Pils on cask is anything that I would be remotely interested in. It's just ALL wrong!
  • How did they serve Pilsener in Bohemia before modern kegs became all the rage?
  • Dunno, but what's your point? A cask and a pils ain't a good combo in 2006, even if it was served that way in the past. Those light pils lagers are the BEST beers for the modern keg.
Let's ignore for a moment that the brewery gave the beer its double-adjective appellation —Über Pils— because in 2004 the Great American Beer Festival had no category for a strongly hopped pale bock. By the way, the beer won a bronze medal. [Caveat: At the time, I was Territory Manager for Clipper City.]

Let's ignore for a moment that the Über Pils is 7% alcohol by volume (abv) and 55 bittering units (IBUs), whereas pilsners fall much lower in both measurements.

And, let's ignore for a moment that true pilsners, even at 4.8% abv, are wonderfully hopped, firm malt beers.

Let's examine, rather, the writer's claim that cask lager, as a rule, is "ALL wrong."

From Wikipedia:a zwickel
Kellerbier or Zwickelbier is an unfiltered beer, often a lager which is not clarified or pasteurised, probably originated from Germany. In comparison with most of the today's beer sorts, this kind of beer contains more of its original yeast and more of the valuable nutritional substances. It is often served directly from the barrel (for example, in a beer garden) or bottled. In Germany this beer is described by manufacturers as naturtrüb (naturally cloudy). <...> The name Kellerbier is German and literally means Cellar beer.

And here from Bob Tupper, the creator of Tuppers Hop Pocket Pils:
Tuppers' Hop Pocket Pils is brewed in the keller style of beer which emerged years ago when German breweries aged their beers in kellers or cellars that were usually caves dug into the side of a hill. On special days, the brewery would set up a few tables outside the cave and roll out a barrel from the keller to accommodate the thirst of local customers.
[Available in the mid-Atlantic region beginning in the mid 1990s, the Tuppers beers have temporarily lost their brewery home. Fans await their return. Read more here. ]

Sometimes beer fans can cross the line from advocacy to foolishness. This writer had not tasted the cask lager, but that omission was no hindrance to him passing judgment.

Fast forward to 2008.

A columnist at a Washington D.C. area blog —DC Foodies — reviewed a new restaurant called the CommonWealth Gastro Pub. Among other things, he said:
I had a Victory Prima Pilsner on [cask]. The beer lacks the bubbly texture of a typical keg beer, but was all flavor. The cask beer is served a little warmer too which allowed the flavor of the beer to come to the surface.
Prima Pils, from Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania, is a masterful beer, and, on cask, sublime. [Non-caveat: I do not sell this beer.]

But that didn't prevent a reader, who had not tasted the beer, from posting this comment:
CW [CommonWealth] recently had a Pilsner "on cask"---what a joke.

Nein, mein herr. Even if it is a lager, kellerbier is indeed a cask-conditioned beer, and noble in heritage. [It is produced either by bunging the vessel during final fermentation, thus trapping carbonation, or as with most cask ales, by inducing a tertiary fermentation within the cask.]

And ... kellerbier is delicious.

Taste first; offer (gentle) criticism later. Danke Shoen!


  1. Funny that the complaints about cask lager come from a Brit BA member who constantly tells Americans that they don't understand cask ale. He obviously doesn't understand kellerbier.

    Nice piece, Tom.

  2. Cask pils? I had the same reaction at the OD brewpub upon learning that the cask beer was the (late, sorely missed) Tuppers' Pils. Given the lagering that pilsners undergo, perhaps this may not be "cask" in the sense of English-style real ale (is it, Tom?). But, surely this must be the way beers were served in the days before CO2 tanks. Just as shown on the Tuppers' Pils label, which depicted a cask being enjoyed near the entrance to the lagering caves.

    Oh- and the cask Tuppers' Pils? It was delicious, as I have no doubt the Small Craft Warning is, too.

  3. I defer to this site:

    That's where I lived/learned to drink good beer...and since CW pompously purports itself as a British gastropub, the standard to which it seems appropriate to hold CW.

    I'm interested in learning more about kellerbiers (Deutsch war mein Nebenfach...und finde ich Deutsches bier manchmal ausgeseichnet)...but I'd rather find it at Saloon on U Street.

    Your post was a good respone, though. Still...answer my question of why an Imperial pint is price inflated at CW. If it's to make bar prices even, then don't serve two different systems.

  4. All of this aside, I tried the Clipper City Uber Pils on cask at Pizza Paradiso, and it tasted "all wrong" to me. I won't follow through with any deductive or inductive reasoning because my only conclusion is that I don't like Clipper City Uber Pils on cask, and that Tom mispelled Danke Schon. He was using the spelling from the 1962 song by Bert Kaempfert, which I hope he doesn't try to claim he was using ironically. My faith in Tom's scholarly acumen is shattered...


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