Sipping the tasty unfiltered amber brew, I glanced around at the brick-a-brac that lined the modest kitchen and felt right at home. That I wasn’t even visiting a friend had ceased to surprise me after many such experiences in the rustic Zoigl region of the Upper Palatinate of northern Bavaria. Zoigl, for the uninitiated, is a brewing culture, not a beer style. Brewed in communal brew houses, it’s a Hausbräu or young beer which is fermented in the cellars of the Zoigltube and served upstairs in homey rooms recalling another era.
feeling right at home is the idea
That I was in the Allgäu, in southwestern Bavaria, was the surprising element. This is a region of Helles and Weissbier. Anything out of the ordinary is viewed with suspicion at best and this is very much not the status quo except in the aforementioned small area. How this came to be is the interesting story of a man with a vision and the will to make it happen. Gernot Wildung was born in the Allgäu town of Kaufbeuren but grew up near Nürnberg, in Middle Franconia. After studying in the unofficial Franconian capital, he worked in a bank. He was first exposed to Zoigl in nearby Neuhaus an der Pegnitz and later ventured to the Upper Palatinate town of Windischeschenbach in 1985. He obviously fell in love with it and the idea of escaping the banking world and opening his own Zoiglstube.
some Zoiglstuben in the Upper Palatinate
He decided to do it in the unlikely place of his hometown but the search for a suitable building was not easy. Luck finally came his way in 1995 when he found an inexpensive property in the old town but it was in ruins. It took years to plan and refurbish, though rebuild would be more accurate. Gernot explained “only one wall remains from the original interior.” The results are astonishing and period piece as if just a well-kept old building from another era. He was able to open in November of 2002 but with no brewery, he chose the Hausbräu from Rittmayer in Aisch to capture the Zoigl spirit of basement fermentation and cellaring.
a perfect recreation
He managed to buy an adjoining property in 2006 and expand his one-room affair and in 2010 found a four leaf clover just up the street in the form of a little ivy-clad “wedding castle” which dated back to 1699. After another renovation project, he installed a small Speidels Braumeister system to economically brew his own Hausbräu. He brews the wort here and brings it to the pub to pitch the yeast in the cellar there, where it matures and is served direct from the tank. The first batch was in March of 2012.
the former Hochzeiter Schlößchen & now Kaufbeuren Commune-Bräuerei
What immediately struck me when I walked up the Old Town street in search of the pub the first time was the brewery itself, which bore a striking resemblance to the no longer operational Hartwich Zoiglstube in Mitterteich of the Upper Palatinate. The pub itself is just diagonal and though unassuming from the outside, walking through the doors is like walking into another time.
the fruits of one man’s vision for all the enjoy
Though their website is quite informative and updated with current opening times, they carry on the tradition of hanging out a sign heralding their being open on a given day. On the wall inside is a chalk board sign with the beer’s brewing date, when it was kegged as well as the name of the brewer.
Of course, looks will only get you so far. What about the Zoigl? Well, I have to admit to being skeptical but it’s better than more than a few examples in Windischeschenbach. Gernot uses five different malts and the grain shines through but the underlying hops keep it quite dry, especially for something brewed in southern Bavaria. In addition to the regular Zoigl, there are seasonal beers like Weizen, a dark beer, a dark Bock and a Maibock. I look forward to sampling more of them.
a tasty Zoigl & typical Zoigltube fare
Gernot also brings in typical dishes from his adopted home of Franconia with the smoky treat Zwetchgenbames a rare find in this region. I had a lovely Leberkäse topped with two fried eggs. The potato salad was very much homemade and also more typical of points north. The prices are very reasonable by southern Bavarian standards and quite inexpensive compared to Munich.
I’d go back even if it weren’t for the fairy tale-like story of a man realizing his dream through not only hard work and determination but also for having such a clear vision of what needed to be done. Hats off to Gernot.
Kaufbeuren is a lovely town in its own right and only an hour southwest from Munich by frequent direct trains. With its proximity to the Allgäu Alps, it’s little wonder the landscape in the vicinity is stunning. There are numerous hiking trails and you can walk out to the brewery hotel at Kloster Irsee so a full day can easily be spent.
If you’d like to hike to Kloster Irsee to enjoy the beer and food there, and a stop for Zoigl in Kaufbeuren on the way back, I offer guided tours:
Wednesday,Thursday & Sunday 17:00 to 22:00
Friday & Saturday 17:00 to 00:00
Closed Monday & Tuesday
Check their website for any changes such Monday holiday which are generally open