Rotbier translates directly as red beer. This along with its being originally a top-fermented beer dating back to the middle ages in Nuremberg has created some confusion as to its relation to the sourish red ales of Belgium. The latter were developed much later and bear little resemblance to the generally unfiltered ones from Franconia, which are perhaps closer to Weissbiers in terms of time frame development. These “white” beers were an earlier top-fermented beer which were brewed with wheat in addition to barley. Rotbier deviated by using strictly barley, which accounted for its darker color. Interesting enough, they were obviously top-fermented as well due to bottom fermenting yeasts not having been “discovered/cultivated” yet. Oddly, Weissbiers remain one of the few top-fermented beers in Germany whereas modern Rotbier is bottom-fermented. Why? It’s speculative but perhaps they had already stopped being brewed on any scale by the time bottom fermentation took over in in the late 1800s. This even though in the late 1500s, Rotbier breweries topped their Weissbier counterparts 35 to 11 in Nuremberg.
five current Rotbiers from Nürnberg breweries
No concrete evidence seems available as to when Rotbier “disappeared” but the Hausbrauerei Altstadthof in Nuremberg is credited with its revival in 1984. A forerunner to both Märzen and Vienna Lager, Rotbier shares both beers malt forward profiles. What the original beers tasted like is beyond the scope of this exercise and what I’ve set out to do is taste the five known Rotbiers of Nuremberg and rank them. I’ll be honest, it’s not a style I’m particularly enamored by. I’m not averse to malty beers but I like a bit of dryness mixed in the finish and I’ve generally found Rotbiers to be on the sticky side. So, when I ventured to Nuremberg in February 2023 I restricted myself to drinking nothing but Rotbier to keep any hoppier/drier beers from interfering with my assessment. Since I’d had many of them previously, I had some preconceptions as to which were hoppier but drinking in an order of least to most wasn’t as easy as it would have been if using bottled samples. Time was a factor as it was a day trip and the opening hours of the places played into my agenda, as well. My train arrived at 10:50, Bruderherz opened at 11:00 and was close to the station. Guess where I went. (Please note, you can click on links to the places and beers for more information on them, including my full reviews)
relatively new and shiny Bruderherz & their Roter Lui
If you like shiny new brewpubs, this is the place for you. My server was friendly and very attentive. I thought I’d been transported to the States on my two-hour train trip. She was so efficient, I wound up with not only the wrong beer but the wrong Rotbier which could only happen in the unquestioned capital of Rotbier: Nuremberg. It was the Schanzenbräu Rotbier, my guess the hoppiest of the lot. So much for careful planning. Their Roter Lui was pretty good but not as good as the town favorite. At least I knew for sure which Rotbier wasn’t number 1.
Tucher Original Nürnberger Rotbier at Wirtshaus am Opernhaus
A short stroll away and opening at 11:30, was one of Tucher’s prime venues Wirtshaus am Opernhaus. I was running a little late due to my having had two beers in one place and this obvious lunchtime favorite was already getting busy. The food looked good but I was on a mission. With the resurgence in Rotbier popularity, it came as no surprise when Tucher got into the action and then proceeded to use their financial strength to make it legal to call theirs Tucher Original Nürnberger Rotbier. Unfortunately, this sample didn’t fare so well but I was heading to another somewhat disguised Tucher outlet for lunch. Upstart Bruderherz was running second at this junction.
stylish Grüner Brauhaus & “their” Rotbier
Next up was the Grüner Brauhaus. I’d visited in 2022 when I saw a great looking Grüner Rotbier on Instagram. I investigated this “brewery” to find it was an old brand which Tucher revived along with this admittedly great looking retro brewpub. I tried all “their” beers on that visit and found out from my server that only the unfiltered Helles was brewed by Tucher specifically for this location. The Rotbier is the commercially brewed one but I must say, I quite liked it that year and it was indeed better than the beer I’d just had at the previous venue. Less hoppy perhaps than Bruderherz but with more harmony. I’ll go with this second sample and there’s a fight for spot number 2.
where the resurgence all started: Hausbrauerei Altstadthof
With lunch eaten and about an hour to kill before Schanzenbräu opened up, I decided to head up to the castle area to resample the Altstadthof Das Rote. The Hausbrauerei Altstadthof is largely credited with reviving the style. I’d returned in the summer of 2022 after a long absence and found their Rotbier well-made if not particularly to my liking. I probably should have stayed with that impression but wanted to have it the day of the Roundup. This time around, it was a bit buttery. While you hope a small brewery beer with such credentials would fare better, it was running in last place at this point.
Schanzenbräu & their renowned Rotbier
It was time to finally make my way out to the Schanzenbräu Schankwirtschaft, another place I’d not been in quite a few years. I first became aware of it at the Fränkisches Bierfest in Nuremberg’s moat. Their tent was absolutely mobbed despite my having never heard of it. With so many beers at the Fest, I decided to go out to their pub for lunch the next day. I guess expectations were high and their Schwarzbier was our favorite that day. On this visit, with only Rotbier on the horizon, theirs was the clear favorite. With only one more to try, Schanzenbräu Rotbier was number 1.
Tucher’s new Mautkeller brewpub
When looking for Tucher outlets, I came across one called the Mautkeller which claimed to be brewing their beer onsite. After some investigation, it turned out to be the now defunct Hausbrauerei Barfüßer (closed in 2020). Tucher secured the prime location and did a major refurbishment. I had a decent dinner but their house-brewed Rotes Lagerbier came up short, especially in the lackluster pour. It’s a shame to spend so much money fixing something up and not put your very best foot forward beer-wise too.
So, what’s the best Rotbier in Nuremberg? (Click on links for more details on why)
What’s the best place to drink Rotbier? (click on links for contact information & full reviews)
*Please note these are solely my opinions and I’m admittedly not a huge Rotbier lover. Also, impressions were gathered on a single day and some beers may not have been in their best form. It was in February and Nuremberg is a tourist town so this could have played into beer not being at its best in more tourist-oriented venues. I’ve tried to take that into consideration but the liking of a beer is what it is. I will have to say, I have a new appreciation of Rotbier after doing this and I’ll continue to try them when I’m in Nuremberg. I understand that Bratwurst Röslein occasionally has Tucher Original Rotbier from gravity dispense wooden barrels and that’s something I’d like to try.
If you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about Rotbier and want to do so on other Franconian styles: ABeerC.
The best beers in Franconia are in the countryside, check out my full list of breweries visited.
The best thing in Franconia is actually the food: ABCs of Franconian Food.
Heading to Bamberg? Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to Bamberg’s Best Beer.
Haven’t done the Fünf Seidla Steig®? Join me for this great beer hike to five countryside breweries outside Nuremberg. Book online now!
If you don’t agree with my Rotbier Roundup, please consider buying me a Rotbier 🍺 and perhaps next time out, I will come to my senses. If you have enjoyed this hopefully fun comparison, you can buy me a beer anyway. It’s not free doing all this research but somebody has to do it. 😉
The best beer in Franconia really is out in the countryside so why not join me on a guided hike to some of the best: