Was Ist Das?
New to old-fashioned Franconian lager brewing? Here, we explain a few things.
Coolship: A big copper tray that was used for cooling hot wort by exposing it to the air. Chilling technology has long since moved on, but a few coolships are still in use. Outside of one region in Belgium, a coolship was not used to create acidic beers—not intentionally, anyway. Decoction: A mashing scheme still used by many traditional German brewers and virtually all Czech brewers. The basic idea is to take a portion of the mash and steadily bring it a boil, then return it to the rest of the mash to raise the temperature. This helps the brewer to hit a few ideal mash temperatures while also—and this is key—getting added flavor and color from the Maillard reactions as well as greater foam stability. Malt modification: Most modern malts are “well-modified,” which means they’re ready for conversion in a simple infusion mash. However, many traditional European brewers still swear by relatively less-modified malts that benefit from multistep infusions or decoction mashing. Modification is not a shortcut but rather a different road to a different destination. Holzfass: Simply, a wooden barrel. In some parts of Germany—namely, Bavaria and the Rhine region—brewers may fill these barrels with finished beer, which is then served via gravity through a spigot. The barrels are lined with inert pitch that does not affect flavor. It’s part nostalgia, part show, but there is some benefit: the method tends to knock out some CO2 for a softer, richer taste that suits fresh, subtler beer beautifully. Kellerbier: Traditionally, beer from kellers—meaning, in Franconia, the beer gardens that inevitably sprouted atop the lagering cellars. (No doubt the beer was fresher there.) Follow style guidelines if you must, but do not treat them as fact: Kellerbiers across Franconia can be golden or dark, sweet or bitter, or anything in between— and these days brewers across German use the K-word for unfiltered anything.