Tannenzäpfle Beer: “Little fir cone”
Rothaus Pils Tannenzäpfle http://www.rothaus.de/
Brewed by Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus
Grafenhausen-Rothaus, Germany ABV: 5.1%
The Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus (Rothaus, State Brewery of Baden) is located near the village of Grafenhausen high in the core of the majestic Black Forest. The Black Forest is a forested mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, south-western Germany that has a length of 160 km (99 mi) and breadth of up to 60 km (37 mi). So it’s amazing to think that at the heart of this gigantic forest lies Germany’s highest brewery. Standing at 1000m (3300 ft.) above sea level, we find the small brewery of Rothaus.
The small regional brewery doesn’t do advertising, relying on word of mouth to increase sales, and owned exclusively by the state of Baden-Württemberg. Yet despite all this the brewery has, particular with its Rothaus Tannenzäpfle brand, one of the most popular beers in the whole of the country.
Tannenzäpfle Beer: “Little fir cone”
The most successful product, a Pilsner-style beer, “Rothaus Tannenzäpfle” or “Zäpfle”, comes filled in an unusual 0.33 l bottles and is well known as a “cult beer” throughout Germany. The Rothaus Pils Tannenzäpfle has existed since 1956, and doesn’t show any signs that it will be a getting a modern makeover anytime soon, much to the chagrin of advertising executives everywhere. It’s this long tradition that is part of the appeal.
Tannenzäpfle means “little fir cone” and is an allusion to the shape of the bottle and is also a reference to the location of the brewery in the Black Forest. Its unusual name is embodied on the labels of the 0.33 l bottles, distinguished by a gold tinfoil sleeve around the top of the bottle, looking a little like a fir cone (perhaps)
The labels of Rothaus beer bottles have a friendly looking “frauline” whose name is “Birgit Kraft,” a blonde haired country girl in traditional garb of the Black Forest, holding two glasses of beer and surrounded by fir cones. Birgit’s name is something of a play on words in the local dialect, “Bier git Kraft”, means “beer gives strength”. Today, “Birgit” is the defining icon for all beers made by the Rothaus Brewery, and, unsophisticated as the image may appear, it hasn’t changed a bit since 1972.
It certainly was this unusual image and style of bottle that caught my eye. It’s a curiosity and definitely does stand apart amongst all the usual droll imagery on other beer brands.
The brewery was founded in 1791 in the Black Forest, by the Benedictine monks of St. Blasien monastery. In 1806 the brewery was transferred to the Grand Duchy of Baden, and now belongs, 100% owned, to the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, its legal successors. The name “Rothaus, State Brewery of Baden” has been in use since 1918, and its name still remains to this day.
Important local Employer/ State of Baden-Württemberg
Rothaus is a state owned employer with over 200 people working for the company. A popular firm in the region partly because it regularly pays out bonuses, depending on the results of yearly sales. And boy are those dividends pretty good. In 2008, for example, the brewery paid out a total of €17 million as dividends to its owner, the state of Baden-Württemberg. (Also paying out €16.7 million in tax)
Spring water from 1,000 meters
Deep in the iconic Black Forest, with misty valleys, soft gentle springs, and country life to the max, the Rothaus brewery stands at an altitude of some 3,300 feet. Its location certainly helps the quality of the beer. The beer is brewed according to the German beer purity law, with the water coming from the nearby springs flowing down from the majestic mountain valleys.
Not only does the location offer the purest finest ingredients for a decent brew it also helps cement the image of a traditional brewery that is in tune with its roots and homeland. This is a beer from the Black Forest, a local beer for local people!
Sales are up
The company’s beer sales have jumped, with year on year sales increasing. And this is happening at a time when the domestic beer industry has been in slow decline for decades, despite the big hoo-ha of their Oktoberfest’s and the like. Rothaus is surging ahead, and all with little or no advertising.
Today you can get Rothaus beers in all of the major cities of Germany, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich and Cologne.
Many reasons can be given for its popularity (apart from the taste, of course!)
The beer is seen as an honest local brewery thriving in the cutthroat industry of the modern beer industry where multi-national takeovers and acquisitions are all the rage. As the top of the market is seemingly run by fewer and fewer companies its refreshing to see such a small brewery do so well.
Despite doing so well the brewery has no plans for further expansion. It’s happy with its lot. Expansion might mean taking unnecessary risks and losing its traditional “homely” image that it has worked so hard to build up. One has to only look at the disaster expansion has done to the supermarket giant Tesco to show that big doesn’t necessarily always mean bigger.
Most of the customers who drink Rothaus beers outside of the home state are young ex Baden-Württembergers yearning for a taste of the homeland. Seeking the beer far away from home also introduced it to new customers.
Its unconventional outlook and lack of an advertising plan also appeals to the many, who are looking for a product that is different, one that isn’t tainted by capitalism and mass advertising. Young Birgit won’t be getting a sexy makeover anytime soon, no mini skirts and suspenders for this lovely maiden of the Black Forest!
Review: 0.33 l Bottle of Rothaus Pils TannenZäpfle, 5.1%ABV
The great classic Germany pils with the super cool “old school” style label on the iconic 0.33 bottle format. This is a very popular beer, a cult brand, this beer from the Black Forest.
Aroma was quite strong to be honest, took me aback a little, wow. The grassy hops and citrus hitting the senses very quickly. A strong and clean earthy and grainy smell picked up. This aroma woke me up alright!
On the appearance side of things the beer looks pretty damn good. Very clean and pure looking, pouring a nice pale yellow colour. Head is pretty decent, nice and frothy, with a little lacing. A real good looking pilsner, with a nice crystal clear body.
The taste was very interesting, strong with a slightly malty initial taste to it, which lingers in the mouth. Some cereals, a hoppy finish and an equally strong bitter hoppy aftertaste. The beer had a very strong depth to it, and a lovely crisp feel in the mouth. The beer definitely grows on you and after a few more scoops I started to enjoy this beer. Was a good well balanced tasting beer, from the start to the finish, an interesting experience from the Black Forest.
Review: 0.33 l Bottle of Rothaus Hefe Weizen , Weizen Zapfle 5.4%ABV
The Rothaus Hefe Weizen Zäpfle, a typical wheat German beer with alcohol content of 5.4% but with an interesting and refreshing fruity flavour
On pour a very large foamy head appeared and took forever to settle. Once it eventually settles you are left with a dark cloudy colour of a beer, which has a good head that leaves a good bit of lacing on the glass.
On smell I get a lot of citrus and banana tones with the expected yeast and grain smell that is particular to Hefeweizens. A nice citric fruity smell!
Even though I am not a huge fan of Hefeweizens I found the taste was very smooth and creamy and quite enjoyable. The overall taste was sweet, with fruity flavours and a sour depth to the beer. The aftertaste was pretty bitter as you’d expect, the citrus kicking in. I enjoyed it and its a very drinkable and good tasting beer.
Review: 0.33 l Bottle of Rothaus Eis Zäpfle, 5.6%ABV. Style: Oktoberfest/Märzen
The Rothaus EisZäpfle (“Icicle”), called after the labourious process where in the old days these beers were brewed. Before refrigerators and ice machines, the last batches of bottom-fermented beer could only be brewed in March (März) at the latest, where naturally forming ice, cut in blocks from the ice sheets of local ponds and lakes, were used to cool the brews. Stored in cellars, large wooden scaffolding was sprayed with water so that icicles (“EisZäpfle”) would form on the beams, which would be knocked off to further cool the beer.
On pour, nice clear golden yellow colour with a pretty decent sized foamy white head, a good looking beer. Some lacing. Can hear the carbonation as it fizzes away, magic!
Aroma: strong smell of the hops, citrus, very malty, sweet malts
Taste: Sweet grainy maltiness at the start.
Back end taste of the hops was nice.
Felt stronger than the 5.6 for some reason…..
A very subtle taste, has a good balance of malts and hops, quite tasty, nothing amazing but boy was it easy to drink…. Perfect balance in flavour, clean, crisp and very refreshing.
A very easy beer to drink, very sessionable, could drink a lot of these easy enough as it was very smooth. Liked this beer a lot.