Zoigl: The Beer, the Star, and Germany’s Best Kept Secret

Zoigl beer

Zoigl beer

It has got to be one of Germany’s best kept secrets. Not just the six-pointed star hanging in front of the house, but the homebrewed beer the star represents. The Zoigl tradition has almost gone extinct in Germany, and if you want to experience it, you need to travel to the Oberpfalz (Upper Palantinate) in Bavaria. But what an experience will await you! Some of the best beer you’ve ever tasted, super homemade meals at reasonable prices, and a slice of German culture that dates back to the Middle Ages.

An example of a Zoiglstern or Zoigl star. Brewers use them as a pub sign.

An example of a Zoiglstern or Zoigl star.  Brewers use them as a pub sign.

Zoigl beer

In a custom related to the German Strausswirtschaft and the English alestake, Germans in the Oberpfalz display a six-pointed star – the Zoiglstern – when homebrew is available for sale. Then the brewer will throw open the doors to a Kommunbrauhaus (community brewing house) and invite guests in for food and foaming glasses of amber that taste better than anything you can buy in a store. This beer is bottom-fermented (brewed with different yeast strains at cooler temperatures and over a longer period of time) and unfiltered. Because they compete with restaurants, Zoigl brewers can only open for a few weeks at a time, usually 14 days to 4 weeks. They’re usually open on a rotating schedule.

Another star.

Another star.

Dining on the premises of a community brewing house offers a cozy feeling you don’t often get in a restaurant. Germans love Zoigl brewing houses for their intimate atmosphere. A survey of guests revealed the following reasons for their visit: cheap beer, affordable meals, and the chance to chat with total strangers, often on a “du” (instead of the formal “Sie”) basis.

Yet another example of a brewer's star incorporated into a pub sign.

Yes another example of a brewer’s star incorporated into a pub sign.

Where to find a brewer

Finding an open community brewing house can be tough unless you know where to look. Only 20 brewers still have the right to brew Zoigl beer, and they live in only a few German towns:

Eslarn

Falkenberg (Oberpflaz)

Mitterteich

Neuhaus

Weiden

Windiseschenbach

You can check an online calendar to see which ones are open when.

The Zoigl star

The oldest depiction of a brewer's star dates back to the 15th century.

The oldest depiction of a brewer’s star dates back to the 15th century. Unknown artist, Hausbuch der Mendelschen Zwölfbrüderstiftung, Band 1. Nürnberg 1426–1549, public domain.

The Zoigl star looks just like the Star of David. But the its history reveals a totally different symbolism. The star has long been associated with alchemy and brewing. A popular theory is that one triangle represents the three medieval elements necessary for brewing, fire, water, and air, and the other the three ingredients in beer, water, malt, and hops.  Traditionally, a white star means pale ale and a red one dark ale. The stars told an illiterate medieval public when homebrew was available. The word Zoigl, in fact, derives from the German verb “zeigen” (to show).

Have you ever visited a Zoigl brewing house in Germany? What did you think?

My last example of a Zoigl star. I have to stop writing my blog now because just thinking about Zoigl beer is making me drool.

My last example of a star. I have to stop writing my blog now because just thinking about Zoigl beer is making me drool.

Literature on point:

Adolf F. Hahn, Der Zoigl: ein echer kerniger Oberpfälzer (self-published book by a Zoigl brewer, 2007)

Andreas Kassalitzky, Zoigl – Vom Ausschuss zum Kultgetränk

Martin Stangl, Das Buch vom Zoigl (Weiden: 2008)

12 Comments

  1. Marilyn Tomlins
    Aug 8, 2019

    I would love to have one of these little bottles of beer, not to drink but just to have it.

    • Ann Marie
      Aug 9, 2019

      Next time I’m there, if I have a chance to purchase one for you, I will…. I can’t recall if they sell bottles of beer, but if they’re anything like the Strasswirtschaft, they probably do.

      • John Kaelin
        Aug 20, 2019

        Oh… me too. Hope i’ll get one

      • Ann Marie
        Aug 21, 2019

        Hey John, I’ll raise a glass to that!

  2. Eric Zehnbauer
    Aug 11, 2019

    I think you’re forgetting one: Zoigl beer is also brewed in Weiden in der Oberpfalz: https://www.braeuwirt.de/en/braukeller.html

    • Ann Marie
      Aug 12, 2019

      Hello Eric! Thanks for the tip! Weiden is listed as one of the towns that used to brew Zoigl on this website: http://www.zoigl.de/english/zoigltowns.html. I checked your link, and although the site says it brews Zoigl beer, the brewer’s open all year around. That would tend to indicate it’s not a communal brewing house.

      I double checked Adolf Hahn’s book, Der Zoigl, and although the book contains the same map as in the link, it does mention Weiden on some other pages. So I stand corrected!

  3. Susan Voth
    Oct 7, 2019

    Interesting about the beer and the history and meaning of the Zoigl star. Funny comment about having to stop writing about this topic because you’ll start drooling lol.

    • Ann Marie
      Oct 8, 2019

      Zoigl is a fun aspect of German culture, that’s for sure! Thanks for commenting, Susan.

  4. Rick
    Oct 28, 2019

    Search for ZoiglKalendar 2018/2019 and find the pdf. file. The Zoigl stuben in bold text brew their own bier. Others in normal text get their beer from another stuben. My favorite is Kramer Wolf in Falkenberg.

    • Ann Marie
      Oct 29, 2019

      Thanks for the tip, Rick! The next time I’m in the area, I’ll swing by Kramer Wolf.

  5. Ken Lenard
    Mar 3, 2022

    Very cool article. I have been brewing beer here in Chicago since 1999 and as far as I know I have never brewed a Zoigl but the American Homebrewer’s Association just published a recipe for one and I am ABSOLUTELY making one. I considered it as soon as I saw the recipe but now that I have read this article it’s definitely happening. Cheers & Thanks.

    • Ann Marie
      Mar 3, 2022

      I’d sure love to taste your Zoigl! You ought to come out to Germany and try one there, too. There is a whole culture around it. Thanks for commenting.

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