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  • Writer's pictureLuke Nyswonger

Crafting a Strawberry Zwickelbier with Tradition and Technology

Kelley, Jade (our four-legged friend), and I set off last weekend on a day trip to Bellingham, WA. The weather was perfect, and the promise of adventure filled the air. As we arrived, our first stop for lunch was none other than the renowned Twin Sisters Brewing Company. With hunger pangs quelled, we were greeted by a menu filled with unique brews, but one caught my eye immediately: a Strawberry Zwickelbier. 🍓🍺

From this first sip at lunch, our day was set on a delightful path, guided by the tantalizing flavors of traditional German brewing artfully blended with the sweetness of fresh strawberries. As we explored other breweries in Bellingham, the memory of that beer lingered, leading me on a quest to understand and recreate it in my home brewery.

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A Journey Into Flavor

Imagine sipping on a beer that's not just a drink but an experience. A delightful union of traditional German brewing artistry coupled with a tantalizing fruity twist. Welcome to the world of Zwickelbier, or as it's also known, Kellerbier. This isn't your ordinary lager. Originating from the Franconia region of Bavaria, Germany, Kellerbier, translating to "cellar beer," draws its name from its traditional storage in cool cellar temperatures. This pale beauty is unfiltered and unpasteurized, a technique giving it a cloudy appearance and less carbonation. What's special about it? The complex flavor profile that invites your palate to explore layers of taste, from subtle hints of hops and malt to the natural presence of yeast.

Take a journey back in time, and you'll find Kellerbier resting and maturing in underground cellars. This chilling process wasn't just for preservation; it enabled secondary fermentation that imparted the beer with its characteristic fresh, smooth, and layered taste.

Now, what about the name Zwickelbier? It's a term rooted in brewing tradition, referring to the "Zwickel," or sampling cock, that allowed brewers to taste-test directly from the aging barrel for quality assurance. Originally, Zwickelbier was simply this sample, but over time, it became synonymous with Kellerbier. Both names describe the same beautiful unfiltered, unpasteurized lager, though you might notice some slight regional differences and preferences.

This tale of brewing mastery takes an even more enchanting twist with the particular rendition I encountered that day. Elevated with the infusion of strawberries from Spotted Owl Farms, the taste was nothing short of sublime. Imagine notes of fresh strawberry waltzing with the malt, while whispers of Magnum and Mittelfruh hops tease in the background. It was just the right amount! This magical brew, courtesy of the generous folks at Twin Sisters, sent me on an adventurous quest to recreate the enchanting blend at home.

Recipe design with ChatGPT

Embracing technology and tradition, I turned to ChatGPT to help me design my own strawberry Zwickelbier. Drawing on my personal tasting notes that day and utilizing my knowledge of the beer's profile, including the distinctive hops, the 4.7% ABV, and an IBU of 15, I embarked on a brewing journey starting with this prompt.

Prompt: Craft a recipe for a 4.7% ABV strawberry zwickelbier, tailored to a 5-gallon all-grain homebrewing system. This unique brew should incorporate Weyermann Pilsner Malt as the base, paired with both Hallertau and Magnum hops, achieving a total IBU of 15. The desired flavor profile is a delicate balance of biscuit maltiness and fresh strawberry, creating a harmonious and subtle complexity. Consider the traditional German Zwickelbier characteristics, but with a twist that accentuates the strawberry infusion. Provide details on the malt bill (with Weyermann Pilsner Malt as the base), hop schedule, yeast selection, fermentation temperature, and how to best incorporate the strawberries to capture their essence without overwhelming the traditional flavors.

ChatGPT guided me through the balancing act of grains and the all-important infusion of strawberries, sourced from a local organic farm, known for its sweet and aromatic berries. While the full grain bill remains a secret, the collaboration with AI provided me with the insights and inspiration to craft a brew that marries classic Zwickelbier characteristics with the fresh twist of strawberries.

While the traditional Zwickelbier finds its roots in the Franconian cellars and oak barrels of Bavaria, homebrewers can still capture the essence of this classic brew without access to these aging techniques. To infuse your Zwickelbier with an authentic touch, consider using a yeast strain specific to the style, such as a Munich or German Lager yeast, which will impart the characteristic fresh and smooth taste. The emphasis on an unfiltered appearance can be maintained by skipping the clarification steps and allowing the beer to mature at cooler temperatures for an extended lagering phase. Additionally, including a proper balance of Hallertau and Magnum hops and maintaining a malt-forward profile will enhance the traditional Zwickelbier characteristics. You may also experiment with conditioning your beer in a secondary fermenter with light exposure to wood chips, like oak, to mimic the subtle influences of barrel-aging. By embracing these elements, you can craft a Zwickelbier at home that resonates with tradition and stands distinct from an ordinary lager.

In my pursuit to perfect the yeast selection, I consulted ChatGPT, which recommended both Wyeast 2308 Munich Lager and White Labs WLP830 German Lager Yeast. However, my preference leaned towards Imperial Yeast's L17 Harvest, a choice driven by my love for its ability to accentuate the malt complexity without overshadowing the delicate strawberry infusion. This yeast's clean fermentation profile is key in achieving a harmonious balance between malt, hops, and strawberry flavors. Opting for simplicity and quality, I chose Oregon Fruit Strawberry Puree instead of fresh strawberries. To unify the malt bill, I replaced carapils with carafoam, staying loyal to Weyermann malts. I intentionally avoided all clarifying agents and procedures to preserve the beer's authentic character. Finally, I carefully adjusted the salts to align with my water profile and slightly increased the IBU to 20, adding a hint more bitterness to perfectly round off the flavor profile.

🍓Strawberry Zwickelbier

Malt Bill

  • 9 lbs Weyermann Pilsner Malt (90%)

  • 0.5 lbs Weyermann Munich Malt (5%) - to add some biscuit maltiness

  • 0.5 lbs Weyermann Carafoam Malt (5%) - for mouthfeel and head retention


  • 0.25 oz Magnum Hops (15.4% AA) - Bittering (60-minute boil)

  • 1.0 oz Hallertau Hops (5.4% AA) - Flavor (10-minute boil)



  1. Heat 3.5 gallons of water to 150°F (65°C).

  2. Mash the grains for 60 minutes at 150°F (65°C).

  3. Sparge with 4 gallons of 170°F (77°C) water.


  1. Bring the wort to a boil and add the Magnum hops.

  2. Boil for 50 minutes, then add the Mittelfruh hops.

  3. Boil for another 10 minutes.

  4. Cool the wort to around 60°F, then transfer to the fermenter.


  1. Pitch the yeast and ferment at 55°F (10-13°C) for 1-2 weeks or until primary fermentation is complete.

  2. Rack the beer into a secondary fermenter and add the strawberry puree.

  3. Gradually decrease the temperature to 35°F over a week.

  4. Lager at this temperature for 4-6 weeks, tasting occasionally.

  5. Bottle or keg as desired, allowing the beer to carbonate.

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The world of beer is full of surprises, and my trip to Bellingham was no exception. Twin Sisters Brewing Company not only opened my palate to a delightful fusion of flavors but also ignited a curiosity that led me to research and truly appreciate the Zwickelbier style, a newfound fascination in my beer journey. This exploration encouraged a brewing adventure that culminated in a new creation right in my own kitchen, reflecting both tradition and innovation.

If you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest, don't miss the chance to visit Twin Sisters. And if you're a homebrewer like me, grab your mash paddle and give this Strawberry Zwickelbier recipe a whirl. It's a journey worth taking, filled with tradition, discovery, innovation, and a touch of summer in every glass. By embracing this unique beer style, you'll find yourself immersed in a taste experience that transcends the ordinary, linking you to a rich legacy of brewing artistry.

Join me at, where I continue to explore the intersection of homebrewing, technology, and tradition. Sign up for the newsletter and join the Facebook community to stay updated on new articles, exciting recipes, and groundbreaking homebrewing insights. Let's journey together in the pursuit of brewing innovation and community connection.

Brewing updates will be in the comments below 👇

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Luke Nyswonger
Luke Nyswonger


Luke Nyswonger
Luke Nyswonger

Brewed 8/20/23. Here are the final specs for this version.

Recipe Specifications


Boil Size: 6.53 gal

Post Boil Volume: 5.99 gal

Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal

Bottling Volume: 4.60 gal

Estimated OG: 1.053 SG

Estimated Color: 3.9 SRM

Estimated IBU: 19.7 IBUs

Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %

Est Mash Efficiency: 82.8 %

Boil Time: 60 Minutes



7.98 gal water Bothell, WA

2.00 g Calcium Chloride (Mash)

9 lbs Weyermann Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM)

8.0 oz Weyermann Carafoam (2.0 SRM)

8.0 oz Weyermann Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)

0.25 oz Hallertau Magnum [15.40 %] - Boil 60.0 min

1.00 oz Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [5.40 %] - Boil 10.0 min

0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 10.0 mins)

1.0 pkg Harvest…

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