Lindenbräu (Gräfenberg)

On my latest visit to Lindenbräu I discovered tradition, sustainability and high quality come together. With a heavy focus on local ingredients, they brew terroir driven beers from traditional styles to the modern hop driven Fritzle. Add to that, careful restoration of heritage brew equipment and the optional hike of five breweries - all in one place.

Have you ever known a terrior-driven brewery? Tradition, history, sustainability, and high quality come together at Lindenbräu.

Talking about “terrior”, this fluffy term that sums up the local influences that characterizes a modern well-made wine is unavoidable during a winetasting. During a beer tasting though, it is completely absent due to the basic fact that beer’s character is not made out of ingredients and influences of one local area – except for in a very few places. Lindenbräu in Gräfenberg is such a place.

Like many other small villages in Franconia, Gräfenberg had a communal brewhouse in operation from 1628 – 1960. During this time, communal brewhouses were common in Bavaria and provided a way for small-scale brewers to share resources and equipment. These brewhouses were often owned by the local community and were used by multiple brewers to produce beer.

The brewery, now known as Lindenbräu, had its origins in the communal brewery to provide for their Gasthaus acquired by the Brehmer family in 1900. In 1928, they began building their own brewery which stood ready in 1932 bearing the name Brauerei Brehmer. The brewery remains in the family to this day, as 4th generation and current owners Irene Brehmer-Stockum and Ralf Stockum continues tradition including the Gasthaus with overnight accommodation.

The Gasthaus next to the brewery serving the Lindenbräu beers

The brewery takes great pride in using only the finest ingredients, but what really sets them apart is their focus on sustainability and supporting local agriculture. Their hops are sourced from the neighboring village Lilling and up to 15% of their malt is produced in their own malting facility which was built in 1938. They produce Helles, Wiener and Munich malts and the brewery works closely with local farmers to source the best grains, which are then carefully floor malted to produce a range of flavorful and aromatic malt varieties. By sourcing locally, Lindenbräu not only supports the local economy but also ensures that its beers have a distinct and authentic regional flavor – terrior.

Tradition and quality compliments each other

Lindenbräu's uniqueness in Franconia stems from its utilization of self-produced floor malts, a method that owner and brewer Ralf Stockum undertakes as a personal pastime though it is a laborious and time-intensive process. Initially, barley grains are soaked in water to initiate the germination process, after which they are spread onto a floor where they are meticulously monitored for conditions such as temperature, moisture, and ventilation to facilitate further germination. In a bid to prevent the malt from solidifying, it is reversed twice daily.

In contrast to modern malting methods, traditional floor malting occurs without any artificial ventilation, resulting in green floor malt beds that contain higher levels of CO2. While this may leave the malt slightly "under-modified" by modern standards, the process imbues the malt with a rich, aromatic flavor that is far more intense than what is typically achieved by today's time-efficient, industrial malting procedures.

Even though the brewhouse has been modernized, it still looks like the original building by Heinrich Huppmann (Kitzingen) from 1932, because most of the restoration work was done on the inside. Leaving the original copper untouched with the addition of stainless steel vessels on the inside. It’s a great example of installing modern equipment and techniques that increase the efficiency, without losing the look and feel of the original beautiful brewhouse from 1932.

Lindenbräu’s use of locally-sourced hops from Lilling adds to the brewery’s central position in the local “eco-system” by supporting local agriculture while helping to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the transportation of the hops. It also means that the hops have every chance of being in best possible condition.

Like quite a few other breweries in the region, Lindenbräu is using open top fermenters. Having disappeared in most modern breweries, many Franconian breweries, are still using the labor intensive method with great results. Open top fermenters provides a range of advantages. In addition to making it easier for the unwanted compounds like Acetaldehyde and Hydrogen Sulphide to evaporate, most open top fermenter designs also have a more balanced height to diameter ratio. Modern cylindroconical tanks are generally built with a height to diameter ratios between 3:1 and 5:1. The open fermenters at Lindenbräu are around 2:1 putting less hydrostatic stress on the yeast. In beer fermentation, hydrostatic pressure is the pressure exerted by the liquid in the tank on the yeast cells. In effect, causing yeast stress. When hydrostatic pressure is too high, it may affect the yeast's ability to function correctly, leading to slower fermentation rates or the complete cessation of fermentation. High hydrostatic pressure can also cause changes to the yeast cell membrane structure, making it more difficult for the yeast to process sugars effectively.

Apart from the advantages of faster and healthier fermentation, the open top fermenters also makes it possible to top crop or skim the Kräusen. At Lindenbräu, they skim the Kräusen three times a week. They do so to get rid of the dead cells, wort proteins, and hop derived compounds brought up in the Kräusen. The feasible argument for doing it is that not all of these components falls out of the solution, and its presence in beer can lead to undesirable characteristics like cloying bitterness. In addition, Ralf have discovered that their yeast condition, when reused, improves from it, resulting in higher efficiency. Last time I visited the brewery I shot a video of the skimming process which can been seen below.

Ralf Stockum in action skimming the Kräusen

The beers

Lindenbräu’s hop forward Zwickl/Kellerbier style beer called Fritzle showcases the advantages of their methods. Bearing the name after the founding father Fritz Brehmer, the style is somewhat unusual for Franconian breweries. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful beer with plenty of fresh aroma hops. I’ve had a few times by now and the appearance varies from cloudy to nearly clear. Depending on the freshness. The nose has notes of lemon, grapefruit, white peach and tangerines. Over the palate comes tangerines, light peach, biscuit malt and flowers. The bitterness is within pilsener range and more than enough to make it last, giving this beer a perfect balance. 4.6

Two of the other beers from their range are great examples of beers benefitting from the open fermentation and floor malting facility. Their malt forward amber coloured Vollbier (Vienna) and the Pilsener. The Vollbier has ripe fruit, rich malt flavours and light toffee backed up by floral hops. 100% Vienna malt, Hallertau tradition and Hersbrucker hops, smooth and richer than most I’ve tried within this style. You will often find it gravity dispensed at the Gasthaus, which is how this beer should be enjoyed. 3.9 The pilsner has crisp pilsener malt, light scents of honey, punchy, floral and grassy hops, leaving you thirsty for more. 4.1 Both clean, precise and unique terroir driven beers with a great malt presence.

”Fünf seidla steig” on our last visit.

Last time we visited the brewery, we did the so called ”Fünf seidla steig” [Five pints walk]. A popular hiking trail named after the five breweries that are located along the trail. The trail starts in the town of Gräfenberg, and hikers can expect a easy to moderate hike that takes around two hours to complete.

The trail is well-marked and takes hikers through beautiful forests, along rocky paths, and up steep hills. The first section of the hike offers views of Gräfenberg and the surrounding countryside. As hikers ascend, they will pass through peaceful forests and see stunning views of the hills and valleys.

The five breweries located along the trail offer an opportunity to sample the local beer and traditional Franconian food. The breweries are well-spaced out along the trail, so hikers can enjoy a refreshing beer at each stop without feeling rushed.

The breweries on the trail are apart from Lindenbräu, Hoffmann, Klosterbrauerei Weißenohe, Friedmann, Hofman and Elch-Bräu. At times, it did feel like we were on trail with 20 stag nights, but fun nonetheless.

After a long eventful hike, the overnight accomodation at Lindenbräu becomes handy. We had a quiet stay and a good start of the day with plenty of breakfast options. My favourite mornings away always start at a brewery and this one didn’t disappoint. Highly recommended.

My impression from our last visit is that Lindenbräu has succeeded in transforming a traditional and by todays standard quite unique brewery, into a modern brewery with a contemporary styled beer like Fritzle and traditional beers like the Vollbier and Pils. Bridging the gap between the modern and traditional brewing scene and modernizing the brewery with respect for the tradition and the local setting. More pictures from our visit below.

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