23 May 2008

Zierholz free beer tasting at Debacle

| Maelinar
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Last night I attended the Zierholz free beer tasting

As some may have picked up already – I found out yesterday that I’ve known Cristoph’s brother for several years, but I don’t think that matters for the purposes of the review.


Debacle turns out to be the first location in Canberra that hosted Zierholz on tap, and they have that, and other less common beers avaliable for purchase, it would be fair to say they specialise in the imported, botique beer market.

The venue is well constructed, and works well as a pub. I particularly liked the wooden furniture and the fireplace in the middle which gave it a bit of a taverna feel. I also had a meal there, watch this space for a review whenever I find somebody else who serves fish pizza in Canberra (it was actually quite nice, despite the title).

Zierholz was in up near the bar, and the staff were encouraging people to go try the free beer, rather than trying their wares (for purchase) which I found quite a complimentary thing to do.

Christoph had Mælinar’s current favourite – brown ale, as well as a porter, a wheat beer, and a pilsner, alongside a light beer – of which I didn’t try the light, because Mælinar is not scared of beer.

For those not so quick on the what-is-this-beer side of the house;

A brown ale is a little bit of a sweet mix between a draught (carlton draught) and a red ale (tooheys red) – albeit a little heavier. A stunning example of a brown ale is Newcastle Brown (nukie brown).

A porter is a heavy dark beer, usually heavily overtoned with chocolate, or other rich feel such as plum. There aren’t usually any of these avaliable commercially in Australia, however a good example are the Belgian porters – I think Tipay (black bottle, red label) does a nice one.

Wheat beers are a ‘grainy’ beer – usually with a unique flavour I simply attribute to the wheat. Most of the beer warehouses in Australia are now coming out with a wheatbeer release.

Pilsners are the beer people drank when they wanted a crisp beer, before dry beers came about. Most usually they taste like beer that has been in the freezer, I’ll be quick to admit I’ve been enjoying them this winter with roasts, for some inexplicable reason (I’d usually prefer a heavier ale with a roast) – examples include Resch’s and I’ll chuck in Tooheys Dry.

As for the beers – too complex to do a blow by blow as most are already familiar with. Zierholz is a unique brewery, using unique ingredients, brewing german style beer, in Australia. I found them all to be quite ‘crisp’, which I attribute to the german brew style. I had a number of brown ales, and after the tastebuds toned down a little from the initial crispness bang, all of the familiar tastes of a newcastle brown were there – a great Australian alternative to a nukie.

Similarly, the porter was rich and chocolaty, the pilsner was very crisp, and the wheat beer was very wheaty.

Christoph himself is a great chap, and it was great to chat to somebody with as prodigious a beer knowledge as he has. He also gave away his lurker status on RA, having tied together somewhere I have mentioned my love of Tui, which he was eager to chat to me about as he has also tried it, after he noted the clothing item I was wearing with the label on it (again as I’ve mentioned somewhere on RA before).

With the conversation ranging from the beer I was tasting, to Tui, to homebrewing, it is easy to consider I may have met a man already on a possible future career path…

Zierholz – I’d recommend giving it a shot to anybody. If having it for the first time, I’d recommend investing in 2 pints (or alternative) at the same time, as your tastebuds will still be zinging after the first beer. He also sells it in kegs for the more consumptive individuals.

[Ed. Riot’s Previous coverage of the Zierholz Brewery can be found here, and here]

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Christoph Zierholz3:49 pm 26 May 08

Thanks for the review and kind comments.

It was a terrific night and the response was inspiring.

With regard to bottling – no you do not necessarily need preservatives (actually hops are one as Mec points out) – sterility in the bottle is often achieved by pasteurisation after the beer is packaged which unfortunately does dull the flavours somewhat. Then again a slightly blander (less fresh) beer is probably still more stomachable than an infected beer.

With regard to the beer purity law (including whether wheatbeers conform) and brewing more generally those who are interested may find the following link useful:


As far as the Zierholz Beers are concerned, whilst stylistic descriptions help the consumer get an idea of what types of flavour and character to expect, each brewer likes to put his or her personal twist on their creation and as such I do not mind straying from the norm as long as the beer tastes good! Besides, everybody’s tastebuds are different and our enjoyment of food or beverage or often affected by mood so reviews should always be taken as one tasters interpretation rather than treated as an absolut description of fact.

The German Ale is my interpretation of a Koelsch style beer and the Amber Ale one of an Altbier whilst the Brown Ale is probably more of an American Brown Ale crossed with an English Mild. But really I don’t mind how people describe them as long as they keep buying and drinking them…;-)

The mini kegs go as a party hire for $80 for the equipment rental (for 5 days) and beer (10.3Litres) or repeat customers sometimes buy their own keg ($400 incl first fill) then do a swap and go with the empty keg (keeping and servicing the dispensehead themselves) for $71.50 for the refill.

A bottling line is likely to cost around $300K so a reasonable amount of shrapnel would be required to make that important next step. I am currently in negotiation to raise some funds (anybody want to buy my spare kidney?) so watch this space I guess.

Cheers and Beers

Ps I can also recommend the http://canberrabrewers.org as a fine group of enthusiasts – it is where I cut my brewing teeth before turning pro and sadly, not having the time to homebrew myself anymore these days.

How much are these little kegs then? I’m interested in them. Especially the Pilsener.

I’m sure we can agree Danman, that if it were not a moral and social foopah, I’d probably drink it out of a handy bucket that I could carry around with me all day.

All this made me curious to try a Zierholz. List of venues for first timers:


and every thucking horthe hath an eth in iths name

beer = good = drink more

Im sure we can all agree to that yeah ?

Mælinar said :

None taken Meconium.


Mælinar said :

No offense Mec 🙂

btw kids, in this country it’s Offence. Same with Defence. No s’s.

None taken Meconium. I’m happy to let you snipe my beer threads with your own ‘superior’ expertise whilst making no effort whatsoever to post your own material.

Sorry you were insulted by my descriptions – feel free to come up with your own description that a girl can understand using 2 sentences anytime you like.

And my most humble of apologies for not being able to go to every single bar in Canberra, so I’m aware of them, just so I can talk with pre-experience whenever I post. Even though I didn’t say it, it was the first time I had ever walked through the doors at Debacle – for that I make no apologies.

And for the record, Christoph appeared to quite like Tui as well – he was lamenting the fact you can only get it in bottles locally. Kind of makes your theory about Tui being piss-weak a little threadbare when the zierholz brewer doesn’t mind it, and he brews a few thousand gallons of his own, in various flavours.

Just cause you don’t like some beers, doesn’t mean other people do either (infact theres quite a few regulars here who would probably kill their mothers for a Tui). Feel free to post your own threads on the beers you like, it adds to the rich aroma of the RA.

No offense Mec 🙂

BTW Mael, I only just got to reading your post then. Nothing personal, but your description of Christoph’s Altbier as “A brown ale is a little bit of a sweet mix between a draught (carlton draught) and a red ale (tooheys red) – albeit a little heavier” is a huge insult. I had a go at you before for making a unique post on RiotACT for a mediocre Kiwi beer being on special at Dan Murphy’s… unfortunately reading your post above confirms that your experience and understanding of the beer world is weak. Besides, if you truly loved beer, you’d have already discovered Debacle.

Fortunately for Christoph (and partly due to his marketing strategy of calling his hard-to-pronounce Kölsch a “German Ale” and his Altbier a “Brown Ale” which incidentally Mael is NOT the same style as a Newcastle Brown, even though they’re the same colour and have some of the same flavours), his beers appear to have been accepted by Canberrans who love their specialty beers and by those who are happy to drink Tui!

No offense Mael 😛

I can answer a couple of those questions Skidbladnir.

The original Reinheitsgebot did exclude the use of yeast, as this was before they realised that there was a fungus contaminating the mixture… that fungus being S. cerevisiae (or other related species) that came from the sediment of previous batches (or the air). Just about all breweries claiming to follow the Reinheitsgebot use yeast now (not just any yeast, but one that’s been cultivated by the brewery, or specially selected for the type of beer). Incidentally, wheat malt was excluded from the original law as well, as it strictly stated barley malt. While brewers such as Christoph might get away with adding yeast (as microorganisms were not discovered until the 19th century), they certainly should not be allowed to claim that Weißbiers are brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, as the law strictly stated that barley malt was the only malt allowed to be used!

But I think they should get away with it, because I LOVE Hefeweizens, and Christoph’s is a fine example. I’m just about to crack a “Georg Schneider’s Wiesen Edel-Weisse” (from the Schneider brewery in Munich) that I bought from the IGA in Hughes. Good choice of imports there, when I can’t make it down to the Woden Tradies that as of a few weeks ago has Zierholz Kölsch on tap.

And speaking of German beer laws, Kölsch can’t be brewed in Germany more than 50km from the Cologne Cathedral. That’s a pretty cool law. But we’re blessed with two fine Kölsches in Canberra, which is great because it’s a great flavoursome style for a hot summer’s afternoon. Those two are Zierholz’s and the Wig and Pen’s Kamberra Kölsch, both excellent brews.

I’m rambling now. The other thing I wanted to tell you Skid is that preservatives are far from essential in bottled beers. Beer was originally brewed as a means of making non-potable water drinkable, as the act of fermentation (production of alcohol in particular) kills bacteria that make us sick. However, since many beers still have unfermented sugars in them, there is the potential for contamination. That’s why brewers started to use hops – the acids in them are bacteriostatic, meaning they act as a natural preservative, while also enhancing the flavour of the beer, by making it more bitter or fruity etc depending on the hops used.

Cooper’s, which has been brewing ales in SA for 140 years or so, has never used preservatives in any of their brews. And I’ve never had a bad Cooper’s, although I have had contaminated beers from Carlton and Tooheys.

someoneincanb4:30 pm 23 May 08

I’m sure you guys know there’s a huge, active Canberra Brewers club full of enthusiastic home brewers itching to give advice and support to new and experienced brewers alike. And they have a great forum too!

In my opinion it is easier to achieve a good flavour with full mash brewing. Sure you have the pissing about with the mashing, but the beers taste so damn clean! I find (found … ex-brewer .. ;( .. ) the syrups introduce nasty flavours that take a long time to “age out”.

I taste the Zierholz Pilsner for the first time a few weekends back (Durham Castle Arms in case you care to know …) and it is a fine, fine brew. The intense zingy flavour comes from the hops. I love a really hoppy beer, but there are some who are not so keen.

Does debacle stock all those beers all the time? If not, where can we get them?

U Brew IT in Hume is awesome

Christoph (wherever you are)…

1)Does bottling effectively mean you need to break the Purity Law and add preservatives?

2)How much is a bottling plant worth, and can we chip in or throw piles of money(*) at you to become investors in Zierholz Feinebrau?

3)If you “honour the German purity law of 1516”, don’t you need to charge no more than a pfennig per hogshead or beer, and avoid using any yeast at all?
(I don’t have the slightest idea of the text of the Law as I haven’t rspoken a word of German since I was a wee jobbie, and don’t know what Germans used as medieval units)

(*) = not small change, as I save up all of my silver shrapnel, put it in a sock, and then use it to beat up mimes)

gots to set it up 1st, – I have a mate who has a full set up – at least a dozen kegs – all on taps with c02.

He mills his own grains, cooks them and then brews from that…..special brewers yeast etc. At the moment I have no idea, I will be drawing off my friend for knowledge etc, but I am experienced in sittin gin his shed and getting a few under my belt, and if its anbything to go by, I expect the brews me and him will be turning out to be just as good.

If you like, when it comes time to brew, I will be making a video doco, ill give you the link…..

Just got a fridge, now I need to weatherproof the inside edges of out patio – then get a sparky to install some external power points, so still a while off yet, but ill keep you in the loop if you want mael.

Ant, you need not buy bottles, Christoph is opening a restaraunt at his premises soon and you can enjoy zierholz on tap in a couple of locals… or buy a pre charged mini keg.. .all you have to do is chill it and drink it… 😛

bottles = too expensive ant – another conversation topic, but I omitted it from my original story. I think he’s doing the bulk beer thing until the money starts rolling enough to consider going down that road.

When I get completely tired of washing brown bottles, I might go to kegging. Still going to use my syrup kits though.

Anyone who can make consistently good beer in giant quantities deserves a lot of respect, I have never seen this beer being sold in bottles but will keep my eyes open as I’m very keen to try it.

Danman, I’m interested in your setup. I use premix and then into my own gas circuit, but I’ve always been curious about the first stage and would like to get into that.

Keen ?

Christoph is a top bloke (Donated a mini keg for Mr+Mrs Danmans engagement party last year) and makes great beer to boot. I always have had a soft spot for weissbier but my hombrew mate is turning me to richer porters. In a month or 2 I will start brewing in kegs, one of each… from scratch..no pre purchased beer syrups here 🙂

Oh and I reccomend any of Christophs beers, because no tonly is it bloody good stuff, it is owned and produced locally.

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