I first encountered Rothaus Tannenzäpfle while living in Germany in my early 20s and have enjoyed drinking it immensely ever since then. Originating from the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) in Baden-Wüttemberg, this southwestern German Pilsner has a soft-water rounded malt profile capped off with a perfectly balanced touch of bitterness on the back end.
Though ideal for year-round consumption, it is also arguably the most seasonally appropriate Pils for the wintertime, as Tannenzäpfle translates to “pine cone” (as depicted on the label’s woodcut-style iconography) and has the same word-stem as Tannenbaum… i.e. Christmas tree!
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The Rothaus Pils Tannenzäpfle has existed since 1956—so for almost 60 years. Its unusual name is embodied on the labels of the 0.33 l bottles. Just as today, the original Tannenzäpfle labels depicted spruce-fir branches accompanied by pinecones. These pinecones are what gave this beer its name.
In the 50’s it was extremely unusual to serve beer in such small bottles. Beers in 0.7 l bottles were the norm. But despite its unusual size, the Tannenzäpfle quickly made more and more friends.
But there’s one other characteristic that makes the Tannenzäpfle special; it was the first Rothaus beer to emerge with a label depicting “Biergit”, the Black Forest girl holding two glasses of beer. Today, “Biergit” is the defining symbol for all beers made by the Rothaus Brewery.
The Founding of Rothaus:
The Rothaus Brewery was founded 1791 through the Benedictine monastery St. Blasien in the “Zum Rothen Haus” inn (“To the Red House” in English), whose existence has been on record since 1681. The location was conveniently chosen; it offered sufficient water resources and enough wood from its immediate surroundings to generate heat. The trade route from Freiburg over Grafenhausen to Waldshut made this secluded area an intermediate destination for trading. Being the route’s highest spot in altitude, Rothaus served as a perfect place for travelers to catch their breath. Aside from this, it was nestled halfway between the renowned monastery St. Blasien and its newly acquired dominion of Bonndorf.
Its founding father, Fürstabt Martin Gerbert II., is considered today as not only a famous scientist, but also as a progressive politician who was concerned in particular with the economic advancement of the region that was entrusted to him. Through his modern insights he implemented structural policies and founded, aside from the Rothaus Brewery, the Sparkasse (a chain of banks in Germany) of Bonndorf—the second oldest Sparkasse in Germany.
Martin Gerbert was born 1720 in Horb am Neckar and became a priest in 1744. Today he is indisputably considered one of the most significant abbots to have brought the St. Blasien monastery to the fore. He died on May 13, 1793 at the age of 73. Because he had had a stroke nine years earlier, he was only able to consciously witness the first few months of the Rothaus Brewery’s inception.