Former Chuckanut brewer Kevin Davey (who is now getting ready to open Wayfinder Beer in Portland) recently collaborated with the Chuckanut brewers to make a Landbier, and it’s now on tap at Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen. When Wayfinder Beer opens this spring, it will also have Chuckanut Landbier on tap, and it will be the first time Chuckanut beer has ever been on tap in Oregon.
Chuckanut Landbier (5.4% ABV) is a rustic, German-style lager that pours golden in color and is capped with a nice and frothy head. It’s an unfiltered beer, but finings and conditioning helped to make it surprisingly clear. The beer’s nose is wonderfully aromatic, with notes of fresh-baked bread, light crust and nuts. Flavor-wise, it has a rich but nuanced malt backbone complemented by a healthy dose of Noble hops that leave behind aromatic hints of fresh herbs and spices.
In my opinion, Davey and the Chuckanut Crew did a fantastic job with this beer. It’s tremendously balanced, impeccably smooth and highly quaffable.
WHAT IS A LANDBIER?
According to the German Beer Institute, Landbier is a general term denoting a simple, easy-drinking, everyday session brew. Vague, I know.
Many sources describe it as being closely related to Kellerbier, Zoiglbier, Zwickelbier and Lagerbier, all of which are uncommonly replicated in the U.S. But that only adds to the confusion.
Furthermore, it may be light or dark in color, and it can be filtered like a Pilsner or unfiltered like a Kellerbier. Its alcohol content can vary from the high 4% range to the mid 5% range (ABV).
In Germany, it seems Landbier has less to do with a particular style and more to do with branding.
RateBeer provides this description of the related lager styles common to the Franconia region of Germany:
Essentially, these are hoppier versions of a Helles, served with natural carbonation and unfiltered – they are the lager world’s answer to real ale. Kellerbier will on average be hoppier than Zwickelbier. There is also Landbier, which is more malt-accented, may be filtered, but is similarly lacking in carbonation. Gravity is standard, low to moderate hop rates, the color from pale to reddish-amber and the palate should be balanced with a hop accent. Zoiglbier, common to Oberpfalz, is also included in this category.
Michael James, an old beer buddy of mine, has written extensively on Franconian lagers, and he wrote the best breakdown I have ever read on Kellerbier, Zwickelbier, Landbier, Zoiglbier and Lagerbier. He also posted an account of one of his Zoigl journeys (with some fantastic photography), plus he created a map of the Zoigl breweries.
When it comes to describing Landbier, James sums it up well:
In German, Landbier simply means country beer. Beer of the land. Like Kellerbier and Zwickel, not really style, but not for the same reason. Landbier is a catch-all name that Franconian brewers have used for hundreds of years, so it’s more of a marketing term than a beer style. At many of these small breweries, the simplicity of the beer menu goes no further than pale, amber and dark, each one could be called Landbier. Landbier Helles and Landbier Dunkles essentially mean Hell and Dunkel and no more, but there are also a number of extremely hoppy beers called Landbier that could just as well be called Kellerbier or Pilsner (if filtered). Makes sense, right? The term Dunkles Kellerbier is used occasionally, which makes it confusing as to where it should be classified in online beer databases, Dunkel or Zwickel / Keller / Landbier? Flip a coin. The lesson is: You may have two similar beers brewed a kilometer apart but given different names. The Germans aren’t hung up on style classifications like us Americans. They are giving you a general description of what the beer is: dunkles landbier means “dark countryside lager,” plain as day.