Fresh beer is good beer, and typically nothing is fresher than kellerbier, a German lager style built around the idea of packaging a beer to taste like it's poured directly from the brewery tanks. An alternate version of the style, the zwickel, takes the German name for the little spigot on the side of lagering vessels used to sample beer. But the essence of the keller and zwickel is that the pale lager remains unfiltered and unrefined beyond the time it's spent conditioning. "As brewers, we're spoiled by constant access to the freshest beer," says Sierra Nevada brewer Matt Ruzich. "A kellerbier offers consumers a glimpse of what we get to taste."
That fresh taste Ruzich and his colleagues enjoy comes from the little bit of yeast, protein, and other tiny particles left over from mashing, boiling, and fermentation. In essence, says Crux Fermentation Project co-owner Larry Sidor, "flavors haven't been stripped out by filtration like the majority of American lagers." So it's a refreshing, blond European-inspired lager with an extra layer of malt, hops, and yeast character. But what's the catch? These beers taste fresh and they're meant to be served fresh. That means they usually don't travel far or sit around for long. While this oddball Old World style may be tough to find, we promise it's well worth the hunt. Here are 12 of our favorites to get you started.