Germany has something of a reputation for brewing and distilling fine beers and alcoholic beverages, so it should come as no surprise the word is out on a successful and profitable state-owned corporation, known as the Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus or the State Brewery of Baden: Rothaus.
Zapfle is its most successful pilsner and it’s not uncommon to find young, trendy students and active socialists quaffing the dinky 33cl bottles in taverns and biergartens throughout Germany.
The pilsners brewed at Rothaus have an almost cult-like status among drinkers, allowing the company to promote its beer on social reputation, rather than the heavy advertising campaigns often used by Danish and other international breweries.
How Rothaus has managed to stay on top of its game, when all around global brewing giants are spending billions on advertising, is a remarkable feat. But today’s hipsters supping from bottles across the big cities of Cologne, Berlin and Munich will listen very closely to word of mouth. And right now, Tannenzäpfle is a trending word on the streets thanks to a bit of Black Forest magic and mystique that comes in a small brown bottle.
The first hop was put to liquid way back in 1791. The brewery was founded by the Abbot of St. Blasien, Fürstabt Martin Gerbert II., keen to get the economy of this southern district of the Black Forest moving. It was later owned by the Grand Duchy of Baden (1806), and now by Bundesland Baden-Württemberg. The brewery has had its official name of "Rothaus, State Brewery of Baden" since 1918.
It was back in the 1990s that something quite significant happened at Rothaus. It came at a time when sales of alcohol (beer included) were in decline and many breweries across Europe were cutting distribution and output accordingly. However, the former governor of one of the state division, Norbert Nothelfer, took over and became chairman, only to double its output of beer.
It still sold by the crate-load and even introduced a non-alcoholic lager and a wheat beer to its existing pilsners. Naturally, the pilsners are brewed in true German style and, with a turnover in excess of 90 million euros, it is helping to maintain that great reputation all over the world that German beer is so immaculately crafted, brilliantly marketed and so pure. And, we’ve not even got on to the taste as yet.
Today the brewery employs over 200 people and its is all the more significant because this area of Germany has seldom been regarded as any sort of economic powerhouse.
Visiting the brewery
It can be found in the picturesque village of Grafenhausen. A hamlet-like beauty spot within the Black Forest. Over the course of the early 21st century, Rothaus has become a household name even outside the state of Baden-Württemberg (which completely owns the brewery).
Tickets and hours
The brewery is open Monday to Fridays from 12:00 to 17:00, Saturdays just at noon, and, for the fee of 11 €, you get a guided tour, a Rothaus Tannenzäpfle (0.33 l) and 1 pretzel. Please make sure to book in advance.