Vignette 32, Jürgen Knöller (Bayern)

Jürgen Knöller was born in Bavaria, trained there as a brewer, and began his career there before relocating to Missoula, Montana to become the master brewer at the newly-founded Bayern Brewing--a company he bought in 1991. I interviewed him in 2013. See all the vignettes in the series here.


Knöller in 1987. Source: LivelyTimes

“I started brewing beer in 1978 as an apprentice; I did my three years as apprentice and got my journeyman’s certificate. I was working for another almost four years and then I got my masters degree. I graduated from Doemans. Now, when we were brewing back in those days back in Germany—well, put it this way: I’m still brewing the German lager beers from 1985. When you go to Germany you have some of the older breweries that still brew the same way, but the bigger ones certainly don’t do anymore. What’s different between our beers here in general is that they’re all probably a little bit stronger, a little bit darker, whereas in Germany they have gotten a lot lighter.”

“I worked for four different breweries in Germany; of those four three are no longer. The first one was Brauerei Schiff—‘Ship’—and we had a very traditional brewery. We are talking a four-vessel brewhouse with a falloff tank—whatever that is in English—it’s a fifth vessel. It had a cool ship, it was beautiful. I mean, that brewery did about a quarter-million hectoliters. And what happened was the owner died and the widow couldn’t run it and a brewery from Cologne bought it and they kind of ran it in the ground.”

We did beers there that I have never really seen being brewed anywhere else. Decoction beers, for one thing. The doppelbock they brewed—they left it in the tank for almost a year.

“The next brewery I worked for, it was also a very old brewery.... Some American breweries have a hopjack. Well we had a copper tank, vertical, that had a screen bottom like a lauter tun. All we were using was flower hops—and trust me, I have baled those things, 220 pounds those things were, some of them were even bigger—and that was on the fifth story. Oh, and by the way, the brewery was five stories up and five stories down into the cellars. That’s where you’re really lean and mean, running up and down stairs all the time, pushing, and lifting and shoveling all day long. So with all those flower hops, we ran the hot wort over that so the hot break would be on top of the flower hops. Then we were running from there into a [long conjunct German word] where we were separating out the cold break and cooling it down in the cool ship.”

Of all the brewers that were brewing that beer, including myself, there are only three guys that are still alive. I took some of those elements but of course I came up with my own—you look at what you have to work with and decide what you can and cannot do.

Source: Politico

VignetteJeff Alworth