This is a style of beer I ran into occasionally when visiting and living in Northern Bavaria, and I loved immediately and sought out because of the incredibly fresh, practically alive flavor of the beer. I also won a Gold Medal at the GABF some years back with this recipe in the “Keller or Unfiltered Lager” category.
Kellerbiers are similar to and I believe evolved from the German Helles style of beer. Helles simply means “light” in German (referring to the color, not flavor), but unlike Helles, Kellerbiers are unfiltered and often served with a slightly lower carbonation. The resulting flavor is to my palette is much fresher and more interesting.
The story I was told about the origins of Kellerbier involved the workers at the brewery sneaking into the Bierkeller (beer cellar) to get their mugs filled, because they preferred the flavor of the beer in the tank to the beer at the bar. Eventually the owners of the brewery caught on, and decided to sell a “Keller” version of the beer – unfiltered and therefore retaining some of the haze and yeast from the tanks, but also retaining the better flavor that the brewers preferred. This beer is also sometimes known as “Zwickelbier;” for the sample valves on the tanks (Zwickels) that the brewers would use to get the beer.
Our version stays true to the form, starting with 100% German Malts and Hops and fermented with an authentic lager yeast. We’re leaving it unclarified; I believe as the German brewers do, that filtration, while giving the beer a nicer appearance, takes some of the flavor and the fresh character out of the beer.