No matter your creed, there’s no denying that the zoigl star is a sign from above. Medieval Bavarian brewers represented their trade by hanging the zoigl above their doors. Though the symbol looks identical to the Star of David, it wasn’t meant to carry any religious affiliation. Rather, the star’s points symbolized the “three elements” used in brewing—water, earth, and fire—and the three known ingredients needed to make beer—water, malt, and hops (yeast had yet to receive credit).
As brewers in the eastern Bavarian region of Oberpfalz embraced the zoigl symbol, it’s only fitting that they called their product zoiglbier. Though individual batches varied depending on individual brewers’ facilities and preferences, all zoiglbiers were unfiltered, unpasteurized lagers with little carbonation. And how did these brewers alert the public that their beer was ready to drink? By hoisting a zoigl in front of their home.
During the Nazi era, which turned the Star of David into a symbol of oppression, brewers were forbidden from displaying the zoigl. When the brewers’ star reappeared in the years after World War II, some say it took on new meaning: a celebration of the Nazis’ defeat.
Because zoiglbier comes directly from a keg and expires quickly, it never spread outside Oberpfalz. But brewers in the area still serve the hyper-local, unfiltered lager out of their homes over long weekends. Some modern Bavarian companies slap the zoigl star on their beer labels, but don’t be fooled: True zoiglbier is served only from the home of the brewer, beneath the six-pointed symbol.
Need to Know
Since the late Middle Ages, beer-makers have united in communal breweries all across Oberpfalz (also known as the Upper Palatinate), but today only five true “zoigl towns” remain (Windischeschenbach, Neuhaus, Eslarn, Falkenberg, and Mitterteich).
Where to Try It
Mallersdorf AbbeyKlosterberg 1, Mallersdorf-Pfaffenberg, 84066, Germany
This 900-year-old monastery-turned-convent is home to Sister Doris Engelhard, Europe's last brewmaster nun. Her favorite beer is her dark zoigl.