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Rothaus Brewery

At an altitude of 1,000m, Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus AG – the highest brewery in Germany – is nestled in the trees in the Upper Black Forest, in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg.

The brewery is situated on the northern edge of the village of Grafenhausen, a mere 30 minutes from the border with Switzerland (and only an hour from Zurich airport).
Rothaus Brewery Grafenhausen
Founded by Benedictine Monks in 1791 at the ‘Inn of the Red House’, Rothaus brewery has been state owned since 1806. Still conforming to the 'Reinheitsgebot' or 'German Beer Purity Law' of 1516, Rothaus beers epitomise the doctrine of quality and consistency, making the 230-year-old German brewery something of a national treasure.

A fervent passion for carefully cultivated, world-class, regional ingredients; brewed using traditional recipes; in a modern, state-of-the-art brewhouse – Rothaus Brewery in South West Germany has become a pilgrimage for beer fans the world over. 

Rothaus beers are made from pure mountain spring water, organic malt, hops and yeast. Unpasteurised and matured deep underground, the end result is a beer that is clean, crisp and incredibly moreish!

Rothaus beer
Don't let 230 years of brewing heritage fool you into thinking that Rothaus is in any way an old fashioned brewery. From the earliest years, the brewery has had a reputation for investing heavily in then, modern innovations. 

In 1875 Rothaus introduced a specialised railroad car, a more powerful steam engine and amongst other forward thinking technologies, a new drying kiln for malt production. Just twenty years later, Rothaus invested in a motorised delivery truck.

Despite being devoted to traditional recipes, regional ingredients and local craftsmanship, Rothaus have always been at the fore. No surprise then, that their state-of-the-art bottling line can fill over 76,000 bottles per hour. 

Rothaus Packing Line

A line consisting of more than thirty different machines, contributed from more than a dozen suppliers, the automated sorting line can sort a jaw-dropping 3,200 crates per hour.

The ingredients

Water forms the body of the beer since it constitutes more than 90% of its volume. Rothaus extract their water from seven natural springs, filtered by sandstone and Palaeozoic granite. Its natural purity and softness (1.5° dH –– 'hard water') means it requires no treating whatsoever — although it is constantly monitored to ensure it remains utterly uncontaminated.

The malt determines the colour and taste and is often referred to as the soul of the beer. Rothaus source their malt from the region of Baden-Württemberg, where is has been grown using the same organic methods of many decades. The barley used to make the malt is formed from two summer varieties that produce different enzymes during the brewing process — converting the starch into sugars and subtly modifying the beer’s taste.

The hops imbue the beer with its aroma and tartness and like malt, are grown locally using small scale organic farming methods. A blend of Hallertau and Tettnang hops are used in Rothaus beers. Both are aromatic hops with great flavours and grown in regions with a long history of excellent hop production.

Often called the spirit of the beer, the Rothaus brewery uses two types of organic yeast. A bio-cultured, bottom-fermenting yeast for the Pils and Märzen Export, and a bio-cultured, top-fermenting yeast for the wheat beer.

The brewing process

Rothaus Brewhouse
At the heart of the brewery is the mash house. This is where the brewery process begins. Crushed malt (grist) and hops are added to heated spring water inside copper mash tuns — in a process known as mashing. During this process, natural enzymes within the malt break down the starch into dextrin and then into fermentable sugars such as maltose.

A process known as lautering takes place after the mashing. The liquid is strained through the bottom of the mash tun; the resulting liquid is known as ‘wort’. The wort is fed into a tank called a ‘copper’ where it is boiled with more hops to add flavour, aroma and tartness. The boiling strips away any further enzymatic processes.

At the end of the boil, the hopped wort settles and clarifies in a vessel called a whirlpool where it is brought down to the ideal fermentation temperature (8 degrees Celsius or 14 degrees for a wheat beer). Once at the correct temperature the yeast is added.

For the pilsner the wort is left to ferment for seven days; for a wheat beer it’s four to five days. Here the sugars are metabolised into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Finally the brew is transferred to large storage tanks for a minimum of four weeks. During that time it is maintained at a temperature of no less than -2°C for a lager and no greater than 14°C for a wheat beer. It is left to slowly mature in a process known as lagering.

Rothaus Storage Tanks
After a light filtration to produce a clear, golden appearance, the beer is then quality checked and packaged. Note – the process of filtration is not carried out for the wheat beer, which is why you’re likely to find sediment in the bottom of the bottle.

From the start of the brewing process until it’s packaged, the beer runs through seven hundred kilometres of pipework, where it’s kept in an oxygen-free environment to preserve its flavour and purity. The Brewmaster overseas the whole process ensuring that traditional recipes are followed to the letter, whilst maintaining the most stringent microbiological cleanliness. The Rothaus team includes ten master brewers and twenty-three brewers!

Rothaus Brewmaster

The environment


Rothaus is an environment-led brewery and a world-leader in sustainability.

For example, an ultra-modern membrane filtration system employed in Rothaus' own biological water treatment plant enables the brewery to return their effluence to the Mettma river as European standard "bathing water". The resident beavers seem to approve!

Resident beavers at Rothaus Brewery
Only the highest grade glass is used in their bottles and each bottle can be recycled up to 40 times (look out for the white rings on the bottle – the more pronounced the ring, the more miles it has covered!).

Furthermore, the labels on the bottles contain no metallic pigment and are fixed in place using an organic, milk-based glue. The foil protecting the bottle tops is ‘pressed’ into place, not glued. The clean foil can be widely recycled, while ensuring hygienic standards for drinking directly from the bottle.

The brewery also:

– Utilise a steam-powered plant which releases only neutral carbon dioxide
– Convert the heat produced when cooling the wort into electricity
– Recycle the spent grain into animal fodder

Finally, even their suppliers are encouraged to deliver all raw materials using only reusable containers.

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