Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
Last month we introduced a few up-and-coming Munich breweries in the Munich Craft Beer Scene. This month we continue our journey and introduce, quite likely, the only professional female American brewer in Germany, as well as her “home” brewery, Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu.
Meet Kirsten Rhein
Kirsten Rhein had a typical mid-west childhood growing up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. However, her life after leaving home is anything but typical.
After high school Kirsten moved to Washington DC to attend George Washington University (GWU). While at GWU, she took advantage of an opportunity to study abroad at the Albert Ludwigs University in Freiberg, located in the Black Forest area of Germany. Upon returning to the U.S., she finished her studies at GWU and in 2003 graduated with degrees in International Economics, German Language Literature and French.
While in DC, Kirsten worked in a bar that is renowned for its very large beer selection and it was there she developed a serious appreciation for well-crafted beer. And since Kirsten spoke fluent German, after graduating she decided her future was back in Germany. So in 2006 she moved back over and found work in different breweries, including as an export consultant for Schneider Weisse.
Then in 2016, she met Achim Bürklin, founder of the Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu brewery in Bad Tölz, and talked her way into a job. Part of her pitch to Achim was that being an American woman who spoke fluent German, she would be unique in the German beer industry and thus able to open doors for the brewery. She was right, as she was instrumental in helping increase the brewery’s distribution throughout Germany and into the Netherlands and Czech Republic.
Kirsten then decided, because she enjoyed brewing so much, to enroll in the Master Brewer Program at the Doemens Akademie in Gräfelfing, Germany. She’ll graduate in July and, as a Master Brewer, intends to apply her knowledge at Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu focused mainly on brewing innovation and collaborative brewing.
In case you’re thinking, “that sounds like fun, I want to do that”, you should know that Kirsten spends 8 hours a day with her schooling, and another 8 hours on the job. So what she’s doing is hard, is exceptional, and is not for the average person who likes to sleep.
If that wasn’t enough, she’s worked her way up at Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu and is now the Managing Director, reporting directly to Achim. No doubt you can expect to hear a lot more about Kirsten in the years ahead!
Dating back several centuries, Bad Tölz is a typical Bavarian countryside, small town (pop. 18,000) located about 35 miles south of Munich in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. Years ago it was home to 22 breweries, but over the years those breweries began to shut down until finally, in 2005, the last one, Grüner Brewery, closed its doors.
With that, the brewing tradition in Bad Tölz might have ended once and for all. However, shortly thereafter, Achim Bürklin, a local developer who wanted to keep that tradition alive, acquired the Grüner buildings. And in 2008 he opened a completely renovated craft brewery called Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu. Next door to that, and with the help of Claus Hühnlein and Tino Kellner, he also opened the Tölzer Gasthaus.
Both the brewery and the Gasthaus are exceptional in their own ways. The brewery is exceptional in the innovation it brings to the German brewing world, all within the constraints of the Reinheitsgebot. And the Gasthaus is exceptional in using only high-quality ingredients sourced from local and regional growers, with dishes prepared by a 5-star chef. Quality, not quantity is the guiding mantra for both.
Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu can boast having 10 lager tanks in a 500 year-old lager cellar, using traditional open tank fermentation techniques, and being one of the few craft breweries to own its brewing facilities. They brew strictly in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot under the direction of Brew Master, Sebastian Heuschneider, and today their beer is available in Berlin, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Hamburg, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu currently offers three year-round beers – an unfiltered Helles, a filtered Helles, and a wheat beer. However, where things get really interesting is with their monthly specialty beers:
Wheat beer produced thru a method that involves freezing the fermented beer and removing the resulting ice (“eis”) to increase density and potency. 5.8% ABV
India Pale Ale
A stronger cousin of the Pale Ale, brewed to withstand long transport, style dates back to the British colonial days. 6.2% ABV
Tor des Monats
Starkbier (strong, dark beer) traditionally brewed for the period of Lent. 6.8% ABV
Wheat Bock beer, a stronger wheat beer brewed with additional malt, which results in a stronger, more flavorful beer. 6.7% ABV
Unfiltered Pilsner, generally more flavorful than a filtered pilsner. 4.9% ABV
Ale brewed with light or “pale” malts, lighter in flavor and alcohol than India Pale Ale. 4.8% ABV
Summer Wheat, a light wheat beer brewed for consumption in the warmer months. 4.1% ABV
Ale brewed with darker malts to produce an amber color. 5.6% ABV
Märzen, a medium colored ale typically brewed for the Oktoberfest season. 5.8% ABV
Autumn Wheat beer, a little stronger and spicier than the Summer Wheat. 5.4% ABV
Wheat beer brewed in commemoration of the annual Leonardifest event, in honor of St. Leonhard, the patron saint of farm animals. 5.6% ABV
Very strong, dark Bock Ale brewed for Christmas season. 17.6%ABV
Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu doesn’t disclose information about its annual output, but it’s safe to say they are one of the largest craft breweries in Bavaria. And Bad Tölz is only about an hour from central Munich by train or car; so if you’re ever in Munich looking for a fun, easy day-trip, think about dropping in and saying “hallo” to the folks at Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu and at Tölzer Gasthaus.
Original Gravity Tours
If you’re able to join one of our Munich & Bamberg Tours this summer, there’s a good chance we’ll introduce you to Kirsten and/or to the folks at the brewery and Gasthaus. But if that’s not possible, please keep an eye out for them here in the U.S., and please consider sharing this newsletter with your beer-lover friends.
As always, thank you and Prost!
Greetings! I'm a passionate beer and international travel lover. Other than craft beer, I mostly go for German & Belgian beers and if you share the same interests, you may enjoy my blog. Prost!