Beer Style Guide: GRODZISKIE beer (Grätzer)

Rory Lawton

Grodziskie beer Grätzer

A beer style, practically a walking dead: Grodziskie, a Polish beer style, also known in Germany as Grätzer, has almost been extinct. (Foto: StP)


The GRODZISKIE beer (GRÄTZER) style is for you if you:

  • want a rich, thirst-quenching, lightly smokey wheat beer that won’t go straight to your head
  • are curious to explore a unique traditional style, once popular across Poland and northern Germany, recently extinct, but now taking the Polish craft brewing and home-brewing communities by storm
  • like to show off your Polish/German polyglotism…

Style History

Top-fermenting wheat beers have been brewed in the north of Europe since before the middle ages. Although many indigenous sub-styles have become lost over the centuries, one recently extinct style, Grodziskie beer, is making a comeback due to the championing of genuine beer enthusiasts and home-brewers in Poland, as well as their friends in the International beer community.

Originating from Grodzisk Wielkopolski just southwest of Poznań, the Grodziskie style (Grätzer in German) was hugely popular in the 19th century, but interest dwindled through the turbulent 20th century until the last brewery stopped brewing the style completely in 1993.

Fortunately, the yeast from the brewery was maintained in a yeast bank since this date and the beer is still in living memory of several Poles, so it has been possible to save this style from the brink of being lost forever.

What is especially interesting about Grodziskie beer is its unusual malt bill. For most of its history it was brewed with 100% wheat malt, kilned by an oak wood fire.  From brewing records, Grodziskie beer was brewed with a combination at least two strains of top-fermenting yeast, each with different characteristics. Once fermentation was complete, the beer was filtered, finings (isinglass) were added to clarify the beer and it was bottle-conditioned.

Unfortunately, due to a poor classification of this style by the BJCP in 2013, there has been a misplaced debate amongst brewers recently about whether Grodziskie should be a sour beer style or not. However, no historical records indicate that anything other than regular top-fermenting brewers yeasts were used for fermentation. Souring agents (Lactobacillus or lactic acid) and the use of other yeasts (Brettanomyces) are completely out of place for this style.

Beer Style Guide

Please note that for this style guide, attention has been paid to the historical record to approximate the characteristics of this style. Many modern interpretations will deviate from the historical record, as this style finds its feet again.

Appearance:Historical versions would have been straw to golden in colour and crystal clear, due to the use of finings.
ABV:Typically 2.5-3.5% ABV, although versions brewed before the 19th century may have been stronger.
Aroma:Mild smoke, mild ester fruitiness, cereal
Flavour:Smoke, bitter
Body:Light creamy body, due to the low gravity, but still more substantial due to wheat protein content and less attenuation than e.g. Berliner Weisse.

Recommended Grodziskie beer (Grätzer) examples:

  • Polish craft beer kings: Grodziskle 4.0 – Browar Pinta (PL). The fourth version of this recipe from local brewers Pinta. Brewed with 100% oak smoked wheat malt, the brewers have carefully dialled in a light, refreshing, drinkable Grodziskie that is true to the historical record.
  • United Historic Beer Fanatics: Grodziskie – The Monarchy/Jopen/Ron Pattinson/Evan Rail/ Alice van der Kuijl (NL). This collaboration brew between brewers and beer writers is noteworthy for the attention to the historic recipes, the sourcing of authentic Grodziskie via the Czech Republic and the inclusion of willow bark. Unfortunately, only a limited release for now.
  • S. interpretation: Lips of Faith Grätzer – New Belgium/3 Floyds (USA). Darker interpretation with some dark (unsmoked) wheat malt and higher in alcohol (4.5% ABV).

Learning Polish with beer: One Grodziskie, two na zdrowie.(Foto: StP)