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A Family Endeavor: Göller Brewery

Updated: May 3, 2023

[Original German version written by Mareike Hasenbeck, published in CRAFT.] A Family Endeavor: Localism, Unconventional Ideas and Unique Beer. Three brothers Max, Felix and Fritz Göller drive their family business with more than 500 years of history into the future by their investments into sustainability and high quality beer.

Nestled in the northeast of the State of Bavaria, Franconia is named the Eldorado of beer lovers, containing around 300 breweries, by far more than any other region in Germany. One of the oldest breweries in Lower Franconia is the more than 500-year-old Göller Brewery in the historic town of Zeil am Main, with romantic avenues, cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses. Keeping to the family tradition, a new generation handles the operations of the brewery and continues to surprise us with unconventional ideas. "Our parents left us with a successful business," says 30-year-old Max Göller, "but we have improved and changed a lot in order to set the course for the future." The three brothers first modernized the brewhouse and added many creative brews to the beer menu. They increased the output to 50,000 hectoliters of beer plus 10,000 hectoliters of non-alcoholic beer. They also bought the rustic brew-pub & restaurant called "Zum Hirschen" that includes a beer garden for 400 guests. The family had been leasing it for many years. The three brothers used to help their father, Franz Josef, in the brewery during their holidays from school. At a young age they knew that they wanted to run the family business together. They accordingly planned their individual educations to form an optimal team for managing the brewery. The eldest brother, Fritz, studied to become the master brewer. Felix studied the more technical side of brewing in order to lead production. Max studied business and now manages sales, distribution, and even the restaurant. "We have re-imagined our family company to be more competitive in all areas," said the 32-year-old Fritz. Although the Göller Brewery now stands on a firm footing, it should not be taken for granted. You can imagine the many ups-and-downs throughout the course of its long history. In 1514 the "Alten Freyung" Brewery, as it is also called, was granted brewing and serving rights by the Archdiocese of Bamberg. The brewery did not come into the current family hands until almost 400 years later when Josef & Margaret Göller acquired it in 1908. At that time, the focus was on beer production for the in-house restaurant and the beer garden. In 1949 Joseph Göller's son, Franz-Josef took over the business. In 1976 he was awarded "Germany's Best Brewer." Amazingly, his son, Felix, received the same award in 2013!

During his time Franz losef Göller increased beer production from 5,000 to around 25,000 hectoliters. Unable to expand at their original location in Old Town Zeil, he relocated some of the brewery processes to a larger facility in a nearby industrial park in 1995. The new building handles filtration, bottling, administration and sales. Fermentation and storage cellars were also expanded and some bigger malt silos were purchased. By 2015 it was time for Fritz and Max to join the company and two years later Felix, now 28 years old, joined as well. Franconians believe that their strong sense of localism is the secret of Göller Brewery's success. For example, all their barley and wheat for the brewery comes from local farms. The grain gets malted in nearby Bamberg or Schweinfurt. Their hops as well are supplied from within Bavaria. To top it off, Göller sells 90 percent of their beer within a radius of only 50 kilometers of the Brewery. Local beer for local tastes. Another key component to Göller's success is their commitment to sustainability, which plays an increasingly important role across Germany. To name a few practices, the Brewery operates an energy-saving gentle cooking system, relies on photovoltaics and solar thermal energy for heating, and they installed a carbonation recovery system to retain the CO2 gas. For these environmentally friendly measures, the Brewery was the only company to receive the Mainfranken region's sustainability award in the "11-50 employees" category in 2015. They also received certification in the "Quality Association of Environmentally Conscious Companies." Göller is the only brewery in Lower Franconia to carry this certification. The young entrepreneurs continue to modernize and upgrade the brewery. Currently they are installing new, eco-friendly refrigeration systems. Of course, the biggest reason for their success is quality beer. Göller beers have won many international prizes over the years, such as Meininger's International Craft Beer Award and the German Agricultural Society (DLG: Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft). In Göller's portfolio you will find phenomenal Pilsners, Dunkles, Keller beers and Hefeweizens, as well as seasonal bock beers and a number of non-alcoholic varieties. A traditional line of beers pays homage to Emperor Heinrich, who long ago granted them brewing rights. This line includes: "Ur-Stoff", "Ur-Weisse" and "Natur Radler". The Brewery's flagship beer is their Baptist Helles, a smooth but spicy, blonde lager. Felix reported that the Helles "hit the market like a bombshell, and is especially popular with young people even though Helles is not a style typical of this region." Originally the Baptist Helles was planned only as a seasonal. It was supposed to fit into a scheme invented by Felix to organize a "Beer Calendar" of twelve seasonal brews, one for each month of the year. Some other seasonals are an IPA hopped with Hallertauer Tradition and Lemondrop, a Weisse (Wheat) hopped with Mandarina Bavaria, a Summer Ale hopped with Cascade and El Dorado, and even a stout with delightful notes of coffee and chocolate. The seasonals are first presented on a special day, the first Saturday of the month, during an event called an "Anstich" (keg-tapping). The fun event includes live music and special dishes paired to the beer. Max Göller, who is also responsible for the gastronomical experiences at the Brewery, creates these wonderful dishes. The Beer Calendar has proven to be a hit and attracts large numbers of fans. Beginning with the very first "Anstich" in January 2017, clients were thrilled by the Scottish Bockbier (6% ABV) with peat-moss smoke flavor derived from a Scotch Malt. To top off the experience they served Fish & Chips and invited a Scottish folk-music band. “I have to admit that at the beginning we were very unsure whether such beer styles would catch on," Max recalled. "But the people literally overran us." The draft beer for that first Anstich that they had planned to serve for the whole month sold out by 6PM that same evening.

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