Anatomy of … Altbier

(Image: Scottb211/Flickr)

It was the delicious Altbier from new Battersea brewery Mondo that made us choose Altbier this issue. It’s a rare beer, but seems perfect for this time of year: a warming but crisp beer from Düsseldorf. This is partly due to the fermenting temperature of the beer, which is somewhere between an ale and a cold fermented lager, and the fact it’s then lagered (cold stored). It’s complicated, but when it’s done well it’s very, very drinkable. We’ve seen Altbiers from Orbit, Tweed and BrewDog’s Candy Kaiser in the UK. If you’re lucky enough to be in Düsseldorf, find Füchschen Alt or Uerige. Divine. Sod it, we’re off to Düsseldorf.

STRENGTH

A rarity in the fluid world of beer styles, the ABV of Altbiers tends to be quite precise at around 4.7%-4.9%.    

FLAVOUR

Full-bodied beers with a clear nutty and warming malt profile, and a hint of fruit. Hops, usually noble ones, are less apparent and used to spice up the sweetness.

APPEARANCE

It is a deep amber, copper or even darker, but a lively, confident head. It’s clear, and looks, well, utterly appealing.

HISTORY

Although resembling German beers from the middle ages, the name appears around 1880; ‘alt’ means ‘old’ (so brewed like an ale, rather than these new-fangled lagers).

AKA…

Kölsch from Cologne is perhaps the nearest style, but it’s lighter than Altbier. In Düsseldorf you’ll find Sticke Alt, a stronger and darker version.

FOOD

Any traditional German fare – think massive pieces of pork, grilled salmon or smoked sausage. Also pairs well with crumbly cheeses.

WHEN TO DRINK

Winter… or autumn, or spring. Can you tell we like it?  

WEIRD FACT

Düsseldorf brewpubs in the 1800s were often also bakeries, because of their familiarity with yeast. Around a dozen are still open in the city.

 

THREE TO TRY

/  Schlosser, Alt, 4.8%

The most widely available Düsseldorf altbier and a classic. Decidedly on the malty end, but not without balance; it’s super dry.

/ Buy at BH

/ schloesser.de

 

/ Mondo Brewing, Altbier, 4.8%

This a great version of the altbier. It’s got a warming malt centre but with a sharp piney hop around the outside. Delicious.

/ mondobrewingcompany.com

 

/ Orbit Beers, Neu, 4.7%

Admirably, one of Orbit Beers’ core range, the Neu is a faithful reproduction of the style, with perhaps a tad more hops.

/ Buy at BE

/ orbitbeers.com