Altbier ideas for Altbier bitte


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Jul 13, 2012
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Altbier bitte said:
I'm only reluctantly concluding that I'm going to have to add something dark to my Altbier to get the color I want. Somehow I don't like to add something that doesn't have a taste/aroma function. I've got a batch of Altbier going that has cleared up well, it's got an awesome clean/malty/bitter/dryness like an Alt should, after a fairly proper lagering down to freezing, but the color is way too light. It's all Munich Malt (Weyerman Munich 2), so there is no Pilsner malt to replace and it's sitting right at 10SRM according to Beersmith. That's the lower end of the style per BJCP, but I drank Alt in Deutscheland for a year and a half, so I know better - I never had one over there that wasn't quite a bit darker. It shouldn't have any roastiness, so I need something dark as %$&& that will add a little color with no other effect. I guess I'll start a thread.
Hey Altbier, I saw your post and thought I would jump the gun and start the thread for you, because your issue with a "too light" Alt piqued my interest.
I had a quick look this morning in my german homebrewing books and found a simple recipe for an Alt in one of the older books, which calls for a 4:1 ratio "dark malt" to "light malt". The question is of course, what exactly do they mean with "dark malt"....?
I am very surprised that you ended up with an SRM of only 10 using Weyerman Munich II. I wouldn't necessarily call it a "dark" malt, but I would think it should should give you something around 13-15 (recipe calc even says ~17).
I think about the only way you will be able to darken up the beer without using Cara... malts is by decoction.

Not sure how good your german is, but this post by Malte over on is pretty interesting:
Traditionell ist ein Altbier [n]atürlich ein Dekoktionsbier (wie eigentlich alle anderen Biere auch). Aber grade weil es nach "alter Brauart" produziert werden soll und die Dekoktion eben die alte Art des Maischens ist halte ich es da für sinnvoll.
Richtige Altbrauereien sind eigentlich nur noch Frankenheim, Diebels, Uerige, Schumacher, Füchsen, Schlüssel, Bolten, Gleumes und die Brauerei Königshof (alte Rhenania), die aber mehr im Billigbier-Segment agiert.
(bolded text *roughly* traslated = "traditionally, an Alt beer is of course a decoction beer")

Unfortunately, I am in the wrong part of Germany to get my hands on many different Alt beers, but I do find Füchsen very good (Diebels I find rather average).
Appreciate the effort SBA. I was kind of surprised to find that Weyerman M-2 is only 10 Srm (9-11) I was sure I'd seen it listed higher myself, but that's what it is, right on the bag. You probably hit on the key there - decoction. That and maybe a longer boil might be the only way other than a roasted malt to get it done. I've been going to try to check some German brewers on the internet - I'm guessing that decoction is too expensive for a big brewery. I could probably use de-bittered black, Black Prinz, or some German Roastmalz to color it. I'm only trying to get it to 15-20. A medium dark copper would be ideal.
To tell you the truth, when I was over there I knew that I loved Alt, I liked Pils, didn't care for weissen, etc., but I didn't know crap about beer in general. I didn't know that there were 2 styles of Alt, and it confuses me a little. I was stationed outside of Mainz (Wackernheim to be specific), which is Southwest of D-dorf, so I don't even know which style I use to get in Mainz, Wiesbbaden or Frankfurt - could have been both I guess. I tried several brands. Some of the Northern Altbiers, or so I've read, are actually lagers.
I do remember that when I'd travel, like when we'd go up to the Baltic for training, I couldn't find Altbier, so I know it's a regional thing. Where are you?
Altbier bitte said:
I didn't know that there were 2 styles of Alt, and it confuses me a little.
This would be new to me as well. Can you expound on what the 2 styles are supposed to be?

Altbier bitte said:
Some of the Northern Altbiers, or so I've read, are actually lagers.
I suppose a brewery could produce an "Alt" using bottom fermenting yeast, but it would surprise me. I would sooner suspect that someone confused the term "alt", as in "old", with "Alt", as in the Altbier. And/or confused the fact that the Altbier was lagered with the beer being a *lager* beer.

Altbier bitte said:
Where are you?
Sachsen (Saxony). A good place for Czech pilsners and black beers. Fair-to-middlin for bocks, wheats and hells. Not so flash for fränkische (e.g. rauchbier), kölsches (not that I would be interested) and alts.
The two styles I'm talking about are Dusseldorf Alt and Northern Alt. To tell you the truth, that's just based on BJCP categories, which I know don't always correspond to beereality. Like I say, I was some south of Dusseldorf - it would be odd if 'Northern Alt' were served in Wiesbaden. Maybe it's all nonsense and there is only one style. All of it that I had fit the general description they give D-Dorf Alt.
I thought I saw some Alt on the shelf here in Missouri recently, by Samuel Adams no less. It turned out to be their version of 'Sticke Alt', a sweet, alcoholic (9.5% ABV), utterly disgusting mess. Pretty much the opposite of Altbier. Here is a link to the BJCP descriptions - ignore the Cali Common in between that they've decided, for no reason I can discern, belongs with Altbier.
Altbier bitte said:
The two styles I'm talking about are Dusseldorf Alt and Northern Alt. To tell you the truth, that's just based on BJCP categories, which I know don't always correspond to beereality.
Hunh, well I'll be damned, you learn something new every day... :p
Thanks for pointing me at the BJCP category. I hadn't really noticed it before (as with most of the categories that I have so far only quickly scanned over).
I agree that this is most likely a BJCP category used to categorize beers that don't really fit very well in any of the adjacent categories. Even the BJCP kind of admits that the category isn't really beer-reality:
Comments: Most Altbiers produced outside of Düsseldorf are of the Northern German style. Most are simply moderately bitter brown lagers. Ironically “alt” refers to the old style of brewing (i.e., making ales), which makes the term “Altbier” somewhat inaccurate and inappropriate. Those that are made as ales are fermented at cool ale temperatures and lagered at cold temperatures (as with Düsseldorf Alt).

After reading the style description, and having drunken many different ones myself, I am *fairly* sure that what the BJCP calls a "Northern German Altbier" falls under what is generally sold in germany as a "Landbier".
...and many of them do in fact come from northern germany.
e.g. (just a list of Landbiers that I have tried so far):
Achtern Diek
Aktien (not northern german)
Mönchshof (definitely not northern german!)
Allgäuer (also definitely not northern german!)

In reality though, "Landbier" is a catch-all name. It isn't actually a defined style ( So, whereas many of the above mentioned Landbiers would fall under the definition of a "Northern German Altbier", quite a few others would not...
Ah, the wonderful world of beer! :twisted: