Style Details

Name
Alt­bier
Cate­go­ry
Amber Bit­ter Euro­pean Beer
BJCP Style Code
7 B
Appearan­ce
The color ran­ges from light amber to deep cop­per color, stop­ping short of brown; bron­ze-oran­ge is most com­mon. Bril­li­ant cla­ri­ty. Thick, crea­my, long-las­ting off-white head.
Aro­ma
Clean yet robust and com­plex aro­ma of grai­ny-rich malt and spi­cy hops with restrai­ned (low to medi­um-low) frui­ty esters. The malt cha­rac­ter reflects Ger­man base malt varie­ties, with rich baked bread and nut­ty-toas­ty bread crust notes. The hop aro­ma may vary from mode­ra­te to low, and can have a pep­pe­ry, spi­cy, flo­ral, her­bal or per­fu­my cha­rac­ter asso­cia­ted with Saa­zer-type hops.
Fla­vour
Asser­ti­ve hop bit­ter­ness well balan­ced by a stur­dy yet clean and crisp malt cha­rac­ter. The malt pre­sence is mode­ra­ted by medi­um-high to high atte­nua­ti­on, but con­si­derable rich, com­plex, and some­what grai­ny malt fla­vors can remain. Some frui­ty esters (espe­cial­ly cher­ry-like) may sur­vi­ve the lage­ring peri­od. A long-las­ting, medi­um-dry to dry, bit­ters­weet or nut­ty finish reflects both the hop bit­ter­ness and malt com­ple­xi­ty. Spi­cy, pep­pe­ry or flo­ral hop fla­vor can be mode­ra­te to low. No roas­ted malt fla­vors or har­sh­ness. The appa­rent bit­ter­ness level is some­ti­mes mas­ked by the malt cha­rac­ter; the bit­ter­ness can seem as low as mode­ra­te if the finish is not very dry. Light sul­fu­ry or mine­ral­ly cha­rac­ter optio­nal.
Mouth­feel
Medi­um-bodi­ed. Smooth. Medi­um to medi­um-high car­bo­na­ti­on, alt­hough can be lower when ser­ved from the cask. Astrin­gen­cy low to none. Des­pi­te being very full of fla­vor, is light-bodi­ed enough to be con­su­med as a gra­vi­ty-fed ses­si­on beer in its home brew­pubs in Düs­sel­dorf.
Over­all Impres­si­on
A well-balan­ced, well-atte­nua­ted, bit­ter yet mal­ty, clean, and smooth, amber- to cop­per-colo­red Ger­man beer. The bit­ter­ness is balan­ced by the malt rich­ness, but the malt inten­si­ty and cha­rac­ter can ran­ge from mode­ra­te to high (the bit­ter­ness incre­a­ses with the malt rich­ness).
Typi­cal Ingre­dients
Grists vary, but usual­ly con­sist of Ger­man base mal­ts (usual­ly Pils, some­ti­mes Munich) with small amounts of crys­tal, cho­co­la­te, and/or black mal­ts used to adjust color. Occa­sio­nal­ly will inclu­de some wheat, inclu­ding roas­ted wheat. Spalt hops are tra­di­tio­nal, but other Saa­zer-type hops can also be used. Clean, high­ly atte­nua­ti­ve ale yeast. A step mash or deco­c­tion mash pro­gram is tra­di­tio­nal.
Histo­ry
The tra­di­tio­nal style of beer from Düs­sel­dorf. “Alt” refers to the “old” style of brewing (i.e., using top-fer­men­ting yeast) that was com­mon befo­re bot­tom-fer­men­ting lager brewing beca­me popu­lar. Pre­da­tes the iso­la­ti­on of bot­tom-fer­men­ting yeast strains, though it appro­xi­ma­tes many cha­rac­te­ris­tics of bot­tom-fer­men­ting lager beers. Many of the clas­sic examp­les can be found in brew­pubs in the Alt­stadt (“old town”) sec­tion of Düs­sel­dorf.
Comments
A top-fer­men­ted lage­red beer, fer­men­ted at cool ale tem­pe­ra­tu­re (59–68 °F), often con­di­tio­ned at bot­tom-fer­men­ta­ti­on tem­pe­ra­tures (about 50 °F) and then lage­red at cold tem­pe­ra­tures to pro­du­ce a clea­ner, smoot­her pala­te than is typi­cal for most ales. Zum Ueri­ge is a won­der­ful beer, but much more aggres­si­ve­ly bit­ter and com­plex than most other Ger­man examp­les. It may be like the Fuller’s ESB of the strong bit­ter cate­go­ry – well-known but some­what of a sty­listic out­lier. Do not judge all Alt­biers as if they were Zum Ueri­ge clo­nes; allow for a more balan­ced bit­ter­ness in the beer (25–35 IBUs is more typi­cal for most other Ger­man examp­les). Stron­ger sti­cke and dop­pel­sti­cke beers should not be ent­e­red here.
Com­mer­cial Examp­les
Bol­ten Alt, Die­bels Alt, Füchs­chen Alt, Ori­gi­nal Schlüs­sel Alt, Schlös­ser Alt, Schu­ma­cher Alt, Ueri­ge Alt­bier
Ori­gi­nal Gra­vi­ty
1.044 - 1.052 SG
Final Gra­vi­ty
1.008 - 1.014 SG
Color
11 - 17 SRM
Alco­hol
4.0 - 5.0 %vol
Bit­ter­ness
25 - 50 IBU