People looking for more ancient craft beers will undoubtedly appreciate the altbier. These beers come in striking light copper and dark, deep auburn colors, but never too dark. Your nose cannot miss the clean, grainy, and complex base malt characteristics of baked bread and nutty toastiness with subtle fruity esters and hop aroma. The altbier’s taste has a clean malt profile, with low to moderate hop flavors backed with a floral, peppery spiciness. The drier versions of this craft beer have more perceived bitterness, while the sweeter examples will mask much of its bitterness behind a strong malt flavoring and possible fruity esters.
Origin of the German-Style Altbier
The altbier translates to “old beer,” originally from the Dusseldorf region. The term is an allusion to the brewing style of using yeast that ferments at the top, which is older than using bottom-fermenting yeast. “Old beer” also describes the German-style altbier’s evolution over centuries before its name was first used in 1838.
These German brewers used ale yeast throughout this period in their brewing process, ignoring the slowly growing popularity of hops in lagers on the German brewing scene. However, lagers became overwhelmingly popular, and many of the traditional German brewers eventually joined the party. With advancements in brewing technology like refrigeration processes and malting techniques, Lager production became more popular. Brewers in Dusseldorf and other cities took advantage of these advances in malting and used more dark malt in their work. The Dusseldorf Brauerei Schumacher first used the “alt” description, marrying the style forever in history to the Dusseldorf region.
Enjoying Your German-Style Altbier
The altbier’s versatility works well with several food pairings, whether meat, cheeses, or desserts. Feel free to try your altbier with pork chops, grilled tuna and salmon, roasted chicken, and sausage dishes. You can also rely on the altbier to wash down desserts like apple pie and maple-walnut cake.