Style Profile: Northern German Altbier

OG: 1.046 – 1.054
FG: 1.010 – 1.015
ABV: 4.5% – 5.2%
IBUs: 25 – 40
SRM: 13 – 19

After a couple weeks on hiatus, we brought back CTRL+ALT+DELETE last weekend.  As many of you know, this beer was our fall seasonal released in September/October around the time of Oktoberfest.  Many breweries release a malty lager known as Oktoberfest (or Marzen) that time of year, but we didn’t have time to lager a beer and make it right last year.  People really seemed to enjoy the Altbier, so we have decided to keep it on tap, at least through the spring.Their are two main styles of beer known as Altbier: Dusseldorf Altbier, and the one we are going to explore today, Northern German Altbier.  The 2015 revision of the BJCP Style Guidelines appear to have dropped the Northern German Altbier style, but older versions of the guidelines do include it in Category 7 – Amber Hybrid Beer.

This beer should have a clean lager-like character that accentuates the subtle malty and grainy aromas, and restrains the hops.  Northern German Alt is almost always maltier, more caramely, and less bitter than a Dusseldorf version.  Generally “continental” pilsner malts are used, along with “noble” German hops.  We stray from this a little and use domestic two-row and domestic hops in our version.  I was looking for a combination of malts and hops I already use that would give me the style-appropriate biscuity/caramely flavors, yet finish relatively dry – not cloyingly sweet at all.

Fermentation for an Altbier is much like that of a Kolsch, which is really why I came up with the recipe for CTRL+ALT+DELETE in the first place.  I needed a more fall-appropriate and interesting style to keep my Kolsch yeast healthy.  Also like my Kolsch, the Altbier is cold-conditioned (lagered) for a period of time after fermentation to allow the stubborn yeast to drop out, and let the flavors mellow a little.  The beer should be a light copper/brown color and brilliantly clear due to the lagering.

A few commercial styles of this beer exist – including Alaskan Amber and Grolsch Amber.  Like our version at LTS, Alaskan Amber uses domestic malts and domestic hops.  Hopefully you enjoy one with us soon!