Alstadt Alt 2.0

Altbiers are one of my favorite styles, so I have made a few versions over the years. I had great success with a recipe from the Altbier book by Horst Dornbusch. I first brewed it back in 2020, and it turned out really well. The 2021 edition was similarly great, so I made only minor tweaks for the 2022 brew. Instead of a mix of Briess Caramel Munich 60L and Caramunich I, I went with straight Caramunich I. Additionally, I switched the yeast from K97 to Lallemand’s Kolsch-style ale yeast. Everything else is pretty much the same.

Alstadt Alt 2.0

  • 6.5 lb. Viking Pilsner malt
  • 1.5 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.5 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb. Caramunich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 oz. Carafa Special I malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.2 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1.0 oz. Spalt Spalter hop pellets (5.6% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Köln Kölsch Style Ale Yeast (Lallemand)

Target Parameters

  • 1.050 s.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.1% abv, 36 IBU, 12 SRM
  • 90 minute infusion mash, full volume, 152°
  • Claremont tap water treated with Campden tablet

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 7.25 gallons of water at 158°, to hit a mash temperature of 152°. I added 3mL of 88% lactic acid and held the mash here (with recirculation) for 90 minutes, before raising to 168° for the 10 minute mash-out. I extended the mash a touch so as to aim for a slightly higher attenuation.
  • After removing the grain basket, I had 6.5 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.044, for an efficiency of 72%.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding malt and finings per the recipe. After the 60 minute boil, I chilled to 68° and transferred to the fermenter. I let it chill a bit more in the fermentation chamber, before pitching the yeast and setting the fermentation temperature to 64°.
  • I brewed the beer on 22 January 2022, and it had a starting gravity of 1.049. I kegged the beer on 14 February 2022, and it had a final gravity of 1.014. This works out to 4.6% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear beer, of medium-dark amber color, with a fine and persistent ivory colored head.
  • Aroma
    • Rich and malty, with a bread crust character; a low level of spicy hop character is also present.
  • Flavor
    • Malty and bready, with a firm and assertive but not over the top bitterness. There is a very, very slight fruity yeast character.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium body, moderate carbonation, with a dry finish. Very pleasant.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This one of my favorite recipes! The hop presence isn’t quite as nice this time around, but otherwise it’s a really great beer. It’s very drinkable and very flavorful.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

Alstadt Altbier 2.0

Altbier is a really enjoyable style for me, but it’s tough to find a good version commercially in our area. So, I’ve been brewing it from time to time in the quest for a perfect batch. I think I might have found one!

My jumping off point was the Alstadt Altbier recipe from Horst Dunbusch’s Altbier book. I made a version of it last year, and was fairly happy with the results. At the time, I noted that I would like a touch more hop character, and would also like to experiment with using CaraMunich or something similar instead of American Crystal 60. So…that’s what I did for the latest version!

The base of the new batch is fairly similar to the old one, with 61% pilsner malt,14% Munich I, and 14% Vienna malt. Instead of crystal 60, though, I used an even split of Briess’s Caramel Munich 60L and Weyermann’s Caramunich I. I also swapped out Carafa Special III for Carafa Special I, in the color adjustment (I figure such a small amount won’t make a major flavor difference, but the devil is in the details). Finally, I dropped in some Spalt for the aroma addition (instead of Mt. Hood).

The end result is spectacular. The aroma in a freshly poured glass is absolutely heavenly, and the beer drinks so easily. I will be making this again!

Alstadt Altbier 2.0

  • 6.5 lb. Pilsner Zero malt (Viking)
  • 1.5 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.5 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.5 lb. Caramel Munich 60L malt (Briess)
  • 0.5 lb. Caramunich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 oz. Carafa Special I malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.2 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1.0 oz. Spalt Spalter hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet
  • 1 pkg. German ale dry yeast (Fermentis K-97)

Target Parameters

  • 1.048 s.g., 1.012 f.g., 4.8% abv, 34 IBU, 13 SRM
  • 60 minute infusion mash, full volume, 152°
  • Claremont tap water treated with Campden tablet

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 7.1 gallons of water at 158°, to hit a mash temperature of 152°. I added 4mL of 88% lactic acid and held the mash here (with recirculation) for 60 minutes, before raising to 168° for the 10 minute mash-out.
  • After removing the grain basket, I had 6.4 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.040. This is only 64% mash efficiency–this spurred me to tighten down the mill from 0.037″ to 0.034″.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding malt and finings per the recipe. After the 60 minute boil, I chilled to 78° and transferred to the fermenter. I think let it sit at ambient for a few hours before pitching the yeast at ~69°. Ambient was around 60°, so the beer finished out fermentation at that temperature.
  • I brewed the beer on 1 January 2021, and it had a starting gravity of 1.046. I kegged the beer on 31 January 2021, and it had a final gravity of 1.013. This works out to 4.3% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Deep amber color, brilliantly clear. Persistent and creamy ivory colored head.
  • Aroma
    • Floral hops and rich bread crust aroma, both very prominent. This is a delicious combo! So good!
  • Flavor
    • Rich malty flavor of bread crust, and a clean yeast character. There is a slightly floral hop flavor. The beer is moderately bitter, with the balance tilted very slightly to bitter over malty. There is a low level of a cherry/fruity ester.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium body, moderate carbonation, slightly dry finish, but not too much so.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • YES. This is the best altbier I have ever done, and it is a massive step beyond the previous (also pretty good) version. The malt and hop character are amazing, making an incredibly interesting and very drinkable beer.
  • Overall
    • 10/10

Alstadt Alt

German brewing is more than lagers and wheat ales, although I’ve certainly had fun with those lately. For my latest foray, I’m exploring the world of altbiers. I’ve brewed an Americanized version of this amber-colored ale previously, with moderately good results. However, I felt like it was time to delve once more into the classic style.

copper-colored beer with off-white head in clear glass, held aloft in hand

I started with the book on altbier by Horst Dornbusch. This volume is part of the Classic Beer Style series from Brewers Publications–I really love them because they are compact, informative, and full of recipes. Some of the books (like the altbier one) are over 20 years old now, which does make me wish for a minor polish to reflect advances in malts and yeasts available to homebrewers nowadays. Nonetheless, the series provides a really nice way to cut straight to the point of a style.

The altbier book has nine recipes of varying grain bills and starting gravities, so I started with something of lower alcohol and straightforward composition. This recipe was Alstadt Alt (p. 100 of the book), described as being typical of the style served in Düsseldorf. The recipe clocks in at 1.048 o.g., 4.8% abv, and 40 IBU. Its grain bill is fairly simple, with 60% “two-row malt,” 15% Munich, 15% Vienna, and 10% crystal 60. This is an area where I think a modern update would be most needed, so I had to punt a bit on malt varieties. I settled on a pilsner malt (consistent with recommendations from elsewhere in the book), with light Munich, Vienna, and American crystal 60. I suspect a German crystal equivalent (maybe CaraMunich II) would also work for the latter, and might produce something truer-to-style (whatever that means).

Curiously, my initial formulation came a bit short of the color in the book’s recipe, at 10 SRM vs. 18 SRM. As I played around in BeerSmith, substituting Munich II for Munich I barely kicked up the color (maybe by 0.5 SRM), and same for substituting in American 2-row for the pilsner malt. I have no idea why this is; perhaps a calculation error by the author? So, I added a touch of Carafa Special III to bring the color more closely to style (14 SRM). This is still a tiny bit lighter than the original recipe (18 SRM), but I thought would be just fine.

In any case, this was a fun batch to brew and a fun style to drink. I’ll be making more altbiers in the future!

Alstadt Alt

  • 6.25 lb. Superior Pilsen malt (Great Western)
  • 1.75 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.75 lb. Vienna malt (Great Western)
  • 1.25 lb. Crystal 60 malt (Great Western)
  • 2 oz. Carafa Special III
  • 0.75 oz. Magnum hop pellets (13.2% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. German Ale/Kolsch yeast (White Labs WLP029), repitched slurry from my kölsch

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, batch sparge
  • 1.049 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.0% abv, 34 IBU, 14 SRM
  • Claremont tap water

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.75 gallons at 162°, to hit a mash temperature of 151°. It was down to 149° after 30 minutes.
  • After a 60 minute mash, I added 1.3 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected first runnings.
  • Next, I added 3.75 gallons of water at 185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.1 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.039, for 68% efficiency. This was a touch lower than expected, but we’ll just roll with it!
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, boiling for 60 minutes and adding hops and finings per the schedule.
  • After 60 minutes, I chilled down to 75°, transferred to the fermenter, and chilled down to 65° in the fermentation chamber.
  • Once the wort was at temperature, I pitched a slurry of yeast I had saved from my kölsch-style ale. Fermentation kicked off pretty quickly.
  • I brewed the beer on 9 May 2020, and it had a starting gravity of 1.047.
  • Fermentation was at 65° for around the first two weeks, and then I pulled it out to ambient for the rest of the fermentation.
  • I kegged the beer on 11 June 2020, adding 2.9 oz. of corn sugar in 1 cup of water. I had nearly a full keg, which was nice.
  • Final gravity was 1.012, for 4.6% abv.
  • I kept the keg at 66° until 20 June 2020, when I put it into the lagering chamber to cold crash at 33°. I also hooked it up to CO2 gas directly, to finish out carbonation to the desired level (~2.6 volumes of CO2).
  • As expected for the German ale yeasts, flocculation was pretty minimal, so on 22 June 2020, I added 1/2 tsp. of gelatin dissolved in 1/2 cup of water and held at 150° to pasteurize. In other circumstances, I might have been more patient, but I had a tap open up on my keezer, and wanted to fill the space!

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Deep copper in color and clear, with an ivory-colored and relatively persistent head. The head starts pretty tall, but settles to a thin blanket as the beer warms up.
  • Aroma
    • Lightly bready aroma, slightly crusty, with a touch of caramel; maybe a hint of hop spice, but the aroma is decidely on the malty side. I don’t really pick up anything in the realm of yeast character.
  • Flavor
    • Bready malt character, very nice; moderate and firm bitterness, but the balance of the beer is nicely balanced between malt and hop (maybe slightly tilted towards the hoppy side). The beer is surprisingly light and quaffable. Hop character is pretty clean, with a spicy character. The finish is smooth, with an extended yet pleasant bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderately light body, moderate carbonation; finish is moderately dry but not overly so. This beer drinks very smoothly, especially as it has conditioned.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a nice recipe…I’d definitely give it a try again! I would like to try it with an all-German grain bill, especially to substitute in CaraMunich II for the crystal 60. I like that this beer has plenty of malt character, without being cloying. It’s a pretty solidly drinkable summer amber beer. My perceptions of the beer match up partially with how it is described in the recipe. The beer is described as medium-coppper in color, and I perceive mine as a deep copper (there is no way their color value of 18 SRM isn’t amber!). Hop character is maybe a bit lower on mine (I don’t perceive much, and the recipe is described as having “a light hoppy nose”). In terms of the BJCP guidelines, it hit those pretty darned well. It could maybe have a touch more hop character in the aroma, but there is very little I would change about this beer otherwise. It’s a winner!
  • Overall
    • 9/10

Beer Tasting: Alt-Alt Ale

My altbier has been on tap for over a month, and seems to be at peak flavor. Time for a tasting!

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.052, final gravity = 1.008, abv = 5.8%; estimated IBU = 28.
  • Aroma
    • Exceptionally malty, with a strong caramel/sweet note (thank you, honey malt!). I do not pick up much in the way of hops, esters, or other components.
  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, with a deep amber, almost copper, hue. The head is low and ivory colored, with excellent retention.
  • Flavor
    • Moderately-high degree of maltiness, which is predominated by caramel aspects at the front end and a bit of breadiness at the back. It is rather bitter, and the bitterness has a distinct but clean character. There is a very modest perception of sweetness, but it is not overwhelming. The maltiness and hopiness are really nicely balanced, although it is definitely the bitterness that lingers longest on the finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a medium-bodied beer, with medium-high carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I quite like this beer, particularly as a way to try out a new style along with some malts that depart from my usual repertoire. The gelatin definitely did the trick for fining this out (particularly so when melded with the ingredient of time in the keezer). It departs from the altbier style in some ways (e.g., head is a bit lower than optimal for the style, and I didn’t use much in the way of German ingredients), but as a variation on that theme, it’s darned good. I can’t say it is in my “brew and drink every day” category (it’s a little too ‘massive’ of a beer for that), but it’s definitely in the “brew every once in awhile and enjoy” category.
  • Overall rating
    • 8 / 10

Alt-Alt Ale Kegged

On Wednesday, January 6, I kegged the Alt-Alt Ale. It had been fermenting for 11 days, and was down to a final gravity of 1.008. This equates to 5.8% abv. In tasting, I definitely pick up the honey malt. The yeast leavings were pretty remarkable–this had a high, hard, and foamy krausen, which ringed the fermenter more than just about any other yeast I’ve seen. This was fairly bizarre for WLP001, so I think it is a good decision to end my particular culture there, and reculture the yeast for next time I use it. The beer is now carbonating under high pressure, and will condition until the next keg in my keezer is kicked.