I got the inspiration for this brew from a friend of mine at work. Dave, who was just getting back into brewing after a long hiatus, wanted to brew a malty ale and initially chose a German Alt. Knowing that his ambient temperatures were too high for an Alt fermentation, he opted for an ESB. The brew stuck in my head however, and since I never brewed one before, I decided to give it a go.
An altbier is historically a German ale of copper brown color, close to 4.5% ABV, clean in flavor but a with malty taste. The bitterness is firm to hold the malt in check, and the head is a tall crown of foam. The word “Alt”, which means old in German, denotes a brew of old heritage coming from Rhineland, while modern altbiers originated in Dusseldorf in the 1800s.
What makes an altbier unique is it is one of the few ales that are fermented cooler than standard ale temperature at 55°C to 64°C. Under these conditions, ale yeast produce very little in the way of esters (more about esters in my last post) and off flavors. Moreover, they are aged in lagering tanks close to freezing. The result is a mellow and clean tasting beer that highlights malt and hops. Traditional ingredients for an altbier are slightly kilned German malts, such as Munich and Vienna malts, and German (noble) hops.
Unfortunately, I’ve only had two commercial examples to draw an accurate comparison for brewing my Alt, Alaskan Amber and Southampton’s Altbier. Both are OK, but nothing to get excited about and I assume they are a far cry from the original. For my beer, I decided to focus on German hops and I dry hopped with two ounces of whole leaf Tettnang hops. Time was limited for this particular brewday, and instead of a blend of Munich and Vienna, I used dried malt extract. For my yeast, I selected San Francisco Lager (WLP810), which ferments cleanly in the upper 50s.
Recipe (6.0 gallons):
- 7 pounds of extra light DME
- 8.0 oz Caraaroma (150.0 SRM)
- 8.0 oz Carared (20.0 SRM)
- 4.0 oz Special B (180.0 SRM)
Heated 7.51 gallons of distilled water to 150F and added steeping grains for 30 minutes. Removed grains, and rapidly brought to a boil. Added only 1 pound of DME at the beginning of boil and the rest with 10 minutes left.
- 2.0 oz of Tettnang at 60 minutes (pellets, 4.5% AA)
- 0.5 oz of Hallertauer at 60 minutes (pellets, 4.8% AA)
- Whirlfloc and yeast nutrient at 20 minutes
- 1.5 oz of Hallertauer at 0 minutes (pellets, 4.8% AA).
- 2.0 oz of Tettnang (dry hop, whole leaf, continuously in the keg)
Cooled to 62F, aerated for one minute with pure O2 and pitched a 1 liter starter of WLP810.
- OG: 1.046
- FG: 1.012
- ABV: 4.5%
- IBUs: ~34.4 (Tinseth)
1/1/12: Brewday. Pretty straight forward – extract beer. Blichmann burner has been giving me problems in a small gust of wind – the flame blows out. However, found the best setting for maximum boil for Blichmann burner. Had to add back a gallon of water due to a high rate of evaporation. Pitched one liter starter at 62F.
1/2/12: Activity by 12 hours. By 24 hours, beer was throwing blow off. Temp at 61F
1/3/12: High krausen – temps at 62F.
1/4/12: Activity slowing down – 62F
1/6/12: Still some residual activity. Fermentation is lasting longer than I expected – could be due to the strain. Temps have remained at a constant 62F during the whole fermentation.
1/25/13: Racked to keg and carbed to 30 psi. Tastes malty but definite fruity esters are present. Lagering may remove this. Soft water doesn’t seem to be too detrimental. FG: 1.012 and an apparent attenuation of 73%.
2/6/13: Drinking great. Very sessionable. Nice malt flavor, decent head retention and lacing. Beer is still cloudy, mostly due to young age. Very clean ester profile, San fran yeast is a good yeast for pseudo lagers. German hops add quite a unique flavor to this beer – spicy, minty, and herbal. At first I thought the Tettnang dry hop was too grassy, but the flavor is mellowing out nicely.
2/19/13: Drinks very good and is a different flavor. Sessionable and has a unique ester profile.
Review of this beer can be found here.