AltbierGerman for “old” or “aged,” Altbier originated in Düsseldorf, Germany, and is akin to the Kölsch-style beers from nearby Köln (Cologne). The style evolved from northern German ales that were brewed anywhere from the 13th to 17th centuries, and it is brewed using a warm-fermenting ale yeast and then traditionally cold conditioned for several weeks—but not as cold as for lager conditioning. Pale malts, along with Vienna or other specialty malts, give the beer its amber to copper color, with roasted malts often used as well. Herbal, earthy hop bitterness nicely balances the overall flavor of rich malts with caramel, toffee and dark fruit notes. The long, cold conditioning moderates fruity yeast esters and brings smoothness to the mouth-feel, resulting in a very flavorful, yet usually crisp, clean character with a dry finish. Two Düsseldorf breweries produce a stronger Altbier, called “Sticke,” (local jargon for “secret”) that expresses a bolder malt and hop flavor, heavier body and 6 percent ABV—higher than the classic Altbier’s 4.7 percent ABV—yet it remains very balanced. Brewed only twice per year, Sticke Alt quantities are limited. Düsseldorf’s Uerige brewery also brews a Doppelsticke (double sticke) for the U.S. market, which is stronger at 8.5 percent ABV. (Uerige’s Stickum bar in Düsseldorf may carry some of these rare finds.) While Germany imports a few Altbiers to the United States, several American craft breweries brew an Altbier style that is available in regional markets.
|Taste/Smell||Malty, Caramel, Toasty, Earthy, Medium-bodied|
|Alcohol-by-Volume (ABV) Range||4.2 – 5.5%|
|Popular Examples||Uerige Altbier, Uerige DoppelSticke, Pinkus Organic Münster Alt, Alaskan Amber, Long Trail Ale, Otter Creek Copper Ale, Fordham Copperhead Ale, Leavenworth Eightmile Alt|
|Serving Temperature||Cool, 46-54°|
|Glassware||Stange, pint or nonic|
|Cheese Pairing Ideas||Asiago, Camembert, Cheshire, Gouda (aged), Emmental, Gruyère|
|Food Pairing Ideas||Smoked sausage, pork and grilled salmon|