Altbier are ales first brewed in Cologne and Düsseldorf Germany. The name alt means “old” - suggesting that this brew had an older style to it, highlighting darker, woodier malts. While it may on the surface appear to be a simple beer with two or three kinds of malt and hops aged for about a month in conditioning tanks, it has been hard to reproduce the flavor here in America.
Alts have a reputation for being on the bitter side, but in fact the softness of the malts allows the hops to shine through and the woody and peppery flavor is sometimes perceived as a tang of bitterness. Sometimes the malt is scorched giving the Alt a caramel flavor. Some other beers that have similar taste characteristics are Bavarian dark lagers and brown ales.
Just like popular German kölsches, alts have a unique mineral spine that is associated with the water of the area, which makes it hard to reproduce in other geographic locations. There is a tradition of making specialty alts like the famous Uerige’s Sticke that is released just twice a year. That beer is a bit stronger version of the regular alt and has an added helping of Spalt hops which produces a bouquet described as forest floor.
We have featured numerous Altbiers in our Craft Beer Club including Tuckerman Brewing Company's Headwall Alt which was rated in the Top 6 Brews in New England in the Boston Globe Magazine and has made it onto Beer Advocate's list of Top Altbiers.
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