Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Westfälisches Altbier, oder?

 For the first time in a while I kegged a homebrew at the weekend.

I don't get to brew anywhere near as much as I would like, or as much as I used to, so the kegerator has been loaded with commercial beer for the last few months. Right now though, there is a 5 gallon keg of my own stuff happily conditioning, hopefully for imbibing this weekend.

My brewing these days is mostly in the old "extract and specialty grains" format, though I won plenty of medals with this method and so am not too worried about not doing all grain for the time being. This particular batch though is all extract, because the only malt I wanted was Munich, and Northern Brewer sell just the right size containers of liquid Munich malt extract to give me a starting gravity of 11° (1.044).

In the hopes of minimising potential staleness from the malt extract that had been in the house a couple of  months, I bought fresh Hallertauer Mittelfrüh to hop with, a fresh packet of Wyeast 1007 German Ale, and spent a few hours over a boiling brewpot.

I like Mittelfrüh for the soft sweet spiciness that you get, and all the other classic noble hop characteristics, things like fresh hay, wild flowers, and an earthiness that I am hoping will cut nicely through the Munich malt's toffee sweetness. I added enough to give me about 34 IBUs according to my brewing software, nearly half of which were in the bittering addition.

With the yeast, I always prefer an altbier yeast to a kölsch when doing something vaguely Germanic and top fermented. I don't have the kit to do lager fermentation in the summer, but find that 1007 reacts nicely to my 64°F basement, and finishes dry and clean, kind of like a lager, even without extended cold cellaring. Plus, Kölsch yeasts have a fruitiness that I find distracting.

The beer I kegged up looks like this...

I expect the final conditioned beer to be a bit paler, more in the deep golden/light orange world than the slightly turbid light brown of the sample.

On Twitter, Andreas Krennmair suggested the term "Rheinisches Bitterbier" based on his research which used it as an umbrella term for Düsseldorf Altbier and Kölsch. I did my own spot of digging around into the term and discovered that it was also put together with "Westfälisches altbier" according to Dr Joseph König. His descriptions of these beers are in his section on "German Top Fermented Beers", though he says the Rheinische Bitterbiers are made in the same manner as bottom fermenting beer, at least if my dodgy German isn't failing me horribly here.

König doesn't actually mention the styles that make up Rheinisches Bitterbier, but Andreas' research has them there, though in separating out "Westfälisches altbier" my interest was further piqued, for family reasons. My great-great-great grandfather was reputedly from Germany, at least according to UK census returns from 1871 - 1901, with further research from other parts of the family saying he was originally from Minden in Westphalia. Also in Westphalia is the city of Münster, home of the Pinkus brewery, who brew an altbier that is decidedly lighter in colour than those you find from Düsseldorf, so I wonder if that was the norm in Westphalia?

So from a quick and easy homebrew project, I have stumbled upon some beer history to try and dig in to, and perhaps we need more Westfälisches altbier in the world?

1 comment:

  1. That is only a little bit lighter than Schumacher Alt which is significantly paler than all the other Düsseldorf examples.


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