Tuesday, 20 May 2008

German Ales

Of course I mean German Top-fermenting beers. Just a little windup there with the title. I thought I might give you my classification of the different types.

  1. Rhineland Bitterbier. These are the classic Obergäriger Lagerbiers. Beers that have a top-fermenting primary fermentation followed by a long period of lagering at 0-2º C. I've sort of made the term Rhineland Bitterbier name up. It's not that important. I just wanted a general name to cover these two types:

    a. Düsseldorf Altbier
    b. Kölsch

  2. Bavarian Weizen. Brewed with a specific type of yeast that produces spicy flavours.

  3. Sour beers. These fall into two groups:

    a. Lightly-hopped beers which sour during primary fermentation: Berliner Weisse, Leipziger Gose.

    b. Heavily-hopped beers which sour during secondary fermentation: Münster Altbier and Lichtenhainer. There is only a single example of each still brewed.

  4. Grätzer. Smoked wheat beer not brewed with a Bavarian wheat beer yeast. I'm still hoping this will be revived.

  5. Süßbier and Einfachbier. Sweet, malty, low-alcohol beers. Once all such beers were top-fermented. Many are now bottom-fermented. I suspect very few top-fermenting examples still exist.

Comments are welcome. (Unless you're one of the Homebrew Twats, in which case you can f*ck off.) I know at least one beer that doesn't fall into any of these categories: Dampfbier. It isn't a wheat beer, isn't sour and isn't lagered. Maybe it needs its own category.

What strikes me looking at this list is how under threat most types are. Only Bavarian Weizen is flourishing. Even Kölsch and Düsseldorf Alt have been hit by falling sales over the last decade and the number of breweries producing them seriously pared down. The remainder are hanging on by a thread or, as in the case of Grätzer, extinct.

Note: this list has been compiled without reference to homebrewing books (no Eric Warner) nor other authorities such as the Brewers' Association and the German Beer Institute.


Anonymous said...

Hi ron
Well i'm a homebrewer but hopefully not a twat!
I tried making a dampfbier last year and frankly it was pretty awful. I never managed to track one down when i germany over xmas. as far as i am aware they make it in zwiesel in the bavarian forest, but isn't there a place in koeln that sells it too? i wasn't in koeln long enough to get through my list of koelsch beers to try (and wiess) let alone track down dampf. anyway. my dampfbier was with an all munich grist and used a german wheat beer yeast as was suggested in everything i could find about the style. i just found it neither here nor there really. could have been a brewing fault but the head retention was pretty useless (i suspect low hop rate though), and it had none of the charms of a well-made weizen OR any of the depth of other beers that might employ that type of grist - perhaps a munich dunkel or some types of alt. oh well - i guess it serves me right for brewing 'blind' (ie. never having tried the style itself). but have you? and what's it like?

Kristen England said...

Dear Ron,

'Rhineland Bitterbier' sounds like 'Bohemian Pilsner' to me.


Ron's better judgment ;)

In all seriousness, do you have any German brewing logs for the Grätzer? I just home smoked about 20#'s of Munich malt with Beech wood and am putting together recipes to use it. Some of it will be for Schlenkerla Festenbier clone served by gravity. :)

Ron Pattinson said...

anonymous, I was at the brewery in Zwiesel in April:


What they said at the brewery, contrary to other reports, is that the yeast is an ordinary top-fermenting strain, not a wheat beer yeast. To me, the beer tasted like a lightly-hopped Alt.

Looking back at what I wrote, I'm not sure if they lager their Dampfbier or not. I need to ask Andy.

Kristen, I could easily be talked out of Rhineland Biiterbier, though Schönfeld does use the term. Maybe I should just stick with "Obergäriges Lagerbier".

Good luck with your Schlenkerla Festenbier clone. It's a great beer.

I keep trying to gather everything I can on Grätzer, but still have very few hard details. I wonder if any logs still exist?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for breaking these styles down-- though I have spent some time drinking beer in Germany I wasn't exactly diligent at the time. The Grätzer sounds amazing. I hope Kristen can pull it off!

Ron Pattinson said...

impymalting, one of my many unpublished posts categorises German bottom-fermenting beers. I really should publish it sometime soon.

Grätzer is one of the beers I would most like to try. It drives me crazy that I visited Poland while it was still being brewed but never got to try it.

Lichtenhainer is another obsession. I had a bottle of it in my hands at the ZBF, but unfortunately it belonged to someone else.

Kristen England said...

These are two very easily done styles. There is plenty written and wont take much time to do.

I finished my 're-brews' for our national home brew competition so I have plenty of time now.

I was going to do a specialty 'black' saison from Northern France this weekend but I can do either of these babies.

Either one you guys want done first? I have everything for both.

Ron Pattinson said...

Grätzer, please. It's the one that's officially extinct.

Looking back, I was wondering whether I should classify it as a German style. It's hometown is, after all, in Poland now.

Kristen England said...

Anytime I brew something I usually go over my thoughts with Ron privately over email but I think doing it hear will give people a better understanding of translating 'words' to the actual building of the product. First a brief synopsis of what we need:

- 100% smoked wheat malt
- hops 3kg/100kg malt
- German non-weizen yeast
- OG 7P, FG 3P
- infusion mash
- bottle condition 2-5% krausen

- Quite dark (very dry malt)
- High smoked flavor
- High bitterness
- High hop flavor

My thoughts:
This seems like a very straightforward and easy beer to make. Ill smoke the wheat malt tonight, dry it in the oven and cool it so its ready for tomorrow. Logistically its a bitch to use wheat at over 70% of the grist b/c barley (read husk) is needed for the lautering. So Ill use rice hulls which do the same thing and dont add any character (good or bad) to the beer.

An infusion mash that has extended rest times sounds like the best plan. When malt is smoked for extended periods of time you will lose some of the malts diastatic power (DP) meaning its ability to convert starch into sugar and subsequent delicious alcohol. Ill keep my rests as most German beers with protein rest, low mash and high mash (as the Germans term it).

For hops Ill use 100% Hallertauer for the bittering and flavor addition. They didnt mention ANY hop aroma so we have to add the flavor addition a good way away from the finish of the beer.

The yeast that makes most sense to me to use would be a very clean 'obergäriger lager' yeast (read alt/kölsh yeast) at about 15C. It should be done in the primary after about 3 days, Ill transfer it and let it sit a week or so and then bottle it.

Back to ferment. As soon as I start getting active fermentation Ill pull off ~5% of the 'green wort' (Speise) and put it in the fridge (4degC) until Im ready to bottle.

The night before Ill pull out the Speise to get it going again and bottle just using that which hopefully will give me enough CO2. If Im not feeling comfortable with it, Ill add fresh yeast along with the spiese.

Thats about it. Very straightforward. I have a few beers Ive talked about with Ron that Ive made so far. As soon as I get them in the bottle Ill take a picture so he can post them.

Ron Pattinson said...

Kristen that sounds very, very nice. It sounds like it should be a great summer beer.

You aren't planning a European trip in the near future, are you? Bringing some of year beer with you, of course.

Kristen England said...

I smoked all of the pale wheat malt last night and dried it extensively as the notes dictate. I used mesquite to smoke with b/c its pretty much in the middle of Oak and Beech. I expected to get less efficiency b/c the smoking and drying should have reduced the enzymes and they did. I added more of the smoked wheat to make up for it. Everything went great. Used some rice hulls to keep things separated.

The entire brew shop reaked of smoke...tons of bacony, hammy smoke. Reminds me a ton of Schlenkerla.

HOLY CRAP! This is one weird ass beer. First it has this massive smoke nose with no hops. Then you have this robust bitterness flowing into the drying, acric smoke.

The gravity came out at 1.029, BU's ~35 and is pretty damn dark for being just wheat. I'd say somewhere in the 50+ EBC range. Fermenting it with Zum Uerige's yeast and keeping it cool.

This should be pretty cool...