Thursday, 20 July 2017

Dortmunder Versandbier

An old German beer style, but not a top-fermenter. No, this a description of a classic Lager style: Dortmunder Export.

The type of beer which for a big chunk of the 20th century was the most popular in Germany. Until Pils came along and unseated it from its perch. Export has faced very hard times since. Brewery closures meaning Dortmund no longer produces more beer than any other town in Germany.

Things were very different back in the 1920’s, when Dortmunder Export was both well-regarded and popular. That’s when this description was written.

Our tastiest, but also the strongest characterful, pale beers are the original Dortmunder Versandbiers.

It’s brewed using a highly-dried, but still, pale malt.

Usually a two thick mash method is used, but sometimes also two thick mashes and one lauter mash.

With regard to maintaining a pale colour the first method is recommended and the mashes are only boiled for 10 and 5 minutes. By boiling the malt husks, which have a raw, harsh flavour, for too long the fine, spicy flavour is considerably diminished.

Mashing in is at 35º C, rising to 55º Cand then to 70º C. Where care is taken that full saccharification takes place. Then the wort is boiled for 5 to 10 minutes and combined with the rest of the wort to mash out at 70º C. Later, with the second thick mash, it’s mashed out at 75º C.

In a three-mash scheme, the temperature of the combined mash is brought up to 55º C with the first thick mash, 70º C with the second thick mash and 75º C with the lauter mash.

In order to keep the noble flavour the mash shouldn’t be too thick and should be quickly run off while the temperature is maintained at 75º C; stir the mash only once or twice. During sparging the temperature in the tun should be maintained at 70º C. Boiling the wort should only begin when the second sparge is running, and should last at least one hour.

The hopping rate is 1.3 pounds per 50 kg of malt, depending on the quality of the hops. Only the highest quality hops should be used, with a third added when the copper is filled, another third after an hour of boiling and the final third 45 minutes before the end of boiling. Total boil time should be a maximum of 2 hours.

The OG for Exportbier is 14º Balling.

The wort is pitched with a pure culture of Dortmunder yeast at 5º C, rising to 8.5º C. The wort is then cooled back down to 5 to 4º C.

Primary fermentation lasts 3 to 3 weeks. So that the beer stays sound for a long time a very high degree of attenuation is sought, so it’s logical that a highly-attenuative strain of yeast is used. These beers, which are lagered under pressure at 1º C for a long time, are very highly carbonated and full and elegant tasting.
Source: Olberg, Johannes (1927) Dortmunder Versandbier in Moderne Braumethoden, pp 66-67, A. Hartleben, Wien & Leipzig.

That’s a fairly detailed set of brewing instructions. Should be able to knock together a recipe from that. Though my biggest problem would be choosing the malt. Is pale malt more highly-dried than pilsner malt? In which case that, oddly enough, might be the best equivalent.

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