Altbier advice

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MikeFallopian

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I'm a bit confused with regards to what method should be adopted when brewing an Altbier.

I know that in the pre-lagering days this beer was brewed like a British ale, but am I correct in thinking that nowadays it is generally warm-fermented and then lagered? Would I be ok just to brew it like a British ale and not lager it? Would this affect the flavour at all?
 

corkybstewart

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I think it's still brewed cool, maybe not as low as a lager and then it should be lagered. I fermented mine last fall at 58F for 2 weeks, then lagered the first keg for a month before tapping it. Brewing it at62-64 and then not lagering it will have a real impact on flavor. It would probably still be a good beer but more of a brown ale than an alt.
 

Jaysus

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I took a stab at one over the winter that I fermented at regular ale temps, then lagered in a corny for a month or so before tapping. That seemed to work well enough for me.
 

Randar

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I'm a bit confused with regards to what method should be adopted when brewing an Altbier.

I know that in the pre-lagering days this beer was brewed like a British ale, but am I correct in thinking that nowadays it is generally warm-fermented and then lagered? Would I be ok just to brew it like a British ale and not lager it? Would this affect the flavour at all?
This is not true at all. British Ales are fermented much warmer, are not lagered, and the vast majority are fermented with an attempt to accentuate the ester and malt profile. Altbier has VERY LOW to undetectable esters. It should be dry and very clean.

I second the recommendation on reading Kai's altbier thread in the recipe section.

That said, IMO you should be fermenting with a German Ale yeast (although some other strains may work at cool temps and be able to keep things clean) and at cool temps (55-60). You can also cold crash for a few weeks or do proper lagering to help it clean up and clear. Either method has worked well for me.
 

TopherM

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I made a batch of AHS Altbeir, which is supposed to be an ale version of traditional Altbeir, which is lagered.

I'll tell you, it was a very good beer, but it was NOT an Altbeir. Similar in color, had a nice maltiness to it and the proper spicy hoppiness, but still had a heavier molassas type aftertaste instead of the light, crisp aftertaste it would have had if it were lagered, which makes sense with the ale yeast and ale fermentation.

When I think of a good altbier, I think of Southampton Altbeir, which has a heavy, malty body, but finishes light. You just can't do that without lagering.

Hope that helps!
 
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MikeFallopian

MikeFallopian

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This is not true at all. British Ales are fermented much warmer, are not lagered
Surely they must have been fermented at warmer temperatures before the development of lagering techniques, as I stated in my original post?

Wikipedia, with reference to Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter, states: 'The name Altbier, which means old beer, refers to the pre-lager brewing method of using a warm top-fermenting yeast. Over time the Alt yeast adjusted to lower temperatures, and the Alt brewers would store or lager the beer after fermentation...'

So, basically if I attempt an Altbier at a warm temperature, am I going to simply get something resembling a brown ale (and what beer was in Germany before the lager craze kicked in) rather than what we would think of as an 'Altbier' now?
 

corkybstewart

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The northern area of Germany is probably a lot cooler than England so even if you go back to pre-lager days I bet the cellars of the Dusseldorf breweries were still pretty cool. They may or may not have been able to lager them cold, but my guess is an extended stay at 50F would still keep the beers cleaner than an English ale brewed at 60F and served very fresh.
 

Randar

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Surely they must have been fermented at warmer temperatures before the development of lagering techniques, as I stated in my original post?

Wikipedia, with reference to Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter, states: 'The name Altbier, which means old beer, refers to the pre-lager brewing method of using a warm top-fermenting yeast. Over time the Alt yeast adjusted to lower temperatures, and the Alt brewers would store or lager the beer after fermentation...'

So, basically if I attempt an Altbier at a warm temperature, am I going to simply get something resembling a brown ale (and what beer was in Germany before the lager craze kicked in) rather than what we would think of as an 'Altbier' now?
Not at English temps in the mid 60's, no. And they didn't use British yeasts, either (I thought that would be obvious). They selected via successive generations of yeast via krausen harvest, repitching, and so on and yeast always adapt to conditions.

I think you're still confused here. Pre-lager does not mean "warm" and the reference you quoted refers to "warm" in relation to lager yeasts, so it is all relative. Fermentation in caves or cellars or catacombs has been going on for ages. Lagering "techniques" refer to near-freezing temps and in many situations this requires active cooling/refrigeration (assumign winter or local cold caves don't allow). One does not beget the other and near-freezing temps for lagering does not directly relate to primary fermentation temperature in this context.
 
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