Alt: A Great Alternative To Your Everyday Ale #BrewedAwakening
There are many classic styles of beer out there, some that are household names, and others quite obscure, even though they may be a household name in the city/region of their origin.
One such beer is the dark ale known as Altbier, which comes from the area around and including Düsseldorf in Northwest Germany. Alt, like its cousin Kölch from Köln, is a German ale. Germany is known more for its lagers, although they brew some fine ales, also including Weissebier from Bavaria.
Alt is a neat style, in that it combines the delicious chocolatey flavours of dark malt with a clean fresh palate from cold aging. There is also a respectable level of bitterness, both from grain and hops. The intent is to make a beer that has some distinct malt character and bitterness, but is a clean, refreshing beer.
It is one of the classic hybrid ales, meaning it is warm fermented with an ale yeast and then cold aged like a lager. It is brewed at the famous brewpubs in Düsseldorf, but also in some larger breweries, such as the well distributed Hannen and Diebels. These two are very approachable, malty, and fairly easy drinking ales, but some Alts have more aggressive bitterness. There is also a stronger, darker variation of Alt called “Sticke Alt,” where Sticke means “secret.”
I’ve been to Düsseldorf a couple of times, and thus I’ve had a few fresh, traditional versions. I’ve also had some of the bottled versions imported to Canada. However, I’ve had more North American Alts than German versions. One that I’ve enjoyed every year is the one from Creemore in Ontario. It is dry and quite soft, relatively speaking.
This year i had a delicious local version while in Nova Scotia over the holidays. Uncle Leo’s Alt was on tap at http://brooklynwarehouse.ca/, one of Halifax’s best restaurants. We went for an intimate lunch in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The food was very good and the beer and wine selection was impressive.
Uncle Leo’s, from their brewery just outside Pictou on Nova Scotia’s North East shore, tasted a lot like the imported German Alts I’d had before, but with perhaps a fresher palate. It is a clean, fresh beer with clean bittering hops alongside dark grain bitterness, That’s a damned good effort for a small brewery in Canada copying a world classic beer style.
It’s an alternative to dark, English-style ales and malt driven dark lagers. Mayne next year you’ll go full on; and drink only dry, malty ales like Altbier.