Three months ago, when I first said that I was coming to Cologne for work, Jay over at Hedonist Beer Jive implored me to head to Dusseldorf to taste their Altbier. This weekend I was able to do just that. Before I get in to my journey let me take a few minutes to explain Altbier.
Altbier, also called Dusseldorfer Alt since that is the primary city this particular beer is brewed in means Old, but not in the meaning of a British Stale ale, but meaning brewed in the traditional methods. While many in Germany took their dark beers and made them paler (as Cologne did to Kolsch) due to the popularity of Pilsners, Dusseldorf and the Alt brewer's stuck to their guns. Altbiers are top fermenting ales, that are then lagered for long periods of time. They have intense hop bitterness, but the hop flavor and aroma are mild. Usually full bodied, bitter, (instead of malty sweet), and range from reddish amber to a dark brown.
So back to my journey......a friend of mine took up to Dusseldorf, only an hour or so away for dinner and some Alt drinking. Since I was out, I didn't take tasting notes, but I will give my best impressions of the experience. We tasted three different Alt's: Uerige, Frankenheim, and the aformentioned Diebels. All were Von Fass or from the tap. The Uerige was tasted at the brewery and was by far my favorite. All had that nice hoppy bitterness, but surprising that the aroma and flavor was not overly hoppy, but instead elegantly well balanced between malty and hoppy, with hops winning by just a bit, creating a full bodied, refreshing beer. All were dark reddish amber, with a Start white head, and plenty of carbonation. These were beers that I would love to get to know better, so I am a little sad that I waited until the very end of my trip to try them. The good news for me was that I was able to bring a bottle of Alt back with me and plan to open it up and post my notes on it later this week.