Favorite American Altbiers

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by TongoRad, Aug 12, 2012.

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  1. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (1,944) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    A ways back, let' say 1992 or so, I started to look forward to my first pint whenever I rolled into Portland, OR- it was Widmer's Alt, served at the Gasthaus. It was just a magnificent beer, a great take on a style that expertly walks a tightrope- not too malty, not too bitter (but definitely pushing the limit), not too toasty, not too hoppy- but all of those qualities are present. The trick is, as a brewer, to imbue interest in something that, by definition, seems to be pulling its punches. Widmer's Alt definitely accomplished that- a great creamy body, deliciously hoppy and caramel-infused, with an unexpected dryness and complexity- simultaneoulsy focused yet dodging expectations with each sip.

    We do get Uerige here in the States, and if you're fortunate you'll get a good sample. There have also been a number of quality American tales on the style throughout the years, some not explicitly calling themselves an Alt but exemplifying the style nonetheless- such as Alaskan Amber or Otter Creek Copper Ale. They have all been good , but none have made that same impression on me as that Widmer Alt of back then.

    Recently we here in NJ have started to get the Mission beers in 12 oz bottles (although I do remember seeing bombers for a while before that). It's sort of expensive, $13 a sixer, so I've been a bit hesitant, but I gotta say that their Amber (Dusseldorf Style Altbier) has brought me back to those days in Portland for the first time in a long time. I am so glad I finally took the plunge; this stuff is just awesome.

    Does anybody else really dig the style, and what are your favorites?
  2. crossovert

    crossovert Initiate (0) Mar 29, 2009 Illinois

    The Old Mecklenburger one is pretty good.
    CBlack85 likes this.
  3. dennho

    dennho Initiate (0) Oct 29, 2006 New York

    Long Trail Double Bag is my favorite Alt.
    Mohican88 likes this.
  4. brewbetter

    brewbetter Initiate (0) Jun 2, 2012 Nauru

    The only example I've had was the Uerige Sticke that I picked up in NJ. I found it to be bland and uninteresting, but I'm still interested in trying American examples.
  5. turfy

    turfy Aspirant (225) Mar 17, 2010 Texas
    Beer Trader

  6. WYVYRN527

    WYVYRN527 Initiate (0) Jan 8, 2007 Minnesota

    Rush River Uber Alt is pretty solid for an offering here.
    djsmith1174 likes this.
  7. lucas1801

    lucas1801 Initiate (0) Apr 5, 2012 Massachusetts

    I love Alts like Uerige Alt(not the sticke), and find most american versions lacking outside of some homebrew versions I have had. Headwall Alt from Tuckerman by a hair over Copper Ale.
  8. sunkistxsudafed

    sunkistxsudafed Initiate (0) Apr 30, 2010 New Mexico

    i think this is one of the underrepresented styles in american craft brewing. A local brewpub makes one year round that i'm really fond of. Kelly's.
  9. Azzy

    Azzy Initiate (0) Jul 16, 2012 Texas
    Beer Trader

    8th Wonder in Houston is going to be making a year round alt starting September or October. Expecting it to be tasty.
  10. Zimbo

    Zimbo Initiate (0) Aug 7, 2010 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    Uerige beers should not be exported. Once bottled they only have a month until they're kaput. I'm sure you'd find a visit to 1 Berger Strasse in Dusseldorf a total revelation though.
    patto1ro, azorie and Gutes_Bier like this.
  11. bleakies

    bleakies Disciple (374) Apr 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    Lately I've been enjoying Slumbrew's Rising Sun Ale: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/27016/82159

    I'd like to try more altbiers. Beyond the Long Trail versions and the Slumbrew, I lack experience with them but they strike me as a nice, subtle style.
  12. Kinsman

    Kinsman Champion (863) Aug 26, 2009 California

    I've never been Dusseldorf and had a traditional Alt from the source so I'm not prepared to say Tuckermans Headwall is a great alt, but I will say it is a damn tasty beer. It's pretty simple and straightforward, more malty than hoppy but really well balanced overall. Nothing about it is going to blow you away but it's a great beer to sit back and relax with or to grab a pint at the bar. Admittedly, I'm a little biased since I work in Tuckerman Ravine but it's hard to fault a beer for being so damn refreshing.
  13. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,263) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    The Widmer Alt is as close as I have had to Uerige. The Widmer brothers had been to Duesseldorf, and thought the Alt would be their big seller. Their yeast is from Uerige, but has changed in the Widmer brewery to a very powdery strain.
  14. azorie

    azorie Initiate (0) Mar 18, 2006 Florida

    there alt is as good as the original?, well that is impressive.
  15. Gutes_Bier

    Gutes_Bier Disciple (389) Jul 31, 2011 Germany

    FWIW, alts are underrepresented in Germany as well. Good ones are hard to find outside of Düsseldorf.
  16. azorie

    azorie Initiate (0) Mar 18, 2006 Florida

    yea its highly regional beer, but most of Germany is that way. I traveled there quite a bit myself.
    Gutes_Bier likes this.
  17. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,263) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Not as good, but close. There is a difference in the Alts you can find brewed in Duesseldorf.
  18. azorie

    azorie Initiate (0) Mar 18, 2006 Florida

    Yea well I am always just happy to be there, so everything taste better to me when I am in Germany.:wink:
    still alts are not that close to my heart...
  19. brucedodds

    brucedodds Initiate (0) Mar 4, 2006 Massachusetts

  20. gatornation

    gatornation Poo-Bah (3,251) Apr 18, 2007 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    Schells makes one every year called Schmaltzs Alt i like this one but dont drink alot of the style
  21. azorie

    azorie Initiate (0) Mar 18, 2006 Florida

    Intuition here made one they called an alt, I did not think it was one. But then again they make a lot of stuff that is not what they think it is.:slight_frown:
  22. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (1,944) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Double Bag can be a really good beer, but unfortunately I've had issues with its consistency. Sometimes it's spot on, and others it's either washed out or has a medicinal finish.

    I've had the Schmaltzes Alt at festivals and do remember liking it, but not much experience beyond that.

    I didn't even know they were still brewing it. People in Portland should definitely check it out.
  23. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,263) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Usually only at the Gastehaus in Portland. They did bring some to the National Homebrewers Convention this year.
  24. harrylee773

    harrylee773 Initiate (0) Aug 8, 2010 Illinois

    I would expect Iron Works Alt from Metropolitan Brewing here in Chicago to be as good as everything else I've had from them, but I've yet to try it, so I'm not sure. http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/19127/67215 Definitely looks like a style I'd be into, so I'll certainly give it a try when I find it.
  25. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    I second the Olde Mecklenburg Copper. When ultra fresh (the kegs I get are usually less than a week out of the brite tank) it is sublime.
  26. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (1,944) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    I guess it's always been that way- from Michael Jackson's pocket guide (1996) "The brewery's outstanding product it its hard-to-find Altbier - firm bodied, with excellent malt and hop characters, in perfect balance". I dunno, maybe they'd get a bit more street cred if they made something like that more available.

    Have you had the Mission Amber, by any chance?
  27. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poo-Bah (2,459) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona

    Very good on draft

  28. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,263) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    I have not had the Mission Amber.

    The flavor range for Alts is pretty wide. The ones from Duesseldorf are more assertive on the bitterness, with Uerige being the most bitter. The ones from the north are more malt forward. Alaskan Amber is more like the Pinkus Alt IIRC.
  29. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,934) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Thanks for the tip on Mission Amber; I will keep an eye out for it to try.

    Dusseldorf Alt beers are one of my favorite beer styles. As others have mentioned it can be a real challenge to obtain a ‘good’ Dusseldorf Alt beer. I have had bottles of Uerige Alt beers many times (the ‘regular’ Alt and the Doppelsticke). Every Uerige beer that I have tasted has been a disappointment. Based upon my personal experiences I really think that Zimbo has this right: you need to drink Dusseldorf Alt beers in Dusseldorf. This beer just does not seem to ‘survive’ the journey across the Atlantic.

    The best commercial Alt beer that I have ever drunk is Victory Ten Years Alt that they brewed to celebrate their 10th Anniversary (which occurred in 2006). I was at the brewpub a few years after the 10th anniversary and they had this beer bottled; I bought a six-pack. Unfortunately I have not seen this beer in a loooooong time. I don’t think they have made it again?

    I have tried a few other US craft brewed Amber/Alt beers but frankly I thought they were just OK: Otter Creek Copper, Long Trail Ale, Long Trail Double Bag.

    I started homebrewing Alt beers since the time I drank Victory Ten Years Alt. I have tweaked my Alt recipes over the years and I have ‘settled’ in on a Sticke recipe that turns out great. Given what is readily available out there, homebrewing Dusseldorf Alt beers is the ‘solution’ to the problem of being able to obtain fresh and tasty Dusseldorf Alt beers. But I will try Mission Amber when I can find it.

  30. Handle

    Handle Initiate (145) Mar 16, 2009 North Carolina

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