Fearful Symmetries

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09 August, 2015

This Altbier Induces Fremdschämen: Amber Alt by Port Huron Brewing



Wisconsin Dells is the state's most infamous tourist trap, drawing hordes of families from Illinois to area theme parks, arcades, and restaurants. Nestled away in a nondescript business park on the fringes of town lies Port Huron Brewing Company. The brewery's name comes from a 1917 Port Huron (Michigan) steam tractor proudly owned by brewmaster Tanner Brethorst's family. Port Huron tends to creep under the craft beer radar because they do not brew an IPA, although that is supposed going to change this year.

Brethorst did his time in the southern Wisconsin brewing scene before striking out on his own. He worked at Tyranena, Lake Louie, and Capital Brewing in addition to taking classes at the Siebel Institute in Chicago. He also honed his skills across The Pond in Munich for a spell. In 2010 he decided to brew professionally and Port Huron started rolling barrels out its doors in 2012.

As I noted above, Port Huron has no IPA or even a plain Jane pale ale to its name. Sometimes I wonder how a craft brewery can remain in business without being able to satiate the hop addicted. Indeed, of Port Huron's four annual brews, two are German styles – a hefeweizen and an altbier. I was happy to see Brethorst brew an alt as it's a style that does not get a lot of love in these parts.

The alt is the specialty brew of Düsseldorf. Like it's cousin from downriver, the Kölsch, the alt is top-fermented and then lagered. I've never found any definitive explanation for this. It seems that the style derives from an older ("alt" means old in German) ale which mutated in the late 19th century amidst the onslaught of lagers. Alt is traditionally served in a stange like the Kölsch but the altbier variation is shorter and wider. Luckily I have a couple of these so, if you come over to drink altbier with me, it will be served to you in one of these instead of the ubiquitous shaker pint.

Port Huron's Amber Alt comes in a prepossessing copper color. I swear, it looks much better than my lousy backlit photo. The beer is clear and effervescent. My pour got a nice fluffy, off-white head that lasted a good while. Beneath it many bubbles made their way from the bottom of the glass to the top. My nose caught a sweet malty aroma that was stone fruity along with a cleaner biscuit scent as well as a yeasty one. I guess you could say it smelled very much like bread.

Oddly enough, the first thing I tasted was the spicy-peppery hop flavor of what I think are Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops with the malt being conspicuously absent. It was genuinely weird. The beer has a medium body but for just a very short time it tastes really watery. Then a bready malt flavor pops in from out of left field. None of the stone fruit flavor from the nose is present so Port Huron gets points for lagering the beer.

Amber Alt finishes dry with the malt giving way to more of the Noble hop spicy bitterness. I was left with some fine Schaumhaftvermoegen.

This ended up being a drain pour. I don't know if it was the vicissitudes of craft brewing or my ineptitude at keeping my bottle cool and out of the sun but Amber Alt was watery. There were good flavors in there but they didn't come together. It tasted like each of the flavors were in a line and hit my tongue one after another instead of in a glorious gestalt of Noble malty kinship. First the hops, then the water, then the malt, and then the hops again. Hopefully this was a bad bottle whoever may be at fault. I shall try Amber Alt again at some point to verify my findings here.

Junk food pairing: Pair Amber Alt with a hearty junk food such as a steak-flavored potato chip like Ruffles MAX Flame Grilled Steak chips or Herr's Kansas City Prime Steak flavored chips. The latter are or were to be had at Woodman's East along the opposite side of the dairy aisle wall.

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|| Palmer, 4:54 PM

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