I've found it difficult to find a good altbier here in Madison. Finding a tasty Kölsch, the alt's lighter cousin, is much easier. It's by no means impossible to find some delectable alt goodness but my enjoyment is limited by the seasonal availability of altbiers that I enjoy drinking. I recommend Schmaltz's Alt
by Schell, Iron Works
by Metropolitan, and Rhine Heights by Vintage Brewing. They are less sweet than other iterations of the style found on store shelves. They taste more like Obergäriges Lagerbiers and less like brown ales. To my tongue, anyway.
This being the case, I was happy to hear that Steve's Liquor had begun to carry or had finally brought the fact to my attention that they have been carrying the beers of Prost Brewing Company
. Prost is a Denver brewery that makes traditional German bier styles. I see no evidence of barrel aging, brettanomyces, nor a single Cascade hop in use over there. I decided to check out their altbier
on a recent trek to Steve's.
As you can see from my photograph, Prost doesn't use puns as names for their beers nor do labels feature anything fancy. Just simple German austerity. How they get away with this is beyond me. I guess not trying to be clever and ostentatious makes you stick out in a craft beer crowd.
Altbier pours a rich copper color. The bier was clear with a fair number of bubbles going up. My glass featured a small ecru head that, sadly, didn't last very long. The aroma was rife with malty goodness. A rather sweet scent came first that was stonefruity but more savory, roasted grains came hot on its heels. Altbier is laden with Hallertau hops and I caught them on the nose as a restrained bit of grassiness.
Upon tasting I found that the fruity sweetness of the malt was rather like plum and that it wasn't as prominent as it was on the nose. Here the roasted grain flavor had pride of place. Behind that was just a little toffee flavor. The clean grain flavors were abetted by grassy/herbal hop flavors and bitterness. I think I was expecting more hop presence after my dreadful encounter with some senescent Uerige
altbier this past summer. As Ron Pattinson noted, fresh Uerige is fairly bitter so now I expect all altbiers to be so when there is surely variation even in the brews made in Düsseldorf, the style's hometown. There was also a little carbonation to be had.
If all of this sounds pretty tasty, well, it could have been. The flavors themselves were good but I found the bier to be very thin. It had a pretty light body and the overall malt flavor tasted like the amateurish first steps of a homeopathic brewer.
The finish had that light malt sweetness fade to modicum of herbal hop dryness. No Schaumhaftvermoegen
was to be had.
I really hope this was just a bad batch because I'd love to have a gut altbier year-round. Prost Altibier has all of the requisite flavors but it's just thin. The malts lack richness and depth – they have only hazy memories of Maillard reactions. I'll try this bier again but I am going to give Prost's other biers a chance first.
Junk food pairing: On the savory side try some Kettle Cheddar Beer potato chips with your Prost Altbier or, if you have a sweet tooth, you can't go wrong with a handful of dark chocolate covered pretzels.
Labels: Altbier, Beer, Prost Brewing Company