New Glarus Brewing is out with a brand new beer. Owners Deb and Dan Carey say their latest creation -- a German altbier -- is an early holiday present, "a thank you" to their customers. Last winter, the Careys asked their fans to make suggestions online for what brews they would like to see, and the alt style was one of the most recommended.
"This year brewery construction and start up has been long and hard on everyone," explains Deb, "and so what better way to say thanks and send our love than with beer." Be sure to collect your thank you early, as Carey says the brewery made just 600 barrels of Alt, and she doubts it'll last through December.
What is it? Alt from New Glarus Brewing Company.
Style: The traditional altbier is a German brown ale, best known as the preeminent beer style of Düsseldorf, the Rhine River city located in the center of the industrial heartland of western Germany. The word "alt" means "old" in German, and signifies the beer's established presence before pale lagers from Bavaria became the country's and subsequently the world's dominant style.
Altbiers are fermented at warm ale temperatures, but conditioned in cooler temperatures and for longer periods, creating an ale that shares characteristics with a lager. These brews range in color from deep bronze to a hazy ruby brown, and have a thick head, faint fruity tones, and biscuity or toasted flavors. The finish is commonly dry and lightly hopped, but overall clean in taste.
Background: Brewmaster Dan Carey says New Glarus Alt is loosely based on the Düsseldorf style. A heavy malt bill for this beer, along with a three-hour boiling time and additions of Turbinado Sugar -- a raw form that commonly comes as light brown crystals -- all combine for strong caramel flavors with assertive toffee tones. The altbeer is subsequently aged in open-top oak fermentors and then bottle conditioned. It's a beer that should age very nicely, maybe up to a couple of years. New Glarus Alt is sold in six-packs, and cost around $8.
- Aroma: Caramel maltiness, with just a light roastedness.
- Appearance: Hazy, deep bronze color with a thick bubbly tan head.
- Texture: Full bodied and round.
- Taste: Lots of sweet caramel maltiness with toffee in the background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Warm and malty.
Glassware: The altbier fan may want to try this beer in a narrow 200 ml (7 ounce) glass called a "Stange," which translates to "stick" or "staff" in German. If you can't find one, a Tom Collins glass will substitute nicely. This type of glass will show off the deep bronze color and keep the malt aroma focused above this beer's thick bubbly head.
Pairs well with: The caramelized malty flavors of this beer go well with roasted meats, especially ham basted in brown sugar. That sweetness will also blend with grilled salmon and crab cakes. Overall this is a very versatile beer for food.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Consensus: A (outstanding) from Beer Advocate and it has not received enough ratings to be evaluated by Rate Beer.
The Verdict: The beer style police might find fault with the aggressive caramel sweetness of New Glarus Alt. But I liked it for its distinctive toffee notes and smooth warmth. I'm stashing a six pack of this back for the 2009 holidays. With a little luck, perhaps more so in my commitment to leave it alone, it'll be interesting to see just how well it ages.