Originating near Düsseldorf in the Lower Rhine Region of west Germany, Altbiers are “top fermented” ales much like their pilsner relatives, but are done so at a cooler temperature like you would do for a lager. As a result, the flavors tend to be similar to a pilsner, but with a slightly more bitter, hoppy flavor. And much like pilsners, you end up with a very bright, clean-tasting beer that’s refreshing and easy-drinking.
Given Americans’ current tastes for big, bold flavors from something like IPAs or coffee stouts, the milder German-style beers often take a back seat when it comes to what smaller brewers are choosing to produce for the market. And among those German styles, Altbiers are pretty uncommon.
So when I saw this bottle of Wedding Alt from Brewers Alley (Frederick, MD) I had to give it a try because not only do they make some good beer, but who is doing an Alt these days?
Originally brewed by Brewers Alley Brewmaster, Tom Flores, for his own wedding, this beer pours a hazy brown, indicating the barley malt has been roasted a bit more than usual than the typical, light gold Alts. There’s good carbonation and, at 5.2% ABV, its alcohol content is within the typical Altbier range of 4.5-5.5%.
The beer smells a little fruity, with a little bit of a bread aroma. Tasting it revealed an easy-drinking light ale that’s ever so slightly sour with a mild malt sweetness. It’s actually not too bitter, and has a slightly dry finish.
It may not be a carbon-copy, typical Alt, but it’s still a really nice beer. The only other local brewer I know of who makes a regular Alt is Union Craft Brewing’s Balt (which is probably a tad more traditional), so there’s not a lot to compare it to directly.
However, Wedding Alt is a very drinkable, approachable beer that’s good for anyone to try, especially if you prefer a lager- or pilsner-style beer. Imagine those beers with flavors enhanced to a stronger level.
In the end, I really enjoyed the rare occasion to have an Alt, and this one might have just topped my list of favorites from this style.
If Tom’s marriage is anything like this beer, it’s an easy-going, unpretentious, friendly union that I hope continues for many, many years to come.