Altbier is a top-fermented, amber, lagered beer, that is traditionally brewed in the historical region of Westphalia, mainly in Düsseldorf. “Alt” (old) in its name refers to the older style of brewing when ale yeast has been widely used. The appellation became necessary when bottom-fermenting yeasts spread about the brewing scene in the 1800’s. Nevertheless, this style is perfect mixture of ale and lager yeasts: uses ale yeast, but fermented and conditioned at colder temperatures, that results in a cleaner and crisper taste. It also has a nice hop-malt balance, but usually only moderate level of fruity esters, and more like some floral and spicy aromas.
Grain bill: It usually consist of German style base malts, mainly Pilsner and occasionally some Munich. You also need a small amount of crystal, chocolate or darker roasted malt. Some styles prefer crystal malt to achieve the required color, while the original Düsseldorf style adds some chocolate/black malt and less or no crystal. The below one is the mixture of them. Adding some wheat, or roasted wheat is also an option. Traditionally is is brewed by using a decoction mash. In case you don’t want to mess with it, feel free to perform a mash schedule of 53-62-71 °C (127-144-160 °F) for 10-30-30 minutes.
Hops: The hop aroma varies from moderate to low and can have a spicy, floral or herbal character. Traditionally it is brewed with Spalt, but feel free to replace with other Saaz-like hops. Schedule is straightforward – same addition at 60 and 30 minutes.
Yeast: You need clean ale yeast, preferably a higher attenuative one. This beer should be fermented at the cooler end of ale temperature (15-20 °C / 59-68 °F). Condition at lager temperatures (~10 °C / 50 °F) for a few weeks.
Batch size: 23 l (6 gallon)
Bitterness: 30 IBU
Colour: 16 SRM
Taste: clean and rich malt character, crispy and spicy
Food pairing: sausage, grilled fish, roast pork