In December 1996 I was able to visit my parents in Germany. I was just into my quest for beer knowledge and did not fully realize the questions I should have been asking. One night in a restaurant, I ordered an Altbier. What came was a small glass containing a dark liquid. It was much sweeter than I anticipated and contained an unusual taste. If I did track down this style, I have long forgotten. Skip forward 13 years. A friend gave me a 12 pack sampler from New Glarus and inside was an Alt. I've been looking forward to review ever since.
The pour is what to be expected for the style: a dark caramel with a white head. The color is what I remember. On the nose, there is sweetness and vanilla. There are hints of crystal malt as well. On the tongue, the sweetness of the style is noticeable. Underneath the sweetness, there are hints of hops, but it is not too strong. Mid mouth it is still sweet and the Hallertau hops are a little noticeable. The finish continues the same theme of sweetness and some hop presence.
This is a style I need to investigate more. The style in an interesting mix of ale and lager brewing techniques. Top-fermenting yeast is used, but there is secondary lagering of the beer, just at the warmer ale temperatures. There is also very little presence of esters. Like an ale, the New Glarus Alt gets more flavorful as it gets warmer. Very nice.
I do like the New Glarus take on the Altbier. Too bad this is in their "we no longer make it" pile. I will need to visit my favorite old school recipe site Cats Meow 3 for ideas. I do need to make one of these.