BJCP Course – Class #5 (Amber Hybrids & German Wheat/Rye)

For an introduction to this series, click here.

This is the fifth of 11 installments chronicling the BJCP classes held by the North Texas Homebrewers Association.  Our tasting session for this class included two categories: Amber Hybrids (BJCP Category 7) and German Wheat/Rye (BJCP Category 15).  Descriptions with asterisks (*) denote beers that I really enjoyed.

For a reminder on how the tastings are organized, click here.

7. Amber Hybrids

This category includes three subcategories: Northern German Altbier, California Common Beer, and Düsseldorf Altbier.  The “Hybrid” in Amber Hybrid refers to how these beers blur the lines between lagers and ales.  Typically, they are clean and smooth, like a lager, but have more character, like an ale.

Click here for the BJCP Style Guidelines for Amber Hybrids.

Subcategory: 7A. Northern German Altbier

“Altbier” literally means “old beer” in German.  Not that the beer itself has been sitting around forever, but that it is a very old brewing style.  This style can be thought of as a precursor to lagers, in that it was originally fermented at somewhat warmer temperatures with top-fermenting (ale) yeast (though lager yeasts are now common) then lagered (stored at colder temperatures) for a period of time.  These beers tend to be clean and balanced, relatively bitter, somewhat sweet, and caramelly.

7. Otter Creek Copper Ale 
Aroma: Malty, slightly grainy/cereal-like, faint hops.
Appearance: Burnished gold, thin head.
Flavor: Caramel, sweet malt, moderately high bitterness without much hop flavor, dry finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium light body, moderate carbonation.

5. Alaskan Amber
Aroma: Clean, faint sweet malt, caramel, toast.
Appearance: Deep copper, thin head.
Flavor: Sweet caramel malt, a bit of toffee and butterscotch.
Mouthfeel: Medium light body (a bit fuller than the previous beer), moderate carbonation.

Subcategory: 7B. California Common Beer

Continuing the ale/lager hybridization, California Common Beers (also known as “Steam Beers”) are fermented with lager yeasts at warmer ale temperatures.  The result is a beer with slight fruit esters.  Northern Brewer hops, which give a woody/minty character, are typically used…as opposed to the more citrusy American hops.

3. Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber Lager
Aroma: Fruity, sweet malt.
Appearance: Dark copper.
Flavor: Biscuity malts, slight bitterness on the finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium carbonation.

1. Anchor Steam*
Aroma: Minty and woody hops, faint malt comes through.
Appearance: Medium copper, medium foamy head.
Flavor: Woody/minty hops, fruity yeast character, mellow but rich malt, fairly bitter finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium-high carbonation.
Sidenote: I haven’t had an Anchor Steam in a long time.  I really should drink it more often…good stuff.

Subcategory: 7C. Düsseldorf Altbier

Very similar to Northern German Altbier, the altbiers brewed in and around Düsseldorf tend to be more bitter and less sweet than examples from elsewhere in Northern Germany.  There are versions called “Sticke Alt” (sticke meaning “secret” in German) that are slightly stronger and richer.  These beers are pretty uncommon bottled and pretty hard to find in Texas.

(unlisted). Metropolitan Brewing Iron Works Alt*
Aroma: Sweet caramelly malt, spicy noble hops, bread.
Appearance: Deep copper, foamy head.
Flavor: Bready, caramel, toffee, sweetish finish and solid hop bitterness (though the bitterness is technically too low for the style).
Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium carbonation.

1. Uerige Sticke
Aroma: Dark fruits, sweet, reminiscent of a Belgian Dark Strong Ale.
Appearance: Medium brown.
Flavor: Biscuity malt, caramel, dark fruits, dry finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium-high carbonation.

15. German Wheat/Rye Beer

There are four subcategories in this category: Weizen/Weissbier, Dunkelweizen, Weizenbock, and Roggenbier.  The subcategories denote color, strength, and wheat or rye content.

Click here for the BJCP Style Guidelines for German Wheat/Rye Beer.

Subcategory: 15A. Weizen/Weissbier

These beers are wheat-based and are very refreshing.  Often having banana/clove notes in the aroma and flavor, the yeast is a very important component of this style’s character.  Beers in this style can be referred to as “hefeweizens” (meaning they have yeast sediment in the bottle and are consequently cloudy; “mit hefe” means “with yeast” in German) or as “Krystalweizens” (meaning they are filtered for clarity).

4. Hacker-Pschorr Weisse
Aroma: Buttery, bananas.
Appearance: Darkish straw/pale gold, cloudy (mit hefe).
Flavor: Bready malt, not very characterful.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body, medium carbonation.

3. Paulaner Hefe-Weizen
Aroma: Diacetyl, hints of clove.
Appearance: Dark straw/pale gold, foggy.
Flavor: Butterscotch, faint bananas.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body, medium carbonation.

1. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier*
Aroma: Clean, bananas, faint clove-like phenolic.
Appearance: Gold, foamy head, cloudy.
Flavor: Bananas, cloves, light bready malt.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body, medium-high carbonation.

Subcategory: 15B. Dunkelweizen

This is a wheat-based beer that is darker, spicier, and fruitier than a Weizen/Weissbier.  Imagine the yeast character and refreshment of a hefeweizen and the maltiness of a Munich Dunkel.

3. Franziskaner Dunkel Hefe-Weisse
Aroma: Bready/grainy malt, hints of banana and cloves.
Appearance: Dull brown, cloudy, not very pretty.
Flavor: Soap/plastic/rubber phenolic, which overshadowed everything else.
Mouthfeel: Creamy, medium body.

2. Ayinger Ur-Weisse
Aroma: Coppery metallic (rusty), faint banana and cloves.
Appearance: Very light brown.
Flavor: Sweetish malt, metallic (other bottles that day were not as metallic).
Mouthfeel: Medium body.

1. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel
Aroma: Bready, faint cloves and bananas.
Appearance: Light golden brown.
Flavor: Melanoidens, bready malts.
Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium-high carbonation.

Subcategory: 15C. Weizenbock

With German beer styles, “bock” indicates a stronger, bolder beer than the base style.  As such, Weizenbocks are stronger, more complex weizens or dunkelweizens.  These can be regular bock strength, or even “doppelbock” (double bock) strength.

6. Erdinger Pikantus
Aroma: Clean, sweet, fruity.
Appearance: Deep brown.
Flavor: Mild flavor, dark fruits.
Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium carbonation.

4. Plank Bavarian Heller Weizenbock
Aroma: Fruity, cloves.
Appearance: Gold, cloudy.
Flavor: Alcohol, a bit soapy, slight bready malt.
Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium carbonation, alcohol warming.

2. Schneider Aventinus*
Aroma: Alcohol, faint dark fruits (prunes mostly), cloves.
Appearance: Dark brown with ruby highlights.
Flavor: Loads of dark fruits, wheat character with strong wheat/yeast aftertaste.
Mouthfeel: Full body, medium carbonation, alcohol warming.

Subcategory: 15D. Roggenbier

This style is similar to dunkelweizens, but is made with rye instead of wheat.  The flavor of rye is very prominent and assertive, typically seeming spicey and very round tasting.  Unfortunately, there aren’t really any true Roggenbiers available in the United States, so we were not able to taste any.

Conclusion

Yeah…none of these styles are anything that I typically get very excited about.  That said, I’m glad I was reintroduced to Anchor Steam, got to try the Metropolitan Iron Works (which, since I really enjoyed it, isn’t available in Texas), and affirmed by belief that Weihenstephaner makes the best German wheat beers by far.

Cheers!

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