Altbier Recipe

Credit: Bernt Rostad

Altbier Background

Altbier (German: old beer) is a style of beer brewed in the historical region of Westphalia and around the city of Düsseldorf, Germany. Its name comes from it being top-fermented, an older method than the bottom fermentation of other lager beers.

Altbier Characteristic

Altbier is usually a dark copper colour. It is fermented at a moderate temperature using a top-fermenting yeast which gives its flavour some fruitiness, but matured at a cooler temperature, which gives it a cleaner and crisper taste more akin to lager beer styles than is the norm for top-fermented beers, such as British pale ale.

Altbier Style

07A Northern German Altbier

  • Aroma: Subtle malty, sometimes grainy aroma. Low to no noble hop aroma. Clean, lager character with very restrained ester profile. No diacetyl.
  • Appearance: Light copper to light brown color; very clear from extended cold conditioning. Low to moderate off-white to white head with good retention.
  • Flavor: Fairly bitter yet balanced by a smooth and sometimes sweet malt character that may have a rich, biscuity and/or lightly caramelly flavor. Dry finish often with lingering bitterness. Clean, lager character sometimes with slight sulfury notes and very low to no esters. Very low to medium noble hop flavor. No diacetyl.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Moderate to moderately high carbonation. Smooth mouthfeel.
  • Overall Impression: A very clean and relatively bitter beer, balanced by some malt character. Generally darker, sometimes more caramelly, and usually sweeter and less bitter than Düsseldorf Altbier.
  • Comments: Most Altbiers produced outside of Düsseldorf are of the Northern German style. Most are simply moderately bitter brown lagers. Ironically “alt” refers to the old style of brewing (i.e., making ales), which makes the term “Altbier” somewhat inaccurate and inappropriate. Those that are made as ales are fermented at cool ale temperatures and lagered at cold temperatures (as with Düsseldorf Alt).
  • Ingredients: Typically made with a Pils base and colored with roasted malt or dark crystal. May include small amounts of Munich or Vienna malt. Noble hops. Usually made with an attenuative lager yeast.

Altbier Vital Statistic (Based on BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines)

  • Original Gravity (OG): 1.046 – 1.054
  • Final Gravity (FG): 1.010 – 1.015
  • Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 4.5 – 5.2%
  • International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 25 – 40
  • Standard Research Method (SRM): 13 – 19

Commercial Examples

  • DAB Traditional
  • Hannen Alt
  • Schwelmer Alt
  • Grolsch Amber
  • Alaskan Amber
  • Long Trail Ale
  • Otter Creek Copper Ale
  • Schmaltz’ Alt


  • 6 lb (2.7 kg) Light Munich
  • 5 lb (2.3 kg) Vienna
  • 0.5 lb (227 g) Caramunich I
  • 0.5 lb (227 g Caramunich III
  • 1.5 oz (42 g) German Spaltz at 60 minutes
  • 1.5 oz (42 g) German Spaltz at 15 minutes
  • 1 oz (28 g) German Spaltz at 0 minutes
  • Yeast – German Ale (Wy 1007/2565) (WLP 036/029)

Brewing Directions

  1. Mill the grains and mix with 2.3 gallons (8.6 l) of 163°F (73°C) strike water to reach a mash temperature of 152°F (67°C).
  2. Hold this temperature for 90 minutes.
  3. Recirculate until your runnings are clear, then run off into the kettle.
  4. Sparge the grains with 5 gallons (19 l) and top up as necessary to obtain 6 gallons (23 l) of wort.
  5. Boil for 60 minutes, following the hops schedule.
    • 1.5 oz (42 g) German Spaltz at 60 minutes
    • 1.5 oz (42 g) German Spaltz at 15 minutes
    • 1 oz (28 g) German Spaltz at 0 minutes
  6. After the boil, chill the wort to slightly below fermentation temperature, about 65°F (18°C). Aerate the wort with pure oxygen or filtered air and pitch the yeast.
  7. Ferment at 68°F (20°C) for 14 days. Cold crash, and then bottle or keg the beer and carbonate to approximately 2 volumes of CO2.