To completely perceive and recognize Dunkel, one should first take a step again in time, again to the Outdated World within the early 1500s and even perhaps earlier. Dunkel interprets to “darkish” in German, to not be confused with black beer (schwarzbier). As a method, Dunkel has a lineage and historical past that’s as wealthy as its taste.
Brewing of some sort was finished for not less than a couple of thousand years in notable areas comparable to England and, after all, Germany. Munich has a report of lager brewing in as early because the 15th century. The occasion that helped form Dunkel was the notorious Reinheitsgebot in 1516. Enacted by the Bavarian royal household, the Wittelsbachs, it was not supposed to be a purity regulation as it’s now referred to, though it did have that facet impact. It did certainly lay the muse for what could possibly be used to make beer in Bavaria.
Talking of components, all beer of that point was darkish, harsh, and smoky because of the widespread malting course of. In 1833, brewer Gabriel Sedlmayr II of the Spaten Brewery and a colleague made a analysis journey to England. They went to review a revolutionary hot-air kiln, patented by Daniel Wheeler in 1818, which kilned inexperienced malt to a comparatively pale coloration. Geared up with this new data, Sedlmayr launched an amber lager throughout the 1841 Oktoberfest recognized merely as Märzen made together with his pale grain dubbed Munich malt. With uncooked flavors of wealthy cereal, honey, and biscuit, this malt would additionally form the present expression of Dunkel.
The ultimate piece of the puzzle is the custom of decoction mashing. In very fundamental phrases, that is when a portion of the mash is eliminated, dropped at a boil, then added again to the primary mash to lift the temperature. Eradicating a portion of the mash, grain and all, and bringing it to a boil ends in complicated Milliard reactions that stay within the beer. As soon as the boiled portion is added again to the present mash, the temperatures slowly rise to activate enzymes for starch conversion to fermentable sugars. This can be finished a number of occasions, leading to much more complicated malty notes.
A fast word on the usage of decoction mashing. Though some breweries in Germany and elsewhere nonetheless use this methodology, it’s argued that it will not be essential right this moment. The argument is supported by continued malting enhancements and tasting panels outcomes. My stance on that’s the selection is in the end made by the brewer, as long as the beer is sweet.
Dunkel is often made utilizing a excessive portion of Munich malt. Hop notes are muted, however there may be nonetheless a bitterness there to stop the beer from cloying. Count on flavors of Milk Duds, vanilla cookies, bitter cocoa powder, and a few mild toffee with a clear lager character which will have a slight licorice or nutmeg notes. It’s of common energy with solely about 5 p.c ABV, so you possibly can really feel snug ordering one other. It’s deep crimson to darkish garnet in coloration and fantastic associate with meals. Strive it with roasted duck and marvel when the malts hyperlink up with the crispy pores and skin of the hen. Sausages are excellent with Dunkel, the pork flavors harmonizing with the sweetness of the Milliard reactions within the beer.
Presently, TAPS in Tustin has a novel instance of Dunkel that has been aged in bourbon barrels for six months. Sure, a bourbon barrel-aged Dunkel, and it’s scrumptious! Notes of roasted nuts, cocoa, dried darkish fruit, charred wooden, and caramel with a candy bourbon-glazed sweet end. TAPS gained some notable awards with the bottom Dunkel final yr, together with a bronze medal on the Nice American Beer Pageant and gold on the California Craft Brewers Cup. Named “Don’t Drop That Dun Dun Dunkel,” it was one of many higher examples to hit O.C. in a very long time. I hope they brew it once more quickly.
Chapman Crafted has a model out there with some added texture. Darkish garnet in coloration and flavors of darkish cereals, slight caramel, and a contact of bruised apples. Brewery X has a crisp model with a bit extra of a chewy malted grain character. Many others have made them previously as nicely. Look out for this fashion and ask your native breweries about it. They might at the moment have one or will quickly!
With the ingredient restriction of the Reinheitsgebot, the event of Munich malt, and enhancements and perfection of lager brewing strategies, the Dunkel has developed into a beautiful darkish lager. No have to concern the darkness when this fashion shines vibrant with taste.
Editor’s word: Charlie Perez is an Superior Cicerone® who covers the Orange County beer scene for the Booze Weblog.