Nick Carr on March 6, 2015 0 Comments History of Munich Dunkel The dark lagers of Bavaria, including the dunkel, were all brewed in much the same way and likely had a very murky, very dark common ancestor. But the dunkel, along with the schwarzbier and rauchbier, are, in their own right, prestigious ancestors to the line of modern lagers. At one time, all beer would have been dark and rather murky because of an incomplete understanding of the process of making beer and primitive kilning technology. Also, the type of beer brewed — ale or lager — was greatly dependent on the time of year. At the time, the role of yeast in the fermentation process was still a complete mystery. In fact, it was considered an unneeded byproduct of the fermentation process. Beer wort was left open to the air and inoculated with whatever yeast was “in season.” The majority of the time, this would have been some type of top-fermenting ale yeast. It was only in the colder months, when the ale yeast went dormant that a beer might catch the still active bottom fermenting lager yeast. This “wild” fermentation often left much to be desired in the finished product, especially in summer when bacteria would find its way into the wort along with the ale yeast. Some form of Dunkel was probably first brewed by the Benedictine monks’ who established the settlement of Munich in the middle of the 12th century, but two laws would help this beer become its own distinct style. First, the ruling family in Bavaria, the Wittelsbachs, passed the Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1516. Better known as the Reinheitsgebot, this law simply stated that beer could be made only from barley, hops, and water. These strict regulations were designed to restrict the use of unsavory ingredients during the brewing process. However, it is widely believed that by restricting the use of certain grains, namely wheat and rye, the country would be able to keep food prices down, as bakers wouldn’t have to compete with brewers while buying grains. Yeast would be added later after it was realized it was an organism that helped with fermenting the beer and not something belonging to the supernatural realm. Though the validity of the Beer Purity Law is greatly debated today, at the time it protected both the quality of the brewers’ product and the livelihood of farmers and bakers in the region. Learn More About The History of German Beer The second law, passed in 1553, was another attempt at quality control. No doubt, the authorities noticed the higher quality end-product of winter brewing, therefore summer brewing was outlawed and the yearly brewing window was set between St. Michael’s Day (September 29) and St. George’s Day (April 23). The result of these regulations, along with the climate, the recognized importance of lagering, and hundreds of years of hop cultivation culminated in the world’s first recognized beer style. Centuries later, we now have hundreds of styles, with many sub-styles branching out to expand the horizons of what our taste buds experience. The transition to the modern Dunkel would come with new kilning technology in the 1830s. Gabriel Sedlmayr II, son of the owner of Spaten Brewing, saw the potential of indirect-heat malt kilning being used in England. Realizing the potential it had, he put the same ideas to use within his own brewing process making a more precious and cleaner version of his dark base malt. With an improvement to the kilning process, Sedlmayr II not only improved his own Dunkel recipe, but revolutionized the style itself. Thus, like a soul exercised of its demons, the dunkel’s color and robust malty goodness remained intact, but the smoked qualities endemic in early versions was no more. Style Profile & Characteristics The guidelines for the Munich Dunkel beer style are set by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee. The below details are a summary of what you should expect when drinking a Munich Dunkel. Quick Characteristics Color Range: 14 – 28 SRM Original Gravity: 1.048 – 1.056 OG Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.016 FG IBU Range: 18 – 28 ABV Range: 4.5 – 5.6% Appearance: Ranges from Rich Copper to Dark Brown with a Creamy, Tan Head. Aroma: Sweet Munich Malt Will Be Strong; May Have Hints of Nut, Caramel, Chocolate or Toffee; Hoppiness Will Be Minimal. Flavor: Rich Maltiness with Slight Bitterness; No Hoppy Flavor; Possible Notes of Caramel, Nuttiness or Chocolate; No Diacetyl or Fruity Esters. Mouthfeel: Medium to Full Mouthfeel with Moderate Carbonation. Food Pairings: Spicy Meats; BBQ; German Sausages; Venison; Roasted Veggies The BJCP classifies this style as a “Dark European Lager.” It can be found in their guidelines as category 8A. The only other beer style in this category is: Schwarzbier (8B). Appearance: The color of a Munich Dunkel will range from a rich copper to a dark brown, with garnet-red edging. A light to medium, creamy, tan-colored head will form above a liquid that can be either clear, or murky depending on whether the beer is unfiltered or filtered. Aroma: As the name expresses Munich malt will appear front and center in the aroma, coming through as sweet, sometimes toasty, bread crust-like maltiness. It can also show hints of nut, caramel, chocolate, and toffee. A slight noble hop nose may be detectable, but should be quite low if at all. Buttery diacetyl and fruity esters should not be present. Mouthfeel: Body will be mid-range to slightly full. It should sit pleasantly on the palate without being overly thick and heavy, or cloying. May be somewhat warming and produce a bit of drying. Moderate carbonation is most common. Taste: The taste should definitely tip the scale toward the deep, rich Munich malt character, leaving the only work for hops a perceptible but slight bitterness with no true hop flavor noticeable. The malt flavor may come through as slightly sweet but should not be cloying. Slight caramel, chocolate, toast, and nuttiness may be found painted across the background of bread crust multiness imparted by the Munich. Caramel flavors should be low and any burnt or bitter flavors rising from roasted malts are unacceptable. Aftertaste should be malt forward but may take on a hop-bitter taste because of the drying finish. No diacetyl or fruity esters should be present. *Reference: The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines “Beer brewers shall sell no beer to the citizens, unless it be three weeks old; to the foreigner they may knowingly sell younger beer.” — German beer law, 1466 Award-Winning Examples of The Style Munich Dunkles (Blind Tiger Brewery &Restaurant, KS)World Beer Cup winner, Gold, 2014. Rotating on tap at the restaurant. Chuckanut Dunkel (Chuckanut Brewery, WA) Great American Beer Festival winner, Gold, 2014. World Beer Cup winner, Silver, 2014. Rotating on tap at multiple establishments from Tacoma north to Billingham. Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel (Ayinger Brewery, Germany) World Beer Cup winner, Bronze, 2014. Available in many good bottle shops. Buoy Dunkel (Buoy Beer Company, OR) Great American Beer Festival winner, Silver, 2014. Rotating on tap in many places in Oregon. The Fearless Youth (Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, CO) Great American Beer Festival winner, Bronze, 2013. On Tap in multiple locations in Colorado. *Note: There may have been other winners in these years but if the website did not show them available I did not include them. Tips to Brewing a Munich Dunkel Recipe If you’re interested in brewing your own Munich Dunkel recipe at home, here are a few things you should know going into it. The Grain Bill: Although many Dunkel recipes will have you adding caramel, crystal, and other malts, really there is only one way to make an authentic Munich Dunkel, and that’s with a bill almost entirely of Munich malt. The Munich malt contains enough enzymes to fully convert itself so if you want to go 100 percent Munich don’t let the idea of how simple this grain bill is stop you. Simple is good, right? You could do a 90% 10°L Munich with the other 10% a 20°L, making a more amber colored beer, or back off on one of these malts by about 3% and make that difference up with a very dark roast malt, something like Carafa. Even at this small percent it will add just enough color to put your beer into that deep brown range. Be careful! Never use black or severely roasted malts. These will add too much strong roasted flavors. For extract brewers it will be a matter of finding a mix a dark lager extract with a portion of lighter lager extract, preferably from German malt; something in the range of 10 to 15 percent light and the rest dark. Again, experimentation is half the fun of brewing and those that work their recipes, refining them to the point exactness, are the ones that will be most satisfied with their efforts. Hops: Hopping is done just to provide balance and a bit of bitterness in the Munich Dunkel style. Little to no hop flavor is authentic, so it is completely okay to leave out aroma and flavor hops completely. For your hop choices, pretty much any noble German variety will work; Hallertau, Tettnanger, or Spalt will serve well, along with Noble-type varieties such as Northern Brewer or Mt. Hood. The Mash: Like all Bavarian lagers, the Dunkel was made with a decoction mash. A decoction mash is the process of raising a portion, usually a third, of the mash to boiling and then adding it back into the mash. This could be done up to three times and accomplishes the same thing as a step mash; raising the temperature of the entire mash to the next rest temperature. It also tended to add color and body to the whole. I’m honestly on the ropes about which is harder, a decoction mash or step mash. If you use the step mash start with a pretty thick (dough-like) mash, because you are going to be adding hot water to raise it through the steps. What temperature water you use is going to depend a lot on how your specific brewing equipment handles heat (how much it absorbs, how much it radiates). A general step mash would have mash-in at around 122°F for 30 minutes, increase temperature to around 148°F for 30 minutes, increase it again to around 156°F for 30 minutes, and then raise your mash to 170°F for mash out. If you do the step mash an easy substitute for not doing a decoction mash is to put a pint of your strongest wort, the first runnings off your mash, into the kettle and boil it until it gets thick and starts taking on a darker color, then add in the rest of your wort in over the top. The Boil: A boil of around 90 minutes is common, but some recipes will call for a boil of up to 120 minutes. Add your bittering hops 15 minutes after the boil to get full utilization. If added earlier the malt proteins can shroud alpha acids. Yeast and Fermentation: For yeast use a good German lager yeast, White Labs WLP883 (German Bock Lager) or Wyeast 2308 (Munich Lager) are both highly recommended to use to brew a Dunkel. You could also use White Labs WLP830 (German Lager), but I would give the first two a try first. Fermentation will be at the higher temperature range of lagers (50–60deg;F). Be sure you cast a high quantity of healthy yeast. Make a yeast starter first or if you don’t want to go to the trouble use two packets of your chosen yeast. Primary fermentation should take about a week. Then rack your beer into a secondary and leave it for another couple. Finally, lager your Dunkel for up to six weeks as close to freezing as possible. Then bottle or keg, as you normally would. Cheers!