Thursday, 1 April 2010


It's ages since I wrote anything about weird old German styles. Far too long. So here's something about one of the most intriguing extinct German styles, Adambier. The beer brewed in Dortmund before the advent of Lager.

I say extinct. Sort of extinct. A couple of American breweries have sold something called Adambier. How closely they resembled the original is open to debate. Until now, I've been unable to discover anything about how it was produced, except that it was matured for a very long time.

Dortmunder Adambier was a strong, sourish top-fermenting beer. Wahl & Henius ("American Handy Book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades", 1902) has an analysis of the beer performed in 1889. It was around 18º Balling, 7.38% alc. by weight (9.4% ABV) and a lactic acid content about half that of a contemporary lambiek. In contrast to sour beers such as Gose and Berliner Weisse, Adambier, also called Dortmunder Altbier, was heavily hopped. It acquired its sourness much like Porter - through a long secondary fermentation. Bacteria in the lagering vessels slowly changed the beer's character. It needed to be stored for at least a year for this process to take place. At the end of the primary fermentation the beer it was not sour at all. Another beer of this type was Münsterländer Altbier - stilll brewed by Pinkus Müller in Münster today. (Source: "Jahrbuch der Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei in Berlin, 1911", p.522)

Here are some other texts discussing Adambier I've translated from German:

"1864 Dortmunder beerAdam-Bier. From 0. Reinke. The beer was walled up for 33 years and pulled from the foundations of an old brewery. It contained elongated and round normal yeast, partially sprouting, other than that relatively few bacteria: cocci and rod forms. Inoculated into beer and wort, after several days it began to ferment strongly. Until now, yeast had only been shown to be viable up to a maximum of 18 years. This is the first case, where after 33 years clearly living yeast has been found in beer."
"Vierteljahresschrift über die Fortschritte auf dem Gebiete der Chemie der Nahrungs- und Genussmittel, Volume 12", 1897, pages 551-552.

"Adambier, a top-fermenting beer which after a long maturation is drunk as a bottled beer in Dortmund, has the following make up according to Reinke:

[see table below for analysis]

The high lactic acid content and the low Dextrin content of the beer are most unusual. The degree of attenuation was unusually high. The beer was brown, clear, without sediment, unopened it retained its clarity for a long time, the beer was perfectly carbonated and tasted sour, Porter-like. With iodine and ferric chloride there was no especially normal reaction. Microscopic examination showed traces of yeast cells, a few rod bacteria, and also traces of protein."
"Zeitschrift für Angewandte Chemie, Volume 3", 1889, page 466.

I've also uncovered a few analyses. Do you want to see them? 'Course you do.

OG (Balling)
lactic acid
Acetic acid
real attenuation
apparent attenuation
Gebr. Meininghaus, Dortmund
Kloster Adambier








Jahresbericht fur Agrikultur-Chemie, Volume 27, 1885, page 426
Jahresberichte über die Leistungen der chemischen Technologie, Volume 43, 1897, pager 961-962
Zeitschrift für Angewandte Chemie, Volume 3, 1889, page 466.

Er, that's about it. Not a great deal, is it? I'm not sure I'd like to try recreating Adambier on the basis of that. Though the description wasn't bad: brown, clear, sour, a bit like Porter.


Barry M said...

That's great to have a little more info, Ron. I had passed those extracts to a brewer in Dortmund who has been planning on brewing an Adambier, although he was taking the US Hair of the Dog version as an example to aim for.

His main concern, after reading those older references, was the introduction of lactobacillus into his small brewery, and later into contracted bottling plants. Although a fan, he was worried that his bottlers may not want a lacto-infused beer near their equipment, and also how to make sure it didn't "hang around" and affect his regular beers. I'm sure there are ways to take care of this (I'm no professional brewer!), so hopefully this will encourage him to try to aim towards something closer to the original,

Ron Pattinson said...

Barry, in the original method, it sounds as if the lactobacillus was in the casks used to mature the beer.

I can understand why a brewer might not want lactobacillus knacking around his brewery.

Oblivious said...

It would really test his clean in place procedure

Séan Billings said...

While I don't think Lacto is particularly hard to kill, there is a difference between having it in a conditioning tank in a brewery and letting it into your bottling line. If he feels like cheating, he could take the Guinness rout and add food grade lactic acid to the beer. No bugs, no problem. I doubt it's "gebot" though.

Gerard said...

"I doubt it's "gebot" though."

-Acidulated malt is kosher, right?

Barm said...

If Hair of the Dog's version is anything like the original, I can see why it became extinct.

Barm said...

Gerard, acidulated malt is permitted, but as far as I know it is used only in small quantities to adjust the pH of the mash. I don't know what the side-effects would be of using a sufficient quantity of it to give the beer a sour taste.

Aaron J. Grier said...

I wonder if we could get a barrel of Adam from Alan Sprints at HOtD and have Ron Gansberg at Cascade Brewing mature it...

Lars Marius Garshol said...

Yet another beer style that sounds intriguing and annoyingly unobtainable. Would be really curious to try this. Find it hard to imagine what it must have tasted like.

Anyway, I can't display the full table in this post. It gets truncated where the text wraps, and while extending my browser window horizontally helps, the full table is wider than my screen. (No, sidescrolling does not help, since the table gets truncated.)

Michael Maze said...

Is it possible that the souring agent here wasn't lactobacillus but pedio or a brett strain? I was under the impression that a high hopping rate should prevent lacto propagation.

Ron Pattinson said...

Michael Maze,

quite possibly. Or some sort of combination of the two.