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Barrett Lauer, head brewer at District Chophouse & Brewery had been holding onto an idea for an Altbier called “Alt Together Now.” When 2010 D.C. Beer Week details started coming together several months ago, he found a perfect use for the clever title. Following the collaborative spirit of American craft brewers in general, as well as the community-wide effort around D.C. Beer Week this year, Lauer joined forces with brewers Mike McCarthy of Capitol City Brewing Company and Scott Lasater of Gordon Biersch to create the recipe and brew three different versions of the same beer.
“Alt Together Now” is a 5%-ABV Altbier, which means it’s a brown ale fashioned after the smooth, delicate top-fermenting beers made in Germany for hundreds of years before cold-temperature lagering became the norm (thanks to Bavarian brewing laws and the invention of refrigeration). The Altbier style, which literally translates to “old beer,” is associated with the Düsseldorf area of Northern Germany, and ordering “ein bier” there still gets you an Alt instead of the usual Pilsner.
The brewers used the same percentages and types of malt, hops, and yeast, but got their ingredients from different sources and brewed on their own equipment. The Lagerheads had the chance to taste all three versions, which have been being poured at each respective brewpub all week. We found the District Chophouse’s “Alt Together Now” and Capitol City’s “Altbier” to be pretty similar, while Gordon Biersch’s “Düsseldorf Style German Pale Ale” was something different. Our notes on each and your chance to try six different versions of this first-ever collaborative D.C. brew this weekend after the jump.
Lauer’s Alt, pictured on the left above, had a distinctive Pilsner malt aroma with a touch of hazelnut, a nice nutty, fresh bread flavor, and a surprisingly dry finish. McCarthy’s rendition (pictured center) had the same dry finish, but more caramel, citrus, and spice in the nose and an almost German hefeweizen-like flavor. Lasater’s version (pictured right) reminded us more of a Kölsch, which is a clean, crisp style from the Cologne area of Northern Germany with a similar story to Altbier. It was notably lighter in color than the others, had a bit of sour lemon underneath the typical pale malt aroma, and a very smooth, subtle (admittedly too subtle for our preferences) taste with a quick, dry finish.
Lauer said the only challenge aside from the usual logistical tasks needed in any collaborative effort was choosing a beer that could be sold at Gordon Biersch. At Capitol City and the Chophouse, brewers enjoy a good deal of freedom over what they brew, but the Gordon Biersch corporate office imposes strict parameters for what styles of beer their brewers can make and even the specific recipes they can use.
Y&H readers can look forward to more on this first D.C. brewpub collaboration beer from The Beerspotter next week. Even better than that, you have the chance to taste six (yeah SIX) versions of the beer without having to walk all over downtown to find them. This Saturday from 3:00 to 7:00pm, ChurchKey will be tapping all three Altbiers plus another three casks of the beer from District Chophouse. There will be a regular cask, a cask with oak, and a cask with fresh hops grown in Brewmaster Barrett Lauer’s own garden. Representatives from each brewery will be on hand to talk about the beer and give away free glassware. Sounds like a most appropriate way to close out D.C. Beer Week! If you can’t make it, don’t worry. The beers will be on draft at each location for at least a few weeks, if not much longer.