Craft Beer Corner
Wrecking Bar Atlanta Altbier
(Editor’s note: Cory Byrom, local craft beer enthusiast and home brewer from Peachtree City, shares his opinions on craft beer from all over the world.)
If you've ever driven north on Moreland Avenue into Little Five Points in Atlanta, you are already familiar with Wrecking Bar Brewpub, even if you don't realize what's currently housed inside the stately mansion. The large, circular building, with its elegant columns and cone shaped roof, has been home to a Methodist Church, an antique store, a dance school, and was even a residential home at one point. In 2011, its newest incarnation began when it re-opened as a brewpub, and it's been collecting awards for outstanding beers ever since.
On the other hand, there's a good chance you've never heard of the altbier style. Don't let that scare you off, though. Altbiers are generally classified as lagers, but they are traditionally fermented with ale yeast. Depending on who you ask, this variation accounts for the “alt” in the name. They're an alternative to normal lagers. But then, the German translation is “old beer,” and some claim this as the source of the name, as these beers are conditioned for a longer time than other lagers (which are already conditioned longer than ales, usually). It's this long conditioning process that refines the flavor, leaving an extraordinarily smooth and clean flavor profile.
Essentially what you end up with is a brown ale that's been transformed into a lager, bringing along the smoothness and a more delicate flavor associated with lagers. Wrecking Bar's Atlanta Altbier is dark copper colored, but clear in the light, and has a creamy beige head that dissipates pretty quickly. The aroma is nutty, with a little toffee and biscuit notes in there for good measure.
The beer is sweet and nutty up front, and it's smooth, with a slightly heavier body than its brown ale brethren. It's velvety on the tongue, but not thick or viscous like a stout. There's a delicate balance that is found across the board, in the aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel. There's not much in the way of hop bitterness. Instead you get hints of fruit (imparted by the ale yeast) and a little caramel, but it all finishes crisp. The sweetness isn't cloying and doesn't linger, which means you can drink the heck out of this beer. Pour me another!
A beer like this isn't big on complexity, and its all the more impressive for it. Without big alcohol, hops, or adjunct flavors there to cover up imperfections, you've really got to be on your A-game if you're the brewer. It takes time and patience, and I, for one, am thankful that the guys at Wrecking Bar appear to have plenty of both. A
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(Cory Byrom is a stay-at-home dad to three young kids. He likes loud music and strong drinks, and in his spare time he enjoys listening to other people's stories. He hosts a monthly storytelling show in Atlanta called The Iceberg.)