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Brewing Dortmunder Adambier

Brewing Dortmunder Adambier

A Dortmunder Adambier is malt dominated strong ale from Northern Germany. No one can be certain on the origin. Dortmund was one of the cities in the 14th Century Hanseatic League (along with Einbeck -- the home of Bock); the city was best known for beer and brewing. In the 19th Century, King Frederick William IV of Prussia was known as a hard drinking man. He visited Dortmund and some Adambier put him under the table for more than a whole day! With the development of lagers, this style fell out of favor among German beer drinkers, and now is very difficult to find. Even the BJCP (sadly) abandoned the style when they revised the guidelines in 1998.

My first exposure to Dortmunder Adambier was when I was judging European Ales in the mid 1990s. There was this wonderful strong beer that tasted like a cross between an English Barley wine and a dopplebock. I later found out that Bruce Brode and Brian Vessa were the brewers and have since brewed several myself. The only commercial example of an Adambier I know of is Hair of the Dog’s Adam. Brewer Alan Sprints goes to great trouble with this flagship beer. Each batch is numbered, and the carbonation comes from krausening, where Hair of the Dog adds some new fermenting Adam to some that is ready to be bottled. One can tell, Adam will last many years if kept cold, and the head is as intense and rocky as any beer I’ve ever seen. Alan adds some smoked malt as well -- peat if you can believe it. If you haven’t tried Adam, do yourself a favor and get some. Stuffed Sandwich has many aged magnums going back a number of years.

What should you look for in an Adambier? Malt, malt, and more malt. Just as a big Belgians will showcase esters and yeast complexity, and a double IPA displays the hops, an Adambier defines complex maltiness. The esters from the German ale yeast and the hard, Dortmund-style water serve only to accentuate the malty flavors even more. The malt is caramelized and roasty, but those flavors come with a long boil and fermentation, not with the use of roast or caramel malts. In my opinion, most of your grain bill should involve Munich malt. Munich will give you rich malty flavors and melenoidins you can’t get with pale malt. I wouldn’t dream of not decocting this beer as well. Just use your melenoidins you can’t get with pale malt. I wouldn’t dream of not decocting this beer as well. Just use your H.E.R.M.S. system for sparging this time. The minimum is a single decoction including a 20-minute boil of the grains. A double or triple is better. The other key flavor characteristic is pleasant oxidation. This big beer will give you sherry-like vanilla or oaky notes as it ages that only add to the malt complexity. In a hurry? Forget it. An Adambier really isn’t ready for a year and it doesn’t reach its peak for 3 or even 4 years, and doesn’t start to fade until after 5.

I’d use a fairly carbonate water source, or doctor yours up. After all, the Dortmunder Export really is mineral laden, and even if you don’t want to dry the beer out, the minerals will give a little edge. Same with hops. It is an ale, 30-40 IBU’s are fine and the finishing hops will fade anyway. Try and use a noble hop like Tettnanger or Hallertauer. Use a German ale yeast and ferment cool. I start at 50 and gradually raise the temperature to 60 over a six-week primary fermentation. Use a huge starter and oxygenate frequently. One warning, this beer will have a massive head; even in the fermenter. Leave lots of headspace, you’ll need it. Rack into secondary after 6 weeks, keep it in the 30’s and 40’s for a few months, then bottle or keg. If you bottle condition, add new yeast. Age for at least a year -- if you can resist the temptation. Since it is all about malt, I saved the most important part until last. Try for an OG of about 1.090.


Light Munich   65% - 75%
German Pale   20% - 30%
Special B   3%
Melenoidin Malt   3%

All I ask is if you brew some, find me and let me try it.

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1 comment

  • Ale-Mania in Bonn have a magnificent example. Check it out if you’re in that neck of the woods.


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