Beer Style 8A: Munich Dunkel
There are dozens of beer styles and we know it can get a little confusing, so each week we profile a particular style of beer in the Devil’s Peak Beer Guide. We’ll outline beer styles from the 2015 BJCP guidelines, offering both a technical and somewhat anecdotal overview of the dozens of beer offerings from around the world.
Do you remember the Reinheitsgebot? That 16th century “German purity law” that proclaimed the only ingredients which could be used in beer were water, barely and hops. The one which is often touted in “big beer” marketing campaigns to make the consumer feel like the beer they’re drinking is part of something ancient and full of heritage. Well the Munich Dunkel was the go to beer during of that period. A style made popular in the villages and countryside of Bavaria. That popularity also means it was the first beer style to come under regulation by a government body.
A dark (dunkel) and flavourful beer, this lager has gone from the common man’s drink to a position of high status among modern day brewers. The invention of the indirect-heat malt kiln in the early 19th century allowed maltsters to hone their craft to degrees they never imagined possible. Perfect, even roasting of malts allowed for precise, consistent levels to be achieved. One of the resulting non-caramelised malts, Munich malt, makes up the majority of the grain bill for the Munich Dunkel. Dark malts could now be produced without the smokey flavour of previous incarnations, and a plethora of styles took on a brand new form.
So what can you expect from this hollowed style? A rich, smooth, dark lager with moderate malt flavours and low hop bitterness. It’s an absolute pleasure to drink and you should do your best to get your hands on a bottle.
Here’s the brass tax on Munich Dunkel, straight from the BJCP Style Guidelines.
Overall Impression: Characterized by depth, richness and complexity typical of darker Munich malts with the accompanying Maillard products. Deeply bready-toasty, often with chocolate-like flavors in the freshest examples, but never harsh, roasty, or astringent; a decidedly malt-balanced beer, yet still easily drinkable.
Aroma: Rich, elegant, deep malt sweetness, typically like bread crusts (often toasted bread crusts). Hints of chocolate, nuts, caramel, and/or toffee are also acceptable, with fresh traditional versions often showing higher levels of chocolate. Clean fermentation profile. A slight spicy, floral, or herbal hop aroma is acceptable.
Appearance: Deep copper to dark brown, often with a red or garnet tint. Creamy, light to medium tan head. Usually clear, although murky unfiltered versions exist.
Flavor: Dominated by the soft, rich, and complex flavor of darker Munich malts, usually with overtones reminiscent of toasted bread crusts, but without a burnt-harsh-grainy toastiness. The palate can be moderately malty, although it should not be overwhelming or cloyingly sweet. Mild caramel, toast or nuttiness may be present. Very fresh examples often have a pleasant malty-chocolate character that isn’t roasty or sweet. Burnt or bitter flavors from roasted malts are inappropriate, as are pronounced caramel flavors from crystal malt. Hop bitterness is moderately low but perceptible, with the balance tipped firmly towards maltiness. Hop flavor is low to none; if noted, should reflect floral, spicy, or herbal German-type varieties. Aftertaste remains malty, although the hop bitterness may become more apparent in the medium-dry finish. Clean fermentation profile and lager character.
Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body, providing a soft and dextrinous mouthfeel without being heavy or cloying. Moderate carbonation. The use of continental Munich-type malts should provide a richness, not a harsh or biting astringency.
Comments: Unfiltered versions from Germany can taste like liquid bread, with a yeasty, earthy richness not found in exported filtered examples.
History: The classic brown lager style of Munich which developed as a darker, more malt-accented beer than other regional lagers. While originating in Munich, the style became popular throughout Bavaria (especially Franconia). Franconian versions are often darker and more bitter.
Characteristic Ingredients: Grist is traditionally made up of German Munich malt (up to 100% in some cases) with the remainder German Pilsner malt. Small amounts of crystal malt can add dextrins and color but should not introduce excessive residual sweetness. Slight additions of roasted malts (such as Carafa or chocolate) may be used to improve color but should not add strong flavors. Traditional German hop varieties and German lager yeast strains should be used. Often decoction mashed (up to a triple decoction) to enhance the malt flavors and create the depth of color.
Style Comparison: Not as intense in maltiness as a bock (and thus more drinkable in quantity). Lacking the more roasted flavors (and often hop bitterness) of a schwarzbier. Richer, more malt-centric, and less hoppy than a Czech Dark Lager.
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.048 – 1.056
IBUs: 18 – 28 FG: 1.010 – 1.016
SRM: 14 – 28 ABV: 4.5 – 5.6%
Commercial Examples: Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, Chuckanut Dunkel Lager, Ettaler Kloster Dunkel, Hacker-Pschorr Alt Munich Dark, Weltenburger Kloster Barock-Dunkel
Tags: standard-strength, dark-color, bottom-fermented, lagered, central-europe, traditional-style, malty, dark-lager-family
Image Credit: (Klosterbrauerei)