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Home » Tech and Tips » Brewers Series » Brewing Dortmunder Adambier
Brewing Dortmunder Adambier
by John Aitchison
Welcome to the Brewer's Style Series, where brewers tackle their favorite styles and give you all their information. If you have a style you're fond of, experimented with, etc and would like to help us out, contact the Grand Hydro at grandhydrometer@maltosefalcons.com.

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 Dogís 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 Iíve ever seen. Alan adds some smoked malt as well -- peat if you can believe it. If you havenít 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 canít get with pale malt. I wouldnít dream of not decocting this beer as well. Just use your melenoidins you canít get with pale malt. I wouldnít 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 isnít ready for a year and it doesnít reach its peak for 3 or even 4 years, and doesnít start to fade until after 5.

Iíd use a fairly carbonate water source, or doctor yours up. After all, the Dortmunder Export really is mineral laden, and even if you donít want to dry the beer out, the minerals will give a little edge. Same with hops. It is an ale, 30-40 IBUís 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, youíll need it. Rack into secondary after 6 weeks, keep it in the 30ís and 40ís 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.

Additional Resources

30th Anniversary Dortmunder Adambier - John's Adambier Recipe for the Falcons' 30th Anniversary.

Want to make your own beer at home? Get started on the right foot. Check out the Falcon's sponsoring shop, The Home Beer, Wine, Cheesemaking Shop. John Daume, proprietor, has been serving the home brewing and winemaking needs of Angelenos since 1972, over 30 years! (Falcon Members receive a 10% discount on supplies)
Looking for older Falcons' information?, The Westval Maltose Falcons Webpage (Locally cached) (The Original Falcon's Roost, prior to 1999)
Looking for a home wine making club in the Los Angeles area? Check out our sister club, The Cellarmasters, over 30 and still stomping grapes.