Become A Brewing Expert!

Is Altbier An Ale Or Lager?

Welcome to another exciting and informative post, my fellow beer enthusiasts! Today, I will be focusing on a topic that has sparked many a debate among brewers and beer aficionados worldwide: Is Altbier an ale or a lager?

The answer: Altbier is an ale.

But don’t just take my word for it. I’ll be delving into the rich history and unique characteristics of this exceptional beer to help you understand what sets Altbier apart and why it truly deserves its own category. So, let’s take a journey into the wonderful world of Altbier, and by the end of this post, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to impress your friends at the next beer tasting event.

A Brief History of Altbier

The term “Altbier” is derived from the German word “alt,” meaning “old.” This refers to the traditional brewing method used to produce this beer, which has been preserved and handed down through generations. Altbier originated in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany, particularly in the city of Düsseldorf, where it remains a local favorite to this day.

The Brewing Process

What sets Altbier apart from other beers is its unique brewing process. As an ale, it is brewed with top-fermenting yeast, which is similar to other ales like IPAs, stouts, and porters. However, the key difference lies in the fermentation temperature; Altbier is fermented at cooler temperatures, similar to those used for lagers. This allows the beer to retain the fruity esters and complex flavors typically found in ales while achieving the clean, crisp finish of a lager.

Appearance and Aroma

Altbier has a deep, coppery brown color, which can range from light amber to dark brown hues. The beer is usually clear, with a thick, creamy, off-white head that lingers and leaves beautiful lacing on the glass.

As you bring the glass to your nose, you’ll notice a pleasant, delicate aroma of toasted malt, caramel, and toffee, with hints of fruity esters and a mild, floral hop presence. The aroma alone is enough to make your mouth water in anticipation.

Flavor Profile and Mouthfeel

Now, let’s talk about the taste – the most important aspect of any beer. As I savor my first sip of Altbier, the first thing that strikes me is the malt-forward flavor, with notes of toasted bread, caramel, and a subtle sweetness. This is beautifully balanced by a moderate hop bitterness, which brings a touch of earthiness and spiciness to the palate.

The mouthfeel is smooth and medium-bodied, with a moderate carbonation level that adds a pleasing crispness to the finish. The combination of the maltiness and the clean, dry finish creates a beer that is both complex and highly drinkable.

Food Pairings

Altbier’s versatility when it comes to food pairings is one of its many strengths. The maltiness and moderate hop bitterness make it an excellent companion to a wide range of dishes. Some of my personal favorite pairings include German sausages, roasted pork, and hearty stews. You can also pair it with a variety of cheeses, such as Gouda, Swiss, and even blue cheese. For dessert, Altbier’s caramel notes complement treats like bread pudding and apple strudel.

Altbier Variations

While the traditional Altbier from Düsseldorf is the most well-known, there are also regional variations worth exploring. Some examples include the Sticke Alt, a stronger and hoppier version of the classic Altbier, and the Doppelsticke Alt, which is even richer and more robust.


Now that we’ve explored the fascinating world of Altbier, it is clear that this exceptional beer is indeed an ale, albeit one with a unique brewing process that sets it apart from others in its category. To wrap things up, let’s recap the key facts about Altbier:

1. Altbier is an ale, not a lager.
2. It originated in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany.
3. The brewing process involves top-fermenting yeast and cooler fermentation temperatures.
4. Altbier has a deep, coppery brown color and a thick, creamy head.
5. The aroma is a mix of toasted malt, caramel, fruity esters, and floral hops.
6. The flavor profile is malt-forward, balanced by moderate hop bitterness.
7. It has a smooth, medium-bodied mouthfeel and a crisp, clean finish.
8. Altbier pairs well with a variety of foods, from sausages and roasted meats to cheeses and desserts.
9. There are regional variations of Altbier worth exploring, such as Sticke Alt and Doppelsticke Alt.

So, the next time someone asks you whether Altbier is an ale or a lager, you can confidently proclaim that it is a unique and delicious ale that deserves its own place in the beer world. Cheers!


What is an Altbier similar to?

An Altbier is similar to a British Brown Ale or a German Dunkel, as it shares characteristics like a malty backbone, moderate hop bitterness, and a slightly fruity aroma. However, Altbier has a more balanced flavor profile and is fermented with a unique top-fermenting ale yeast at cooler temperatures, giving it a cleaner and smoother finish.

What kind of beer is an Altbier?

An Altbier is a traditional German beer style originating from the Düsseldorf region. It is a top-fermented ale with a well-balanced, malty flavor profile and a copper or amber color. Altbier typically has a moderate hop bitterness, a clean, crisp finish, and an alcohol content ranging from 4.5% to 5.5% ABV. The name “Altbier” means “old beer” in German, referring to the older, top-fermentation brewing method used before the advent of bottom-fermented lagers.

Is Altbier a brown ale?

Altbier is a German beer style that is sometimes considered a type of brown ale, due to its copper to dark brown color and its balanced malt and hop profile. However, Altbier has its own unique characteristics, such as a cooler fermentation temperature and the use of top-fermenting ale yeast, which separate it from the traditional English brown ale. So, while it shares some similarities with brown ales, Altbier is a distinct beer style.

What is Altbier in English?

Altbier, in English, is a traditional German beer style originating from Düsseldorf. The term “alt” means “old” in German, referring to the old-style brewing method using top-fermenting yeast. Altbier is characterized by its copper color, moderate hop bitterness, and a clean, crisp finish.

What does German Altbier taste like?

German Altbier is a traditional top-fermented beer with a well-balanced taste profile. It features a medium body and a smooth, slightly creamy mouthfeel. The flavor is characterized by a moderate malty sweetness, complemented by a subtle fruity note from the ale yeast. The malt character often includes hints of toasted bread, caramel, and toffee. Altbier also has a distinct hop presence, with herbal or spicy notes that provide a moderate to high bitterness, creating a clean, dry finish. Overall, Altbier offers a harmonious blend of maltiness and hop bitterness, making it a refreshing and easy-to-drink beer.

About the author

Latest posts

  • Best 5 Gallon Pear Wine Recipes?

    Best 5 Gallon Pear Wine Recipes?

    As a seasoned homebrewer, one of my favorite things to do is experiment with different fruits and flavors to create unique, delicious wines. And when it comes to fruit wines, […]

    Read more

  • Are Champagne Grapes Seedless?

    Are Champagne Grapes Seedless?

    The world of wine and champagne is fascinating and complex, with various grape varieties and production methods contributing to the vast array of flavors and styles. One question that often […]

    Read more