Altbier – The best traditional top-fermented beer in Germany


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Altbier has been around from Westphalia to Saxony-Anhalt since the 13th century. It is a top-fermented beer with an alcohol content of around 4.8 percent. 

The dark, bitter beer owes its name to the old brewing method used to make it. Altbier is particularly popular in Düsseldorf. It owes its color to the kiln malt, which is particularly dark due to its longer roasting period.

What is Altbier?

Altbier is a dark, top-fermented type of beer that is particularly widespread in the Lower Rhine and Westphalia.

Characteristics of Altbier

  • Alcohol content: 4.5-5.5%
  • Original wort: 11-14 ° P
  • IBU: 30-50 IBU (noticeably to very bitter)
  • top-fermented beer type
  • Color: dark (copper red to deep brown)
  • Aroma: subtly nutty and malty

In the case of top-fermented beers , after the yeast has been added, the resulting slush rises to the top and is skimmed off. That happens at 15 to 20 degrees Celsius.

With bottom-fermented beers , this slush sinks to the bottom. Bottom fermentation is brewed at 8 to 14 degrees Celsius

Where does the name Altbier come from?

Because the brewing of bottom-fermented beers in our regions is absolutely necessary in order to achieve the necessary low temperatures, the brewing of bottom-fermented beers is a comparatively young way of brewing. 

Accordingly, the top-fermented beers are made using the old brewing method . This is exactly where the name Altbier comes from.

Altbier is by no means an old beer that has been lying around for months or years before it is served. On the contrary, Altbier is served as fresh as possible on tap in Düsseldorf.

The crucial difference to other beers is that with Altbier the malt is roasted before it is added during the brewing process. This is exactly where the intense taste and of course the particularly pretty color come from.

Köbes, Zappes & Baas

The technical jargon in Düsseldorf breweries is a little different than in a restaurant or in a pub. There is no boss or waiter in the home breweries. There is the Baas, the Zappes and the Köbes.

  • The Baas is in charge of the brewery. As chief, he watches over everything, from the dining room to brewing and accounting. 
  • The Zappes taps the beer. When there is a lot going on, he lights up a barrel, turns on the tap, and only turns it off again when the barrel is empty. 
  • The Köbes brings you the beer. However, he does this more on the side, mainly his job traditionally consists of appearing grumpy as possible and having a peppery saying on his lips at every opportunity.

How do you drink Altbier in the brewery?

In Düsseldorf breweries, the old is drunk at bar tables outside . This applies all year round. As long as there is no hurricane-like snowstorm raging through the alleys of the old town, the Düsseldorf-based brewery is sure not to go into the brewery.

The Köbes carries beer unsolicited on his tray into the crowd and distributes it where it is needed. If you have just arrived at the brewery and there is still no drink on the table in front of you, you will automatically receive something from the tray, provided you have politely said “Hello”. So much time has to be!

In addition, you get a lid on which your consumed old is collected with lines. Pay at the end and preferably not individually. 

If you want to drink something other than Altbier, make the Köbes aware when he shows up that he shouldn’t put any of the beers on his tray for you. Then tell him what you would like to drink and resign yourself to hearing an appropriate saying for an order such as “water”. A few minutes later your water will come, usually accompanied by another saying.

If your glass is about to run out, the Köbes will automatically replenish it. If you want to stop this auto-beer flow, put your beer mat on top of the glass. For the Köbes this is the sign that you don’t want any more beer.

The best Altbier route through Düsseldorf’s old town

If you want to try out all of the in-house breweries in Düsseldorf, we recommend that you visit them in the following order.

1st Altbier stop: Kürzer Brewery

The Kürzer Alt is the best beer for beginners. Treat yourself to your first Alt at the bar tables outside when the weather is nice, but be sure to take at least a quick look inside. There are always a few glasses around the brew kettles in which you can find hops and malt. You are welcome to smell it and see the difference between roasted and unroasted malt.

After a few alt, go into the alley diagonally across the street. This is how you come out directly on Bolkerstraße. Go left there. After less than 50 meters you are already standing in front of the key.

2. Altbier stop: Hausbrauerei Zum Schlüssel

We continue with the delicious Alt key.Compare it with the previous shorter one, the two taste quite different.

Then you only have to walk a tiny bit further down Bolkerstraße and you will find yourself in front of the Golden Cauldron, which is diagonally opposite.

3rd Altbier stop: Schumacher Alt Im Goldenen Kessel

Now you are testing our stadium beer. Yep, we have something delicious in the stadium!

Then go back on Bolkerstrasse in the direction you came from before and straight on to the Sparkasse. Turn left before the Sparkasse and go through Schneider-Wibbel-Gasse to the end. When you come out next to the souvenir shop you can already see the Uerige on the right side on the next corner.

4. Altbier stop: Uerige top-fermented brewery

Now you already have a bit of old experience and are ready for the bitter cold. If you can’t find a place outside, go into the floodplain. This is the cool room with the bar tables.

In the Uerige, the Köbes not only comes by with beer, but also with beer bites. If you’ve got hungry by now; grab it!

After so much Altbier, a few meters on foot is good for you. Go from the Uerige to the Rhine and to the right along the casemates. 

Go on the Rhine up to the stairs at the castle tower. Go up the stairs and a little to the left before you turn right at the church with the crooked church tower. Then keep walking straight to the little fox.

At the you will pass the Kreuzherren corner, the oldest pub in Düsseldörf with the best hazelnut schnapps in the world!

5th Altbier stop: Brewery in Füchschen

But now you should be hungry at the latest! Take a seat and treat yourself to the Rhenish brewery kitchen at Füchschen Alt.

The Füchschen is also a great place to end the evening. If you want to move on after that, just go a few meters further to the milestone. There you can dance until 4 or 5 a.m. on the weekend.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about altbier

How does Altbier taste?


Is the Altbier from the in-house breweries also available in bottles to take away?

Yes, all breweries also bottle their beer. You can buy it directly from the breweries, or in most Düsseldorf beverage stores, supermarkets and stalls.

What does an Altbier cost?

In the Altstadt of Düsseldorf, the prices for an Alt in the house breweries are between € 2.10 and € 2.50. The size varies slightly between 0.2 and 0.25L.

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