A Taste of Germany’s Dark Beer History

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April 18, 2014 by Prost Brewing

Dark Beer in Summer

In the last blog, we revealed the most commonly consumed beer in the world today — the pale lager. In spite of the pale lager’s popularity in the modern-day beer world, these beers did not even exist until the mid 19th century. Thus, if you were to travel back in time to experience the long lineage of beers that preceded the pale lager, you would see nothing but dark beer.

As you may already know, beer has been a part of almost every culture of every great human civilization spanning all the way back to the dawn of recorded history! Through all of these centuries that included the rise and fall of many great empires, the color of beer did not change, remaining brown all the way through, no matter the culture.

Early writing tablet from Ancient Sumer recording the allocation of beer

Early writing tablet from Ancient Sumer recording the allocation of beer; Courtesy of BabelStone under the Creative Commons license.

Thus, the original beer style of the ancient villages and towns of Bavaria, Germany was indeed brown. Known by the same name as the dark colored lager is referred to as today, this brown colored beer went by the name of “Dunkel,” which in German translates to “dark.” Dunkel originated in a time when primitive kilning techniques that employed direct heat and high temperatures to dry the malted grain always left the malt slightly scorched causing all beers to end up as a final shade of mahogany, deep brown, dark amber or sepia.

Once found in every pub or brewery of German-speaking Europe, Dunkel was especially popular in the 1830’s and 1840’s. However, its history goes back much farther as it was the first beer to be regulated by the Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1516. Thus, the Dunkel was Germany’s first standardized lager beer style. Through the centuries, the Dunkel has been enjoyed for its clean and well-rounded lager taste accompanied by the dry, mildly smoky and roasted coffee-like flavors derived from the dark malts.

In Bavaria today, if you ask for a Dunkel you will still get a dark brown lager of sorts. In Denver today, at Prost Brewing, if you ask for a Dunkel, you will get a tall glass of our Altfränkisches Dunkel Bier. Originally from the world famous brewing region of Franconia known as Bamberg, this special style of Dunkel is noted for its characteristic smooth malty flavor that is accomplished with an old brewing technique known as decoction mashing. Here at Prost Brewing we have set out to revive the Altfränkisches Dunkel Bier that was originally from the Hümmer Brauerei in Breitengüßbach, the brewery who sold us their authentic German brewhouse. Thus, for a real taste of Germany’s dark beer history, head down to Prost this weekend, and enjoy sipping upon a tall mug full of Prost Brewing’s dark amber Altfränkisches Dunkel Bier.


We hope to see you soon! Prost!


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