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Dunkel Lager

Submitted by on January 9, 2010 – 4:39 PMNo Comment
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Dunkel lagers are dark, German-style beers. Dunkel is the German word for dark, and dunkel beers tend to range in color from amber to dark, reddish-brown. Dunkel-style beer is a traditional style brewed originally Munich and popular throughout Bavaria. Dunkels typically contain alcohol concentrations of 4.5-6% ABV, making this style significantly weaker than doppelbocks or stouts. Dunkels are produced using Munich malts, which give the Dunkel its darker color and tend to use German-grown Tetnang and Hallertau hops to deliver a moderate bitterness that is just enough to balance out the sweet, malty flavors. Dunkels have a distinctive malty flavor that comes from a special brewing technique called triple decoction, in which part of the mash is taken out of the mash tun and placed in a cooker, where it is boiled for a period of time. This process caramelizes some of the sugars, giving dunkel beers a deeper flavor and color. As dark as dunkel lagers appear, they are typically not nearly as heavy or heady as stouts, porters, or other strong, dark ales. Being a lager, dunkel beers tend to be smooth and malty and less hoppy than dark beers of the ale family.

Historically, Dunkels were the original style of beer brewed in the Bavarian countryside of Germany. Lighter lagers were not produced in mass quantities until the latter half of the 19th century when technological advances made them easier to brew. For the most part, the word “dunkel” refers to dark lagers. However, the term is also used to refer to dark wheat beers such as Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Dunkel. Dunkel weizen is another term used to refer to dark wheat beers, which tend to be fruity and sweet with a little bit more malt than their lighter counterpart, the hefeweizen.

Common Dunkel beers brewed and distributed today include Hofbräu’s München Dunkel, which pours a dark copper color and contains a 5.5% ABV. Another modern example of a traditional dunkel lager is Beck’s Dark, which pours a frothy chestnut-brown color at only 4.8% ABV. One of the more popular dunkel lagers brewed today is actually Mexico’s Negra Modelo, which contains 5.4% ABV. Negra Modelo strays slightly off the beaten path of a dunkel lager, but still fits into the general mold of the style with a thin, white head to compliment its choc lately appearance and a medium body with low carbonation and a dry aftertaste.