Dortmunder Actien Brauerie

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old faithful
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Dortmunder Actien Brauerie

Postby old faithful » Sat Feb 25, 2006 4:40 pm

I first learned about Dortmunder beer from Michael Jackson's first book, the 1977 World Guide To Beer. His description sounded appetizing, he spoke of a blonde beer that was medium-bodied, rounder than a classic Pilsener and not as hoppy but maybe not as rich as a Munich helles. I've never been to Dortmund and over the years have noted that the city breweries were consolidating, so that say Dortmunder Union is now part of DAB (I believe), and also Jackson said many of the exported Dortmunder beers were not in the classic town style but in the Pilsener style, so I was wondering if I would ever get to taste a genuine Dortmunder beer.

There is at LCBO and has been for many years in a white can, the DAB beer captioned above. I usually find this not bad but a little tinny in taste, similar to many other of the canned beers from Northern Europe at LCBO. Well today I bought the DAB again and I notice on the bottom end the expiry date is April '07. I don't know when it was made but it must be very recently because that date is unusually long for beer expiry dates (except for certain Belgian specialties). I am sampling this now and find it extremely good. The can states it is real and original (or words to that effect, it is now in the trash) so I assume this is the original DAB formula not DAB's pils-type, but whichever it is, it is very good. It has (at cellar temperature) a mild hoppy nose and a cereal-like barley malt smell. There is no tinny or chlorine-like taste whatsoever in this beer. In this respect it is like a fresh Pilsener Urquel, proving beer can be canned and pasteurised and taste very fresh if sold fresh (which Urquel is). The flavour is very good, the hops and malt are well-integrated and there is a zesty top-note from the hops which is appealing. I can't detect any caramelisation from pasteurisation. This is an all-malt beer and it shows.

The other day in a pub in Toronto I had an Ontario brewed micro lager on draft and unfortunately it was oxidised, the damp paper smell hit me from a foot away when the glass was set in front of me. The advantage of buying at LCBO (where you can check the best-by dates) an imported lager made by a big company like DAB is they know how to avoid that problem. As good as that Ontario micro beer may have been at the brewery when new, it was useless (to me anyway) at point of sale and $5.50 went out the window. Apart from the technical merits of a beer like DAB, when it is fresh and on song, as the one I bought was, it offers one of the world's fine beer experiences. The producers of a beer like this know exactly what they are doing, as Urquel does, and given a chance to taste the beer in optimal form, it sets a standard for our micro beer industry. Still.

Gary
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Postby Manul » Sat Feb 25, 2006 5:33 pm

A very good point.
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Postby Belgian » Sat Feb 25, 2006 9:56 pm

Can there really be caramelization from pasteurization, I thought you'd have to burn/roast sugars to achieve that eg. when roasting malt.

I also have a question about tinniness, does the interior of a can contact beer to metal or are some cans lined? A flexing enamel coating would be ideal for this purpose. I see the bottle eventually giving way to better can technology.
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Postby old faithful » Sat Feb 25, 2006 10:21 pm

I don't think "tinniness", a convenient term to describe the way some import canned Euro beers taste, comes from the metal in most cases. I too have heard cans are lined with some type of enamel or other material to prevent contact with the metal. I think the off-flavours usually come from long storage and maybe some international shipping conditions. There is something about trapping European beer (particularly lagers) in a can which seems to produce these flavours after many months in transit, warehousing or on the shelf, I think too best-by dates are often kind of theoretical, optimistic one might say. A beer may last 3 months tolerably well, but 12 months or more? Well, some will, but not that many I think. I do feel I can tell when some beer is pasteurised too hard, there is a burnt caramel ("cooked") taste that sometimes gives this away. The problem is less severe than in the past, industry has gotten better at pasteurisation. And it has gotten better too at shipping beer internationally. Today, it is rare that a beer even in a green bottle is plain old skunky, that "stinky" taste that too often was a staple of many beer imports in the 1970's and 80's. But the bar is set higher today. We are used to fresh, unpasteurised beer now due to our micro producers who, when their beer is served in very good condition, make some of the best beers anywhere. So we expect more of our imports. Pilsener Urquel, which in my view is better in the can than in the bottle, innovated in this area by ensuring some years ago that its beer was brought in quickly. It is always very good now. And that DAB beer was very good, in my view quite a bit above any domestic commercial (big brewery) beer. Heineken is much better now too than it was 10 and 20 years ago. Heineken moved to all-malt production (about 10 years now I think) and that boosted quality too. I am not a fan in general of Heineken, but it is fair to note these remarks.

I exclude bottle-conditioned beers from these comments, they seem to do fine as imports and that is simply because they don't oxidise as fast if properly processed. The yeast in the bottle absorbs oxygen, neutralises it in some way, this was explained on another thread recently, maybe it was Perry who noted that.

Obviously the issues faced by local small producers to ensure their beers are served in good condition whether on draught or in bottle are different, I'm simply saying that some Euro lagers when brought in fast can show their stuff and in this sense offer inspiration to our brewers to live up to the best of the European bottom-fermented tradition. Theoretically our craft brewers should be able to exceed it but rarely have I had a Canadian micro lager as good as that DAB was. Obviously some are, e.g., Steamwhistle is very good now, so is the lager at that brewpub on St-Denis Street in Montreal (its Czech-style pils). There are other examples. But all things being equal, in my view the "typical" bottled (and even draft) Canadian micro lager just doesn't offer the complexity and style of that DAB, or Urquel. This is intended constructively of course. When beer is as good as it can be in one part of the market, beer in the other parts will get better, it is a mutually reinforcing thing. Indeed I think some exporters to our shores realised they had to get their beer here in as good a shape as possible because of the lure of fresh craft beer in the export market, so certainly I wouldn't argue it doesn't work both ways.

Gary
Last edited by old faithful on Sun Feb 26, 2006 7:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby JerCraigs » Sat Feb 25, 2006 11:32 pm

Gary;
Did you take the time to tell the bar staff, or more importantly the brewer that the beer was not in good shape? Local brewers might be glad to find out that one of their licensees is not representing them well.
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Postby old faithful » Sun Feb 26, 2006 6:59 am

In this case I didn't ask for a replacement, I drank half and left the rest. Sometimes I ask for a switch but rarely is it a pleasant experience. Almost always I can see that the staff think I just don't like the taste and they will change it but grudgingly. Sometimes when a cask ale is literal vinegar I will ask for a change. (Even then I've seen the same beer blithely served to other customers). In the future I plan to ask for tastes more, or order half pints to minimise the risk. Alan Sillitoe, the well-known English author of The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, has a scene in one of those books I've never forgotten. The protagonist orders a pint, mild or bitter in those days and susceptible then as now of now being served in poor condition, and the beer was off. He asks for it to be changed and gets an argument from the server. A confrontation ensues and the pub-goer leaves the establishment in a huff. The incident reveals the hero's (or anti-hero's) deeper difficulties with society and himself; it's not really about the beer although it taught me incidentally an early lesson about draft beer, that it sometimes doesn't taste right. I remember thinking at the time, how can draft beer not be good, the draft at the Mansfield Tavern across from McGill University is always good. Sometimes it has a green tint mind you, I wonder why, but it tastes fine...

It's funny the things you remember, I must have read those books 35 years ago but they made a big impression on me. They were beautiful books in their way and deserved their fame. Anyway I've always been careful when complaining about beer quality. :)

Gary
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Postby GregClow » Sun Feb 26, 2006 12:30 pm

Regarding the DAB - unless they've changed things recently, the DAB beer that we get in Ontario is the DAB Original, which is a German Pils according to the listing on Rate Beer.

Their true Dortmunder seems to be DAB Export - which is a somewhat ironic name, given that the majority of the very few ratings on RateBeer are from Germany, suggesting that it isn't exported very far, if at all.

RateBeer has Dortmunder and Helles classified as a single style, so I'm not sure which of the two these fall under, but the site claims that LCBO-available Svyturys Ekstra, Löwenbräu and Gösser Export fall into the group. (Oddly, they also have Church Key Lift Lock Lager listed in the Dortmunder/Helles group - I'd be more likely to consider it a Premium Lager, or even Pale Lager.)
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Re: Dortmunder Actien Brauerie

Postby Rob Creighton » Sun Feb 26, 2006 12:45 pm

old faithful wrote:The other day in a pub in Toronto I had an Ontario brewed micro lager on draft and unfortunately it was oxidised, the damp paper smell hit me from a foot away when the glass was set in front of me.


It would be interesting to test to see if the flaw you experienced was in fact oxygen contamination of draught beer because it is so unlikely a possibility. Most (and of course you have to carefully qualify this) pubs serving micro draught have gone to either CO2 or beer gas (a nitro/CO2 blend) long ago. I haven't seen too many accounts that still use air compressors with or without a CO2 blender for over a decade (though I do know of one high volume account which shall remain nameless).

So the question is, where is the oxygen coming from. Improperly processed finished beer? Possible but a real basic QC check. More likely is a flaw in the dispense system that has not only contaminated the beer but would undoubtably leave the carbonation level off. I have never encountered an oxygen problem in micro draught that wasn't from an air compressor in over 25 years in the biz. You may have something unique or have misidentified the flaw.
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Postby Belgian » Sun Feb 26, 2006 2:48 pm

old faithful wrote:... Almost always I can see that the staff think I just don't like the taste and they will change it but grudgingly... Anyway I've always been careful when complaining about beer quality. :)

Gary


I once had absolute shite in a glass served as a pint of Beamish (my first ever) - they then claimed to have "changed the cask" but really just topped the glass & returned it a minute later. Nice way to hurt a brewer's reputation.

Also, some places never 'run out' the stale beer in the line before filling your pint it seems, afraid to waste beer I guess, so that hurts freshness too, sadly.
Last edited by Belgian on Sun Feb 26, 2006 5:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby old faithful » Sun Feb 26, 2006 3:37 pm

The smell of damp paper/cardboard in that Ontario lager was overpowering, Rob. I don't think it was (although I don't know for sure) an air compressor system. I think the beer was either kept too long before service or as you said might have been processed wrongly. How do we know how long that beer was stored in a tank before it was kegged? Maybe it wasn't kept as cold as it should be, maybe it was exposed to ambient air (before kegging) for too long. I've had beers like that in bottle (from different breweries) not long issued that tasted similar, even occasionally from large breweries. These things happen, I don't regard it as a big deal as long as brewers do their best to prevent the problem, which I think most do.

By the way that ratebeer rating, the first one, of 2.9 for DAB Original was I thought quite accurate, i.e., his taste note, but I'd have given it a higher rating than he did, say 5 out of 6. My sample might have been fresher than his, there was an evident Hallertau top-note to the beer which was pleasing and distinctive, but overall I think his note was quite accurate. I guess we all have different expectations of what a German canned beer should taste like. I don't expect it to be as good as the local draft but it was very good, especially in the way the hop interweaved with the cereal-like barley malt, skillfully done.

It is true, Greg, that Export is a term used to describe the Dortmund style. It would be ironic if a beer called "Original" on the can is not in fact the original style of the city, but stranger things have happened in the beer world. :)

Gary
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Postby old faithful » Sun Feb 26, 2006 10:00 pm

Prompted by recollection of Alan Sillitoe's great early books, I entered his name in Yahoo, and found an interesting interview of him by BBC only 3 months ago on the introduction of 24 hour licensing in Britain. The creator of Arthur Seaton, one of the great figures of post-war British fiction, had some sobering thoughts, extending to his recollection of 1950's drinking culture in his home town of Nottingham. See:

www.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4469950.stm

If the link does not work, enter Sillitoe in the search box at www.bbc.co.uk and it should come up quickly.

Gary

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