UNLIKE ITS BASTION—a tortuous old building scant paces from the Rhein, full of narrow hallways, small twisting stairways, layered lofts, closeted crannies and tiered drinking nooks with barrels for tables all intertwined like the ventricles of an ancient wooden heart—Zum Uerige’s Altbier is relatively moderate, less grandiose in presentation and surpassingly easy to down. Its aroma is mild but nuanced, showing a bit of pine sap, a backdrop of earthy noble hops, an undertone of crystal malt caramel and slightly sweet nuttiness. Fairly dark amber and with a head that dissipates quickly, it then leaves a foam layer that lingers longer than most. On the palate a touch of berry (juniper?) and a little ‘herb’ (the good kind of bitter, as I’ve been taught, usually indicating balance in the body instead of astringency in the finish, as with bitter). Alcohol of 4.7% virtually unnoticeable, though carbonation is fairly high and finish is dry. Just a bit of a cleansing alkaloid water signature at the end. Not an instantly profound brew, admittedly, but one that could well last forever. And therein lies its wonder.
For, vested in that idyllic space, separate from time, it seems that little could be better: every possible demographic bunches chummily around the barrels that serve as tables while the Köbes whisk by with refills, often too swift in their rounds to be cheeky. The Senf here is quite sharp and dry, spice forward and a hint of burn, but then remarkably clear in a dissipating finish. Precisely complementary to the Alt, as it happens. 150 years down, the rest of eternity ahead—and going strong.
Served: Gravity tap (zum Uerige, Düsseldorf)