PRISTINE CLARITY and crispness in German lagers are taken for granted these days, as is the brilliant golden color that enhances them. But before light lager became Bavaria’s defining brew (responding to the Eastern invasion of Czech pilsner), it was a darker beer, the dunkel, that reigned in Munich. So although Hofbräuhaus München is now most known for their iconic Helles, its Dunkel counterpart is actually the older brother of the two. And perhaps the better.
The two share a similar outline, color naturally notwithstanding. The Dunkel is a bit stronger at 5.5% ABV, but is still light-bodied, mildly hopped with noble cultivars, and perfectly clear despite its brown hue. Use of Munich malts darkens up the body and strengthens the malt presence in the nose a little, but caramel and other stronger aromas found in amber ales, etc., are not to be discerned here. If anything there is a slight smokiness, perhaps some slight defect resulting from its green glass bottling. The Dunkel’s flavor is peppery, highly carbonated, emphasizing natural clean flavors of grain and grass with a smidge of extra bitterness on the back end. Neither alcohol nor yeast is present in the finish.
As with many traditional German imports (especially those in green bottles), Hofbräu’s delicately pure flavor profiles are pleasing enough but often dimmed by transit across the pond. Drunk from a Maβ in an Alpine Biergarten, a fresh Dunkel would be nearly immaculate. In this hemisphere it is reduced to mortality, albeit still of a sprightly sort.
Served: 33 cl bottle