We recently sat down with our Head Brewer, Layton Cutler, to discuss his current favorite beer style — Altbier. It’s one of the oldest styles in the world, however it has yet to gain notoriety in the American craft beer community. While it’s still brewed in Germany, German lagers and Oktoberfest beers are normally the styles that we see exported to the United States. We wanted to shine a little on this great style. Currently on tap at the Public House (and heading to select spots around LA soon!) is 45 RPM, our version of a German Altbier. Get it while it lasts!
Q: Tell us a little bit about Altbier as a style.
Layton: When most people think German beer they think Helles, Pilsner and Hefeweizen. Altbier is a little bit more off the radar. In many ways it’s comparable to a Kölsch in that they’re both German ales and oftentimes compete with each other. For example, Cologne and Düsseldorf compete with each other for who makes better beer; Cologne makes Köslch and Düsseldorf makes Altbier. I’ve always preferred the more malty and hoppy character of an Altbier over a Kölsch.
Q: It usually has more body than a Kölsch or any of the other lighter German beers, right?
Layton: Exactly. So it’s like a German noble hopped Amber Ale. That’s probably where it started and then you get American Ambers that are using American hops. But it’s extremely old. It predates Pilsners and predates a lot of the lager beers.
Q: When did you first brew an Altbier?
Layton: I worked at a brewpub in Indiana where I’m from and the owner finally let me brew my own batch of beer using my own recipe. I wanted to mix it up and brew an Altbier because we already had a Kolsch available. People really liked it and it was a big seller, but unfortunately my boss never let me brew it again. Since then I’ve brewed some homebrew batches to hone in my recipe, but didn’t brew it professionally again until we brewed 45 RPM, which is currently available at the Public House.
Q: There is a stronger version normally available in Germany called Sticke Alt, right? At least historically there was?
Layton: Yeah, and you can still find it. If you go to Düsseldorf some of the bars, breweries and pubs there will release a Sticke Alt maybe once or twice a year. We decided to make a Sticke Alt (at Angel City) to go along with the 45 RPM beer. It’s a much bigger beer! Look for 33 RPM (see what we did with the name there?) at the Public House soon.
Q: What introduced you to Altbiers? When did have one for the first time?
Layton: I can’t remember the exact date, but it was probably 2000-2001. I was a study abroad student in Germany and that was my first chance of getting to drink and explore the vast variety of German beers. Most people are mainly familiar with Hefeweizens and Pilsners, but the world of German beers goes far beyond that. That was the first time I ever had Altbier and I really enjoyed it. Since then I’ve really been a fan.
Q: What draws you to certain styles, as a drinker and brewer? What do you find appealing?
Layton: I would say personal preference, really. I mean some people are hop heads so they just want to make and drink IPAs all day long. I prefer brewing and drinking a variety of styles. I think that some styles can be overdone (in the industry as a whole), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate them. I’m always up to try something new if it looks interesting. When it comes to drinking and trying new styles, seasonality and location are always factors that I pay attention to. If I know that a beer is being brewed for certain weather conditions or if I’m in a new part of the world, then I want to try what they’re making and see what they’re experimenting with.
Keep an eye out for 45 RPM on tap at select spots around LA for a limited time!