First Draught: Creemore Springs Altbier
By David Ort
For the first time, Creemore gets into ale (Image: David Ort)
Each German city specializes in its own style of beer. Remarkably, most of them are lagers, which to the brewer means beer that’s bottom-fermented at cool temperatures and then kept in cool storage. To the drinker, it means clear and crisp flavours. Düsseldorf’s altbier is a sort of hybrid exception to this rule, so it makes sense that when Creemore Springs decided to brew its first ale, it was an alt.
Over its first 25 years, Creemore has stuck firmly to the European lager side of the brewing ledger. Its pilsner, kellerbier, seasonal urbock and flagship lager all fit that description. To celebrate its first quarter-century, it chose to brew a traditional style of German ale, but because it’s cool stored (or “lagered”), it's only a slight variation on the theme.
A celebration is more fun with friends, so Creemore was happy to have Germany’s Zum Schlüssel as a collaborative partner. Two members of the brewing team traveled to Düsseldorf to meet the brewers there and learn how to make altbier from the 160-year old operation. Naturally, they documented their trip and the rest of the special release project on a Tumblr page.
From the distinctive blue and silver can — another break from tradition; usually the cans are pale with blue highlights — pours a dark copper ale with a cream-white cap of foam. The aroma and flavour both convey a malty sweetness that recalls dark bread, or biscuits that are good for you. Both also have a lemony-bitterness that ties sharp and sweet together nicely.
Altbier is an interesting style and it’s difficult to avoid comparing it to the German white wines like Riesling (a fellow native of the Rhineland), which can also vary in sweetness, and also work well as either late-afternoon sippers or with a variety of food. There are only two other Ontario-brewed altbiers I can think of — True North’s Copper Altbier and the seasonal Festivale from Beau’s — so it’s worth picking up this beer as an introduction to the intriguing, approachable style.
Creemore Springs Altbier, $2.80 for a 473 mL can, LCBO #309641
When David isn't busy drinking beer for his articles here, he writes about food and drink for Toronto's online publications including his own site, Food With Legs. For more of his thoughts on beer and life in general follow him on Twitter.