Der Dunkel Kreuzzug

Many a two or three years ago, our beloved Sam Adams Brewery had a contest with two sample beers you could taste test and vote on your most favorite. One sample was an Irish Red style beer, and the other being a Dunkelweizen ale. Upon tasting the Irish Red, I thought that’s what I was going to vote for. It was something that I recognized, had before by other brewers and I was familiar with the flavor. I had no idea what a Dunkelweizen was or where it came from. I gave it a little taste. I loved it. The aroma was sweet, and the flavor was smooth, dark, caramel taste.

I don’t think I need to tell you which beer I voted for (Dunkel!) and which beer won the contest (Irish Red). Don’t get me wrong, the Irish Red is a good beer, and I am glad that it is out on the market, but don’t you think I am a little right on this? Yeah, the flavor is great, but Americans are more familiar with an Irish Red more than a Dunkelweizen. What do you think the majority is going to vote for? Some weird worded dark looking scary beer, or something that reminds them of Killian’s.

Anyways, on that day, my bearded eyes gazed upon a new style of beer that hit my palette the way it likes to be hit, with a hammer... of flavor. My crusade to find the best Dunkel had started.

First of all, I need to thank the German Beer Institute for having such a wonderful website available to the American public. In great detail, this site displays a listing of over a dozen different types of German styled beers, including methods of production, ingredients, and the history behind each one. Thank you GBI.

Dunkel VS. Dunkelweizen:

The first mountain I had to climb during my crusade was that of Dunkel VS Dunkelweizen. At first, I had no idea that two different styles of beer could share such a similar name. For the sake of this posting being several pages long, I will keep things simple.

Dunkel in German is basically another word for “dark”. Weizen is another word for “wheat”.

A Dunkel beer is a Bavarian lager made with barley and dark malts. It is made using the traditional lager brewing process, using colder temperatures and bottom fermenting yeast.

A Dunkelweizen is a Bavarian wheat beer made with at least 50% dark malted wheat. According to the laws put into effect by Germany, ales need to be at least 50% malted wheat, and the rest of the percentage is made of malted barley. If the percentage of malted wheat becomes less that 50%, according to Bavarian (German) standards, it is not a real Weizen. Just like their cousins, the Dunkel, a Dunkelweizen uses dark roasted or caramelized malts that they mix with their wheat and barley. Just like the process for making ales, they use top fermenting yeasts and slightly higher temperatures.

As a small closing, around the 19th century, the term Weissbier became reserved exclusively for wheat ales. In other words all Bavarian barley brews are lagers and all wheat brews are ales.


Ok, so for now, the path I set for with my crusade is one leading me towards Dunkelweizen. The first thing that needs to be done is find the beer. After reading so many articles and looking at all different brewers and styles, I have found about a dozen or so different ways to tell if the beer you are holding is a Dunkelweizen. Check this list out:

Weisse Dunkel
Weissbier Dunkel
Hefeweizen Dunkel
Hefeweissbier Dunkel
Dunkel Weissbier
Weizen Dark
Shwarze Weisse

Now, looking at this list, you see a lot of repeated words arranged in different ways and spelled slightly differently. THAT’S IT. It basically is telling you the same thing. Either its saying something like dark beer, white dark, or dark white, or yeast wheat dark. The two strangers are Ur or Shwarz. Ur basically means “original” in German. So, in these instances its translating to "original beer". If you look at the history of beer in Germany, they were using roasted malts for all of their beer up until the 16th century, making all beer dark, the original way for making beer. Shwarz, “black” in German, mainly talks about styles of lager. However, there is a contradiction that Bavarians seem to accept, which labels a very dark Weizenbier as Schwarze Weisse, which I think is a form of Dunkelweizen, since it is dark wheat ale.

If you would like to go up one more to a stronger version of a Dunkelweizen, then try out a line of Weizenbock or Weizendopplebock. Weizen, again meaning wheat, means that these are ales, which falls to the family of Dunkelweizen, as long as somewhere it says Dunkel, dark, Ur, or even Shwarz!! The bock line are some of the strongest beers that you can find, ranging from 8% to 25% in alcohol content per bottle.

Please stay tuned as I update the site with more information regarding my travels on Der Dunkel Kreuzzug!!!

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