Dort vs. Dort vs Dort

In the last post I discussed the brewing of my first Dortmunder Export Lager.  Now I want to talk about tasting it.

Using the BJCP as a guide I selected two beers from the classic styles listing for Dortmunder Export: Great Lakes Brewing Dortmunder Gold and Ayinger Jahrhundert.

These beers are a little stronger than my attempt.  I brewed my Dort to an original gravity of 12.5 °P, the Ayinger was brewed to 12.8 °P and the Great Lakes to 14.0 °P. With my relatively low degree of fermentation my ABV was only 4.8%, whereas the Great lakes clocks in at 5.8% and the Ayinger at 5.5%.

Great Lakes uses Harrington 2 row and 60 Lovibond Crystal Malt with Cascade and Hallertau hops.   These are some unusual ingredient choices.  Caramel malt is unexpected in any light German lager, and the use of Cascade hops, even for the battering addition, is another not typical German lager ingredient.

The Ayinger web site gives no details on ingredients.

Here are the beers in the glass:

You can see the Ayinger is quite pale; he color of my Dortmunder (center) is a bit misleading as it had a bit of suspended yeast.  The Great Lakes is a deep yellow gold, due to the use of the crystal malt. It pushes the typical color guidelines for a Dortmunder, but it is a beautiful beer.

A few weeks after this initial evaluation my lager cleared nicely, so I bought a second bottle of the Great Lakes beer for a second tasting:

It is hard to tell from the photo, but both beers are brilliantly clear.  My lager maintained a robust, light head and showed great lace.  I think the Great Lakes Dort is a little dark for the style; both are beautiful.

What about flavor? First, here is BJCP flavor description for the style:

“Neither Pils malt nor noble hops dominate, but both are in good balance with a touch of malty sweetness, providing a smooth yet crisply refreshing beer. Balance continues through the finish and the hop bitterness lingers in aftertaste (although some examples may finish slightly sweet). Clean, no fruity esters, no diacetyl. Some mineral character might be noted from the water, although it usually does not come across as an overt minerally flavor.”

The Great Lakes Dortmunder has a strong, sweet malt aroma.  It reminds me of a soft, dark bread crust, maybe like on a loaf of challah.  It gives the impression of richness.  I also get a light spicy hop aroma.  The Jahrhundert is much more straightforward pils malt.  My Dort has a light hop aroma and a moderate malt aroma, not nearly as rich as the Great Lakes beer.

The Great Lakes Dort offers light malt sweetness in the flavor, with a crisp bitterness that finishes cleanly.  Rich bread flavor.  The Ayinger Dort is neutral pils malt flavor with a very crisp finish.  My Dort is much softer and rounder in flavor, and does not finish as crisp as either the Great Lakes or the Ayinger.  It strikes me as thought it is more Helles-like than Dort-like.

Crispness is a word that is used in the style description: mine lacked it.  What would I change to come closer to the style?

  1. Use a different (and more healthy) yeast strain.  Mine pooped out a bit. Make sure the starter is large enough.
  2. Add a bit more calcium chloride to the brewing water.
  3. Up the starting gravity a touch.
  4. Add a bit of finishing hops at 5 minutes, to add a little more bitterness and flavor.

Overall my Dortmunder was a nice beer.  But when evaluated with a critical eye, any beer can be better.


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