Flensburger Dunkel

October 15, 2013

It’s been over a year since we’ve visited the excellent beer from Flensburger in Germany. As I’m coming off my malt-sweet Oktoberfest carpet-bombing, I’d like something with a little roasted flavor to it but remain German. Today, we’ll be drinking Flensburger Dunkel.

Admittedly, I didn’t know very much about the brewery. After digging around I found some neat facts. It was first incorporated one day after my own birthday, albeit 85.999 years prior. It takes its name from the town in which it exists – Flensburg, or Castle Flens, if you must know – situated in the stoic northern state of Schleswig-Holstein just under the Danish border.

Established in 1888, the brewery continued to grow and by the 1930’s was one of the state’s largest. It managed to survive the destruction of WWII and resumed a thriving business. To this day, Flensburger is one of Germany’s last breweries to not be owned by a conglomerate; totally independent despite being distributed country-wide. Most breweries in Germany supply only their town or a surrounding region. Flensburger covers the entire country and does it on their own steam.

The town itself is pretty much on the same longitude as Moscow, so their winters adjacent to the Baltic Sea can get downright frosty. Back in older days, brewery employees would visit nearby lakes and chop out ice blocks to use in the lagering process. Nowadays, they access what is – to me, at least – one of their neatest features: a water well drawing from an underground supply of Scandinavian Ice Age water. Imagine… pristine, totally unpolluted, rock-filtered water from over 10,000 years ago goes into their beer. That’s quality!

Flensburger also utilizes the classic “swing-top” enclosure for their bottles. I’ll admit… there’s something pleasantly, simplistically and aesthetically pleasing about the wet pop noise made by opening a bottle of Flensburger. Gimmick, no; tradition, yes.

As I mentioned, I’m feeling like having a dunkel lager. The coloration is achieved by roasting the grain prior to use. This transforms what is normally a bright, grassy and mildly bitter brew into something straight out of a European bakery.

Flensburger Dunkel sports a dark amber color and a clunky head that quickly recedes into a white film leaving behind spider web lacing. Scents of wheat bread and hazelnut shells mingle with caramel and tea leaf. Toasty bread crust, light toffee, biscuit, hints of coffee and nuts hold back the faintest trace of hop bitterness without being out of balance on the sweet side. The carbonation is lively with a moderately creamy-slick feel and a nice, clean finish.

An absolute hallmark of dark lager, this “road less travelled” beer is perfect for a change of pace.