Hello, friends and well-wishers! My name is Dustyn Cormier. I live in a small town in the Hudson Valley in New York and I have been an avid and award-winning homebrewer for about 15 years. By day I’m an assistant principal at a middle school (yes, I am a bit crazy) and by night and weekends I am a homebrew and craft beer nerd.
Today’s article will be all about a style of beer that we don’t see in America very often called the Dortmunder export lager. We will talk about the characteristics of the style as well as its history. I’ll also share with you some tips if you decide to brew your own batch some day down the road. If you live in America and you want to try this style for yourself before you brew it (highly recommended), then, unfortunately, there are not many options that are widely available. Dortmunder Gold, from Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of the most well-known and widely available Dortmunder export lagers from an American brewery. If you want a more traditional take on the style, then you might be able to find DAB Original or DAB Export from the Dortmunder Actien-Brauerei.
History of Dortmunder Export Lager Style
The term “Dortmunder” refers to something or someone from or made in Dortmund, Germany. Dortmund is located in northwest Germany on the Ruhr River in an area known as North Rhine-Westphalia. The city’s brewing history can be traced back all the way to 1266 and it was once one of Germany’s most prodigious brewing cities. The Dortmunder export lager style did not get started, though, until 1873 when several local breweries came together under the name Dortmunder Union. They created the style in response to the rising popularity of golden pilsners throughout Germany and the surrounding areas. During World War II, the city of Dortmund was largely destroyed, but the city and brewery were rebuilt and the Dortmunder export lager became the most popular beer style in Germany until 1970 when it was surpassed by pilsner.
Brewing a Dortmunder
Now that we’ve had our history lesson for the day, let’s talk about what exactly a Dortmunder export lager is and, to be honest, it’s a bit of an in-betweener. Export is usually described as being in between a helles and a pilsner. It is a golden lager with an SRM in the 4-6 range. Typically, the style is drier and hoppier than a helles, but not as hoppy and more full-bodied than a pilsner. Export is also usually a bit stronger than both a helles and a pilsner, with an ABV tending to fall in the 5-6% range. The 2021 BJCP guidelines describe the export lager as having “a smooth malty profile with a bitter, hoppy character in a slightly above-average body and strength beer.”
Brewing a Dortmunder is pretty similar to brewing other standard golden German lagers. Utilize a grain bill with pilsner and Munich malt in a 2:1 ratio with about 1-2% melanoidin malts. German noble hops should be used while aiming for 20-30 IBUs. A decoction mash would be traditional, but it isn’t necessary. You can brew this beer with most water profiles, but if your water is especially soft, then you might want to add a small amount of gypsum to your mash and sparge water. A standard 60-minute mash at 152℉ would work well and boil for 90 minutes. Use a German lager yeast and remember, since this is a lager, if you are using liquid yeast, then you will need a bigger starter and more oxygenation than you might use for a similar-sized ale. Ferment the beer at 50℉ for a week and then raise the temperature to 60 for a week to dry the beer out and help clear up any diacetyl. After fermentation is complete, package the beer and lager it as cold as you can get it for 4 weeks and carbonate it to 2-2.5 volumes.
The Dortmunder export lager is an interesting beer that can be quite refreshing on a hot day, but has enough body and malt to still drink it in the colder months. If you come across any in the store, then I suggest you give it a shot or use the tips in this article to try brewing your own version.
Beer Judge Certification Program. “Beer Judge Certification Program.” Beer Judge Certification Program,
Klemp, K. Florian. “The Import of Export.” All About Beer Magazine, vol. 21, no. 3, 2000. All About Beer Magazine,
Zainasheff, Jamil, and John J. Palmer. Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew. Brewers Publications, 2007.
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