Michael Jackson describes the Dortmund Export style, in his “Beer Companion”, as a working class beer for an industrial region. A light golden lager, fuller and less hoppy than a Pilsner but dryer and hoppier than a Munich Hell, the name is ironic because the remaining breweries in Dortmund, Westphalia, don’t really export the beer anymore. Apparently, prior to German unification in the 1870’s, Dortmund was an important trading crossroad between the Netherlands and Scandinavia, and thus the local beer was in fact exported with regularity. The city was heavily damaged in WWII and rebuilt quickly, and somehow the Export style fell out of fashion. In the US, Gordon Biersch and Stoudt’s Brewing make reasonable facsimiles of the style, but it is increasingly hard to find the real thing – Dortmunder Actien Brauerei (DAB), Dortmunder Kronen and Dortmunder Union Brauerei (DUB) are still in business, and Jackson holds up Kronen Export as the best of the lot. Good luck tracking one down!
So, it takes a beer geek (or a Home Brew Guru) to appreciate the style and to try to make one with very limited experience tasting the style. Here goes!
- 1 tsp water crystals
- 8-3/4 lbs. lager malt
- 1/2 lb. cara-pils malt
- 1-1/2 oz. Hallertau hop pellets (@3.0% aa)
- 1/2 oz. Perle hop pellets (@6% aa)
- White Labs German Lager yeast (WLP830)
- 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)
The night before brewing, crush grain. On brew day, add water crystals to 13 quarts water, heat to 162°F. Mash in crushed grain, aiming for a strike temperature of 150 – 152°. Hold 75 minutes, begin runoff and sparge with 15 quarts water at 170°F, collecting approximately 6 gallons sweet wort. Bring wort to boiling, add 1/4 oz. Hallertau hops. Boil 15 minutes, add 1/2 oz. Perle hops. Boil another 15 minutes (30 so far), add 3/4 oz. Hallertau hops. Boil another 15 minutes (45 to this point), add 1/2 oz. Hallertau hops. Boil another 15 minutes (60 total), remove from heat. Chill down to 80-85°F as quickly as possible, pour into primary fermenter. Take a hydrometer reading, pitch the German Lager yeast, seal up and ferment at 60 – 65°F for about ten days. Transfer to secondary, age cold (35 – 40° if possible) for three to four weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and set at room temperature (65 – 70°F) for three days, then condition cold (35 – 38°F if possible) for four to five weeks.
Dortmund breweries use the local water, of course, from the Dort River watershed. This water is very high in Calcium Carbonate and Calcium Sulfate. Accordingly, it is wise to add these salts to your brewing water, unless you know that your water already contains them in abundance. The high mineral content actually brings out the malty flavor, as opposed to the water in, say, Plzen or Budejovice, whose softer water buoys up the hop flavor.
Typical Export lagers have a fuller body and richer mouthfeel than other light lagers, in part because of the mashing procedure. A shorter mash time, a slightly higher temperature of 150 – 152°F, and a thicker mash all enable the creation of dextrines, or unfermentable sugars.