Year of the Beer Day 34: Altenburger Pilsener

altenburger pilsener

The year 1256 and the production of beer during the Medieval Period was exceptionally strong in many of the kingdoms of what is now Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. This included the kingdom of Saxony-Altenburg in what is now eastern Thuringia and western Saxony, where between 1260 and 1871, about 60 breweries were in operation crafting their own beer for the village people. It is unknown why beer was so common in the kingdom, let alone how it influenced other neighboring kingdoms and tribes, including the Sorbians and Slavic tribes, which prior to ca. 1200, had resided in areas east of the present-day Saale River before Germanic tribes drove them away to areas now called Bohemia and points to the south and east.

When Altenburger Beer was created the same year as the establishment of Germany- 1871, the brewery was built on the property of the Lord Kauerndorf, which had been purchased by Hermann Herold. The production of beer started in 1873 with first the brown dark beer. It was then followed by Bavarian Beer, Bohemian Beer, Pilsener, and draft beer. In 1913, the brewery expanded with the construction of the “Südhaus” building and included modern technology for crafting beer, as concepted by Thomas Ganzenmüller, then touted the most updated in Europe. Altenburger’s independence ended in 1921 when it merged with two  breweries based in Leipzig and Gera because of economic difficulties on the count of hyperinflation. The brewery conglomerate later molded into the United Brewery of Leipzig (VEB Brauerei Leipzig) in 1949, as with other breweries in East Germany as the Communist government consolidated all businesses and gained control over them.  The brewery complex produced 330,000 liters of beer annually- one of the largest outputs of all the VEB breweries during that time- until 1990. After a brief ownership by Kulmbacher, it was bought by Leikeim in eastern Bavaria in 1991 and has been under ownership ever since. The brewery still operates in Alterburg and one can find beer products in a radius from Erfurt to Chemnitz, Leipzig to Hof, and including the areas of Gera, Glauchau, and Halle (Saale).  The brewery is famous for its Christmas market, which has taken place on the grounds since 2010. 🙂


Photo taken by Lucas Friese

The Altenburger Pils is one of seven beers that are crafted by today’s brewery, and is one that was put under the loop for Day 34 of the beer marathon. Like the previous pilsener, the Gessner, the Altenburger has the typical features of a clear, straw-colored appearance with a very persistent head. The carbionation levels are high, even ten minutes after pouring a glass, and upon consumption, the beer has a pretty full body. However, the taste and aroma of the beer could not live up to the hype of the other pilseners, I’ve tried so far.  The aroma consists of grain and toast malt and floral hops, yet the levels were quite low, so one cannot smell it. Nevertheless the impression is that the beer has a herbal but nice smell to it, but it was rather faint.

The flavor of the beer consisted of the same ingredients plus a bit of herbal hops, yet despite the ingredients, the balance of flavor shifted to bitter. The overall taste of the beer is mild on the one hand, but bitter which was dressed with the ingredients, this having a herbal touch to it. It was astingent but warming. Yet with this mild but bitter taste, one could do a better job of crafting the beer as others had a much more refreshing and herbal taste to it, especially for a pilsener. It was not too spectacular, but on the other end, it was quite decent, and many people would be willing to take a good beer, like this one for consumption and while conversing with others.

Grade: 2,3/ B- The Altenburger Pils is a mild but bitter beer that people can enjoy. Its beer production goes back over 700 years and the current establishment reflects on that tradition plus that of the pilsener in Germany. And while the pilsener is typical, the rest of the beers are worth trying, many of which go back many years. Highly recommended to drink, but even more so for the Christmas market, something that has been added to my places to visit during the holiday season list. 😉

FLFI 500 beer


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