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How to Brew a Munich Dunkel

How to Brew a Munich Dunkel

By: Bill Ramsey | Aug 15, 2017 | Homebrewing

As a home brewer, I love to try different styles of beer. Name a style and chances are I tried it. One of my favorite styles, which isn't very well known, is the Munich Dunkel. Its name comes from the city it originated in Munich, Germany, while Dunkel is the German word for dark. It's a malt forward, brown lager that is low on hop bitterness and crisp and easy drinking. If you ask me, it's a great change of pace from all those super hoppy double IPAs on the market.

Here is the BJCP description of the style:

Characterized by depth, richness and complexity typical of darker Munich malts with the accompanying Maillard products. Deeply bready-toasty, often with chocolate-like flavors in the freshest examples, but never harsh, roasty, or astringent; a decidedly malt-balanced beer, yet still easily drinkable.

As an avid home brewer, I'm known to attempt to brew a style I've tried and liked. So, a few weeks ago I decided it was time to try to brew an authentic Munich Dunkel. I did a little research online and brushed up on brewing the style using the great homebrew book "Brewing Classic Styles." Since this is a lager beer, I knew it was going to be a little trickier than brewing an ale. Lagers need to be brewed at cold temperatures, 50-55 degrees to be exact, because of the strain of yeast used. Without proper temperature control, your crisp clean lager can become fruity and nasty due to brewing at higher temperatures. Luckily, I have a beer fridge, a $30 temperature controller, and a fermenter heater, which is a piece of plastic you wrap around the carboy. I have little wires running through it that heat up when plugged in, kind of like a the rear window defroster in your car. With this setup, I am able to keep the fermenter within a couple degrees of my target temperature at all times.

The recipe for this style is fairly simple. I used 96% Munich Malt, a pilsner malt that the maltsters use a special process of kilning to create a slightly darker color, but still retaining all the essential enzymes needed in a base malt to convert the starches to sugar during the mash. It gives the Dunkel its bready/toasty flavor. The rest of the grist was made of Carafa II, which is a dehusked roasted malt. Removing the husk help prevents the harsh roasty flavor not wanted in this style, while still adding the color needed to make this beer a beautiful brown color. The hops I used were German Hallertau with a 60 minute and 20 minute addition to get about 22 IBUs. Finally, I used White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager, which is always my go to lager yeast. It produces a nice malt forward clean lager.

Brew day went well, but I didn't quite hit the target original gravity. I did a single infusion mash at 150 degrees, boiled it for 90 minutes, and then cooled it down to about 60 degrees with my immersion wort chiller. Then I transferred it to the fermenter, put it in the fridge, and pitched my yeast once the temp was at 55 degrees. I held that temperature until primary fermentation was over 50% complete and then slowly warmed it up to 68 degrees until fermentation was 100% complete, which took a littler over two weeks. Throughout the fermentation process, I have been sampling and it tastes just like I hoped! It's now lagering in my fridge at 35 degrees, but I'm getting very impatient, so I'll probably finish it using gelatin and then keg it, so I can force carbonate it and get to drinking.
Bill Ramsey

Bill Ramsey

Bill Ramsey is a self-proclaimed beer geek and avid home brewer. He has spent countless hours scouring the Internet for information about beer and brewing and isn't afraid to share that knowledge with friends, family and the occasional stranger. As a survivor of hundreds of beer festivals, he can talk to you for hours about beer if you let him, just ask some of the women he has dated. If you ever run into him in the wild he will probably be enjoying some new style of beer while googling everything he can find out about it and trying to formulate a clone recipe for it in his head.

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