Matt Cottom reviews Erdinger Dunkel
Privatbrauerei Erdinger Weißbräu Werner Brombach GmbH
Erdinger. That oh-so-prominent producer of wheat beer (or Weißbier) for the good people of the EU also have quite an extensive range of brews alongside their standard offering. I got my hands on one of the range to give it the once over in the name of journalistic science. Naturally.
Dunkel is simply a German word meaning ‘dark’ and in that sense, this beer most certainly does not disappoint. I poured myself a half pint from the generous half litre bottle and peered into the glass. It was just like looking into a cave in the middle of the night, with a blindfold on. Erdinger Dunkel is a thick, viscous dark chocolaty coloured beer, which seems to swallow up light and make the room a little darker like some kind of mini black hole. The head is a grubby, yellow stained colour reminiscent of the tar stained fingers of a chain smoker, but it is thick and plentiful and protects the liquid with its life.
With a degree of trepidation, I eased my smelling appendage into the top of the glass and inhaled fully. The first and outstanding aroma is of cocoa powder and bitter, dark chocolate. This is to be expected, perhaps, for a beer of this type. In amongst the cocoa I also got little hints of banana and oddly, soda water or carbon dioxide. The overall smell is like being in a Bavarian Chocolate Haus. Only it is actually more like being just outside of one and a little down the road, because the aromas are a little vague if I’m honest. The polite conversationalist in me would say that it’s subtle, but the cynic in me would call it a bit of an anti-climax. I think I am used to wheat beer packing more of a punch.
Now, onto the business end of the review. I took a few sips and found the initial taste remarkably light. Again, my preconceptions of dark beers lead me to assume this would be more of an intense experience. I likened the mouth-feel to Young’s Double Chocolate Stout only perhaps a little more fluffy, but there was more of sharpness and a tang to the finish which I found appealing. The Dunkel displays a surprising level of subtlety throughout and is borderline refreshing, though it is by no means the smoothest wheat beer I have tried. I noted that there was another characteristic which I couldn’t fully put my finger on, but that was somehow similar to the taste of Diet Coke, almost chemically with a muzzle on the sweetness. The 5.6% gravity is hidden well, which would be a dangerous thing were it not heavy going when drinking a lot of it. I found myself struggling to even finish one bottle as it tended to produce a peculiar astringency which grows in your throat like a mould after more than half a pint. A smaller bottle would be more appropriate, but then where is the fun in that?
The adjunct flavours – usually so bold in wheat beers – were subdued and difficult to decipher. Also, I know this is a dark beer by nature but I was actually a little bit put off by the murky, muggy brown, almost black consistency. It was less a rich colour and more a cold lifeless shade. Overall, the Dunkel is obviously a high quality beer made to an immaculate German specification. That is the least you should expect from such a reputable brewer. However I can’t help but feel it is a little tiny bit bland for a beer of its type.