Just around the corner from the historical district of New Braunsfeld, there is a four-story hotel called the Faust.  Below the four stories of vintage-decor rooms is a brewpub that fills up every night with locals looking for a good place to unwind and have a pint or two.  Among their taps of imported German, domestic craft, and the usual suspects, there are a few that are brewed on-premises by brewmaster Ray Mitteldorf.  One of the styles he is brewing in the “Character Series” is called Altered States, the tap handle showing a fiendish devil staring you down.  However, if you look closely and take the hints from the cryptic styling, flipping the portrait of Old Scratch makes the image appear as a kindly German Opa with a big curled mustache.  That’s a good thing to keep in mind with this beer; it all depends on the angle at which you look.

The Altbier style is an interesting one because it developed in a place that was not effected by the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot of 1516, so in the cooler Rhineland they were able to experiment with storing fermented beers in cool places over long periods. Thus, the Altbier or “Old Beer” was born.  It is generally characterized by a dark brown or amber coloring with a lager-style dryness and a bit of a fruity characteristic to it.
With a recommendation at my request of something “interesting”, the bartender poured out a pint of this interesting brew.  It had a healthy white, soft head that left a good level of lacing.  The color wasn’t exactly black, but it sure wasn’t light.  It was a very super-dark brown, still fairly clear upon inspection.  Something that surprised me a bit was the viscosity to it.  It wasn’t super thick like a stout or syrupy like some Belgian old ales.  It truly did seem like a much darker lager, not thickened out by too much.  I gave it a good smell, and boy I was taken aback.  This beer has quite a good aroma to it, very malty and enticing.  I got a good sweet, almost on the verge of a toffee note, and a touch of a fruity yeast.  I must admit, this beer was lining up to have a bit of a unique palate to it.
The first taste was very malt-forward, but not in the way I anticipated it.  Sure, there was a strong portion of the sweet brown sugar toffee malt, but the overall characteristic of it was extremely refreshing and crisp, just as crisp as a beer a mile down in shades of color.  There was a bit of a hop characteristic to it, a great balance.  It provided that little hoppy bitter that we have all come to love.  Upon deeper tastes, I noticed some good stone fruit and bready yeast coming out in the after tastes.  I finished my pint in short order, simply from the excitement of going in and enjoying this unique blend.
Microbrews and Brewpubs are always a terrific place to try a thoughtful individual’s take on a style.  Whether it is a strict way to perfecting a centuries old recipe or a unique brew incorporating ground-breaking flavors, it’s always great to be this close to where “the magic happens”.  There’s something to be said about being right in the thick of it, and the Faust is a great place to enjoy that feeling and one heck of a great Altbier.