Stories | Mad Scientists

Mad Scientists Series #3: Big Sticke Double Alt

Published On
May 31, 2011

Mad scientists have got a bad image: grey and frizzy-haired from one too many shocks, frail-limbed and frenetic-eyed all the time. So those at Sixpoint decided to build a beer that would erase the Christopher Lloyd look with the first sip. This beer would be bold, big and brawny — yet balanced with just the right touch of bitter hops. It would be potent enough to drown in paler beers, but not too heavy to gulp straight. The ultimate brew to match this determination is called the Big Sticke.

In contrast to the widely available German beers (Helles, Bocks, Weiss beers) and their staggering number of American counterparts, a Big Sticke is hard to find. To be sure, a sticke is a particularly big, high-gravity alt beer, traditional to Germany. Alt literally means old or old-fashioned in style, suggesting its being succeeded by more commonly brewed styles of today. With a warm, top-fermenting yeast, it predates the lager’s reign.

The Mad Scientists at Sixpoint traveled to Germany earlier this year, visiting Dusseldorff, Munich, and small breweries in the Rhineland where alt is still made. While tapping into this archaic wisdom, the beginnings of a double alt was already fermenting at home. Seeking a true-to-style brew in the manner of Sticke, they had pitched a Dusseldorff ale yeast into an extra-strong wort made with all German malt.

“Staying traditional with all German malt and hops was the goal,” wrote Headbrewer Ian McConnell, in his travel notes. “Brewing a beer to a style that you’ve never tried before is always a huge challenge.”

Upon return to Brooklyn — now more than two weeks after pitching the yeast — the fermentation was not yet complete. But according to the brewers, the German yeast “plugged along” and continued to ferment without any extra help at a slow and steady rate, until it was “where it needed to be.” The next surprise came during keg conditioning: the Big Sticke clarified at an exceedingly fast rate. “It ended up being crystal clear after only a week of keg conditioning,” McConnell further observed.

There are few beers made in the States to compare the Big Sticke with. Deep, tawney, dark amber in color, it has aromas of fresh tropical fruit, tobacco, honey, and herbs. Malt-forward at first with the sweet tang you’d expect from a big alt beer, with a nice bite of European flavor hops. Deep, complex, balanced and slightly boozy, with 8.2% ABV.

“We wanted to bring to the table something you can’t easily find,” concluded McConnell. Thus, the first true-to-style beer from the Mad Scientists Series, the Big Sticke Double Alt, was born.

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