Thursday, February 23, 2023

Tasting Notes: Bernie's Dunkel (Munich Dunkel)

I have always run hot and cold with beer names. Originally when brewing was something Jennie and I did together, our brewery had a baseball theme as did all of our beer names. After awhile I ran out of baseball puns and references. Since then I either come up with a great name, or struggle to think of one. 

von Trapp (L) and Bernie's Dunkel (R)

As I drank the first samples, I was reminded of my grandmother's husband Bernie who she married in 2007. Bernie wasn't much of a beer drinker, but he was stationed in Germany while in the army. When he saw our first batch of Double Play Dark he recongized that dark ale as a dunkel. Bernie passed away in 2021. It is fitting this beer honors him.

In the original brew day post, I called the Munich Dunkel I was brewing Shoebert Lager. That name was in honor of a gray seal that visited my hometown of Beverly, Massachusetts. Shoebert swam through a culvert underneath MA Route 62 and ended up in Shoe Pond, hence the name Shoebert. Initially authorities were content to let Shoebert swim and feed in the lower section of Shoe Pond. For several days onlookers gathered at the pond to catch a glimpse of the gray seal. 

When Shoebert made his way to the fresh-water, upper section of the pond wildlife officials attempted to trap and relocate Shoebert back to the ocean. After those attempts were unsuccessful, Shoebert exited Shoe Pond in the middle of the night, waddled all over the driveways and parking lots of the adjacent Cummings Center office park, before eventually making it all the way across the lot to the front lawn of the Beverly Police station.

Shoebert was a local sensation. There have since been Shoebert cookies, a Shoebert children's book, t-shirts, and other novelties. Local brewers even named a collaboration beer "Waddle and Wave". By the time my beer was done, the name felt played out. 

When it came time to make detailed tasting notes and compare with a commercial example, I went to Total Wine with the idea of finding a German example. When I couldn't find one brewed in Germany, I left with a sample pack from von Trapp Brewing that contained their Dunkel Lager. von Trapp is probably my favorite lager brewery, with Notch and Jack's Abby also in the mix. Every time I drink their beer, I tell myself I should drink it more often. 

Below are tasting notes for my beer and the von Trapp. As always with these notes, the notes on my beer will be more detailed. Notes on the commercial beer will be focused on how it compares to my beer. 


  • Bernie's Dunkel: Brown bread, toffee, caramel, hint of chocolate. Clean fermentation and no hop aroma. 
  • von Trapp: Tootsie roll and roasted nut. Slightly richer overall.

  • Bernie's Dunkel: Brown with brilliant clarity. Foamy of white head with good lacing. 
  • von Trapp: A shade lighter in color, better clarity indicating filtration. Head frothier.
  • Bernie's:Rich malt, caramel and toast. Malty, but not sweet. Med-low hop bitterness adds balance. Low herbal hop flavor. Ferm character clean and fairly crisp. Finish slightly dry. 
  • von Trapp: More toasty and less malty. Probably more attenuated. Very similar. 
  • Bernie's: Med-full body with moderate carb. Creamy and rich without being heavy. 
  • von Trapp: Spot on with mine. Maybe a hair lighter-bodied. 
  • Bernie's: A home run! Lighter and more chocolate than recent Twin Barns 1810 Dunkel I tasted recently; that beer was more cola/coffee. I can’t think of anything I’d change. Will enter this in a competition to see what judges say. 
  • von Trapp: Maybe a little crisper, but very similar.

This is a malt-forward style where a vast majority of the grist is Munich Malt. Bernie's is 97.5% Muntons Munich Malt, and 2.5% Chocolate Malt for color and to add a hint of a toasty finish. 

While I don't know the grist of the von Trapp beer, I do know they are a BSG/Weyermann house. The description of the beer talks about Munich Malts with an s. My educated guess is grist is Weyermann Munich 2, Pilsner Malt, up to 5% of some type of CaraMunich, and a maybe a hint of Carafa.

My dunkel only attenuated at 69% and finished at 1.017. It is to style, but at the high end in terms of body and malt flavor. If I wanted the beer to lighten up and attenuate a little more, I could replace a portion of the Munich Malt with some Pilsner.

I did enter this beer in the upcoming Ocean State Homebrew Competition. We will see what the judges say!

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