Kalispell Brewing Company
Story and photography by Lido VizzuttiThere is a bit of magic that happens on a winter night with the calmness of a landscape enveloped in a blanket of snow, when the moon is full and the air is clear and the lunar light reflects between ice crystals illuminating the panorama. At the darkest time of the night it appears to be the middle of the day, cast in a humble blue and a stillness of winter.
Kalispell Brewing Co.’s Winter at Noon Dunkel lives in this dichotomy of definition. It’s robust yet subtle, it has a sweetness but it’s not sweet, and it’s almost toasty, kind of. If it’s one thing, it’s a true Dunkel, and it’s good.
“It’s not something you necessarily see a lot of in the United States,” said Cole Schneider, owner and head brewer. “It is very malty, not very hoppy but not sweet. It’s a fairly dry beer actually with hints of biscuit, maybe, in there at best. I sometimes feel like I’m grasping at straws when I try to describe it outside the term malty.”
That’s what this beer does. It sits in that balance of drinkable, subtle, rich and complex. It bellows with the flavor of Munich malts and it has that distinct – and necessary – tanginess of melanoidins. It has a lot of residual body so you get good mouth feel.
Dunkel in German literally means dark, and the name for this brew derived from a slip of the tongue on the darkest day of the year. While discussing the height of the sun at noon on the winter solstice, Schneider’s father, Bruce, twisted the words and said “winter at noon.”
“So we decided to name the beer in part to honor him,” said Schneider. “He was a very large impetus for us starting the brewery and helped us get going. So we thought somewhere we ought to show that appreciation.”
Dunkel is a German-style lager and the first beer to be regulated by the Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1516, making it Germany’s first standardized lager beer style.
To get that melanoidin byproduct, a true hallmark of classic German-style, Schneider uses a triple decoction method. This adds long hours to his day but the extra work is worth the time.
This past October, Schneider won two gold medals from the 2015 Montana Brewers Fall Festival in Missoula, one for his pilsner and the other for the dunkel.
“Obviously we take a lot of pride in our lagers here,” said Schneider. “It’s something we spend a lot of effort on and put a lot of heart into.”
Using style-specific glassware, the dunkel is served in dimpled stein.