Dortmunder Export

Dortmunder Export: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classic Beer Style

Dortmunder Export, a pale lager with a rich history, hails from Dortmund, Germany, where it was first brewed by Dortmunder Union in 1873. Influenced by the Pilsner lager brewed in Pilsen, Dortmunder Export possesses a soft texture that has earned it a distinguished place among beer enthusiasts. Known for its balance, this lager embodies medium hop character and firm but low malt sweetness, combining the malt-forward flavor of a German-style Helles and the bitter base of a German-style Pilsener.

Dortmunder Export

Over time, Dortmunder Export has matured, giving rise to multiple beer styles within its family. Some popular examples include Ayinger Jahrhundert Bier, DAB Original, Dominion Lager, Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, and Gordon Biersch Golden Export. The brewing process has also evolved, and these beers can exhibit toasted malt flavors and spicy floral hop aromas, making them suitable complements to a range of dishes such as salads, seafood, pork, and spicy ethnic foods.

Key Takeaways

  • Dortmunder Export is a balanced pale lager with origins in Dortmund, Germany, dating back to 1873.
  • Known for its soft texture and medium hop character, it combines qualities from both German-style Helles and Pilsener beers.
  • Popular variants include Ayinger Jahrhundert Bier, DAB Original, and Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, among others.


German Beer Tax Law

Dortmunder Export, also known as Dortmunder, is a pale lager with a soft texture and a history dating back to 1873. It was originally brewed by Dortmunder Union in Dortmund, Germany, a city with a rich brewing tradition. The beer’s characteristics were influenced by the renowned Pilsner lager brewed in Pilsen.

The development of Dortmunder Export can be traced back to the implementation of the German Beer Tax Law in 1872. This law imposed strict regulations on beer production in Germany, leading brewers to innovate and create new styles that adhered to the guidelines. The Dortmunder style emerged as a result of brewers’ attempts to strike a balance between the malt-forward flavor of a Helles and the bitter base of a Pilsener. This delicate combination led to a well-balanced, medium-hopped lager with low to medium malt sweetness.

The Dortmunder style soon gained popularity among 19th-century German industrial workers, who appreciated its distinct flavor. A contributing factor to the beer’s unique taste is the high levels of sulfate in Dortmund’s water, which gave the lager a noticeable sulfur flavor that balanced the bitterness from the hops. Over time, Dortmunder Export became not only an iconic beer for the city but also gained recognition worldwide as a high-quality lager that showcases the best of Germany’s brewing traditions.


In this section, we will discuss the key ingredients of a Dortmunder Export, which include water, malt, and hops.


When brewing a Dortmunder Export, it’s important to have the right water profile. The water used in Dortmunder, Germany is known for its high sulfate levels, which give this beer style its characteristic crisp, clean finish. Adjusting your brewing water to mimic Dortmunder profiles can enhance the overall flavor and authenticity of your beer. Here are some target levels for key water chemistry parameters:

ParameterTarget Level
Calcium100-150 ppm
Sulfate200-300 ppm
Chloride50-100 ppm
Bicarbonate50-100 ppm


The malt bill for a Dortmunder Export typically consists of German Pilsner malt, Vienna malt, and Munich malt. These malts combine to create a clean, slightly bready flavor, with a subtle, biscuit-like sweetness. Here’s a suggested malt bill for a 5-gallon batch:

  • 9 pounds (4.8 kg) of German Pilsner malt: This light-colored malt provides the beer’s base and contributes to its crisp character.
  • 2 pounds (907 g) of Vienna malt: Vienna malt adds a mild, malty sweetness that balances the hop bitterness.
  • 1 pound (454 g) of Munich malt: Munich malt contributes a deeper color and a more pronounced malt character.


The hops used in Dortmunder Export beers should impart a balanced bitterness and a delicate, herbal aroma. The preferred choice for this style is the German Noble hop variety, Hallertau. Here’s a general guideline for hop additions in a 5-gallon batch:

  • 1 ounce (28 g) of Hallertau hops for bittering: Add these hops at the beginning of the boil.
  • 0.5 ounce (14 g) of Hallertau hops for flavor: Add these hops with 15-20 minutes left in the boil.
  • 0.5 ounce (14 g) of Hallertau hops for aroma: Add these hops in the final 5 minutes of the boil or during whirlpooling.

The resulting beer should strike a balance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness, producing a clean, crisp, and refreshing lager perfect for enjoying in a variety of settings.

Beer Styles within Dortmunder Export

Dortmunder Export is a pale lager that originates from Dortmund, Germany. It is known for its balance of malt sweetness, hop character, and soft texture. Within the Dortmunder Export family, there are several related beer styles, including German-Style Helles, German-Style Pilsener, Bohemian Lager, and Vienna Lager. These styles share similarities in their brewing processes, ingredients, and flavor profiles.

German-Style Helles

German-Style Helles is a light-colored lager with a clean and malty sweetness. It typically has a low to moderate hop presence and a gentle bitterness. This beer style emphasizes the malt character, showcasing a medium body and a smooth, rounded finish. Some key aspects of German-Style Helles include:

  • Color: Pale gold to light amber
  • Aroma: Low to moderate maltiness, with a hint of floral or spicy hops
  • Flavor: Mildly sweet, with a clean and crisp aftertaste

German-Style Pilsener

The German-Style Pilsener is another pale lager that offers a more pronounced hop bitterness compared to the German-Style Helles. This beer style focuses on balance, featuring a firm yet low malt sweetness alongside medium hop bitterness. Here are some notable characteristics of the German-Style Pilsener:

  • Color: Straw to light gold
  • Aroma: Moderate to strong hop presence, with spicy or floral notes
  • Flavor: Crisp and slightly bitter, with a dry, refreshing finish

Bohemian Lager

Bohemian Lager, also known as Czech Pilsner, is a pale lager that emphasizes the use of noble hops, providing a distinct spicy and herbal aroma. The beer possesses a more robust malt character than German-Style Pilsener, with a pleasant bitterness and a rich, creamy mouthfeel. Characteristics of the Bohemian Lager include:

  • Color: Light gold to amber
  • Aroma: Spicy and herbal hop notes, with a subtle malt sweetness
  • Flavor: Balanced between malt and hop flavors, with a smooth, lingering finish

Vienna Lager

Vienna Lager is an amber lager with a toasty malt character and a moderate hop bitterness. It is characterized by its rich, caramel-like maltiness and a well-rounded hop profile, featuring both spicy and floral notes. A few attributes of the Vienna Lager are:

  • Color: Amber to reddish-brown
  • Aroma: Toasted malt, with hints of caramel and noble hops
  • Flavor: Prominent malt sweetness, complemented by a gentle hop bitterness and clean finish

Brewing Process


To create a Dortmunder Export, you’ll want to incorporate a straightforward infusion mash while incorporating layers of Munich and Vienna malts for extra richness. The mashing process typically starts by using a ratio of 1.25 to 1.50 liters of water per kilogram of grain. The temperature should be maintained between 145°F (63°C) and 156°F (69°C) during the mash. This is essential to ensure proper enzyme activity for converting starches to fermentable sugars in your mash.

The choice of malts is crucial for a Dortmunder Export, with Pilsner malt being the base for a clean, slightly sweet character. Incorporating Munich and Vienna malts, as mentioned earlier, adds depth and complexity to your brew. Give the mash time to rest for about 60 minutes to obtain optimal starch conversion.


After the mashing process is completed, it’s time to separate the wort from the grains. You can do this by lautering or using a grain bag to lift the grains out of the wort. At this point, it’s essential to collect as much of the sweet wort as possible. To do so, you can either sparge the grain bed with hot water (around 170°F/77°C) or gently rinse the suspended grain bag. Whichever method you choose should result in a clear, golden liquid.

The next step is to boil the wort. A vigorous boil is essential to concentrate the wort, sanitize it, and extract isomerized alpha acids from hops, which will provide the desired bitterness. For a Dortmunder Export, aim for a medium hop character that balances the malt sweetness. Typically, the boil should last around 90 minutes.

During the boil, you’ll want to add hops following a schedule that specifies when to add them to achieve the desired bitterness, flavor, and aroma. For Dortmunder Export, choose noble hops such as German or Czech varieties. These hops are known for their distinctive and somewhat subtle aromas, which complement this beer style. After the wort has boiled and hops have been added according to your schedule, the wort must be cooled rapidly to pitching temperature (ideally between 48°F/9°C and 55°F/13°C) before introducing the yeast.

Dortmunder Export Profile

The Dortmunder Export is a European-style lager with its origins in Dortmund, Germany. This beer delivers a balanced harmony of malt-forward flavor and bitterness, making it an appealing choice for many beer enthusiasts. Below, we break down its characteristics in terms of appearance, aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel.


Dortmunder Export Lager typically has a clear, golden color with a moderate to large, creamy, and long-lasting white head. The clarity of the beer is due to the methodical lagering process, which allows yeast and other particles to settle at the bottom. This results in an attractively transparent and bright appearance.


The aroma of a Dortmunder Export Lager is defined by a delicate blend of Pils malt and noble hop aromas. The malt character presents a subtle sweetness reminiscent of grain or bread, while the noble hops (usually German or Czech) contribute a light, spicy, and floral note. This combination creates a pleasant and inviting fragrance that is neither overpowering nor overly complex.


The flavor profile of a Dortmunder Export Lager is a well-balanced fusion of malt sweetness and hop bitterness. It lies somewhere between a German-style Helles and a Pilsener, showcasing the gentle malt flavors from the former and the crisp bitterness from the latter. The taste reveals toasted malt flavors and spicy floral hop notes but maintains a clean and restrained character that makes it a crisply refreshing beer. The bitterness, measured in International Bitterness Units (IBU), is generally moderate, contributing to the overall balance of the beer’s taste.


In terms of mouthfeel, Dortmunder Export Lagers are generally medium-bodied with a smooth, crisp finish. The carbonation level is moderate, allowing for a pleasant drinkability without feeling too heavy or filling. The clean, balanced nature of the Dortmunder Export Lager ultimately gives it an enjoyable mouthfeel, enhancing the overall drinking experience without covering the delicate flavors found in this beer style.

Notable Brands and Variants

Dortmunder Union is one of the most recognizable brands when it comes to Dortmunder Export, a German-style Lager. The brewery is known for its big “U” landmark in Dortmund. Their signature Dortmunder Export offers a balanced taste with medium hop character and a firm but low malt sweetness.

Ayinger Jahrhundert is another popular Dortmunder Export lager. Brewed by the Ayinger Brewery, this beer features a deep gold color and a balanced mix of malt and hop flavors. It is admired for its refreshing taste and lightness, despite having a higher alcohol content compared to other German lagers.

DAB (Dortmunder Actien Brauerei) is another prominent brand that produces a fine Dortmunder Export lager. Known for its high-quality ingredients and brewing process, DAB Export offers a combination of malt sweetness and hoppy bitterness, resulting in a lager that is both flavorful and easy-drinking.

Gordon Biersch Golden Export is a Dortmunder Export variant produced by the American brewery, Gordon Biersch. Paying homage to the traditional German brewing style, its Golden Export features a balanced flavor profile, with emphasis on the premium malts used in the brewing process.

Lastly, Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold is a highly regarded Dortmunder Export lager produced by the Great Lakes Brewing Company in the United States. It has consistently garnered acclaim for its balanced flavor and smooth drinkability, making it a standout choice for fans of Dortmunder Export lagers.

Dortmunder Export Characteristics

Dortmunder Export is a pale lager that originated in Dortmund, Germany, in 1873. This beer is a blend of German-style Helles and Pilsener, offering a balanced taste profile with both malt-forward flavors and a bitter base.


Dortmunder Export typically has an alcohol by volume (ABV) range of 4.8% to 6%. This moderate ABV contributes to the beer’s overall balance, providing a smooth and medium-bodied texture.


In terms of bitterness, Dortmunder Export has an International Bitterness Units (IBU) range of 23-30. This level of bitterness is in line with the beer’s balanced profile, combining moderate hop character with firm but low malt sweetness.


The original gravity (OG) of Dortmunder Export is moderately high, given its balanced flavor and medium body. OG levels for this style are expected to be in the range of 1.048 to 1.056. This higher OG is indicative of the presence of sufficient fermentable sugars, resulting in a malt-forward beer balanced by hop bitterness.


Final gravity (FG) for Dortmunder Export is typically within the range of 1.010 to 1.015. This relatively low FG is characteristic of the beer’s clean and crisp finish, with a dry and balanced aftertaste.

Frequently Asked Questions

What sets Dortmunder Export apart from other beer styles?

Dortmunder Export is a European lager that strikes a balance between the malt-forward flavor and sweetness of a German-style Helles and the bitter base of a German-style Pilsener. The lager is characterized by its medium hop character, firm but low malt sweetness, toasted malt flavors, and spicy floral hop aromas.

Where can I purchase Dortmunder Export?

You can find Dortmunder Export at various beer retailers, specialty stores, and some bars or pubs. Online options like Total Wine & More also offer a selection of Dortmunder Export Lager for purchase.

How does Dortmunder Export compare to Helles Bock?

While both Dortmunder Export and Helles Bock are German lagers, they differ in their flavor profiles. Dortmunder Export is a balanced beer with medium hop character and firm but low malt sweetness, whereas Helles Bock is a maltier beer with a sweeter taste and less hop bitterness.

What type of glass is best for serving Dortmunder beer?

A Pilsner or Shaker Pint glass is ideal for serving Dortmunder Export lager. These glasses maintain the beer’s flavor, carbonation, and head while displaying its delicate color and clarity.

How does Great Lakes Dortmunder compare with German exports?

Great Lakes Dortmunder is a well-regarded American interpretation of the traditional German Dortmunder Export style. While the flavor profile and brewing techniques may differ slightly between the two, Great Lakes Dortmunder maintains the defining characteristics of the style: balance, smoothness, and subtle hop character.

What is the flavor profile of Dortmunder Export?

Dortmunder Export exhibits a toasted malt flavor, with medium hop character and firm but low malt sweetness. It is known for its balance and smoothness, and commonly displays a spicy floral hop aroma that complements the overall taste.

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