Ever have in mind a beer that, to you, is the archetype for what that style* of beer should be? When it came to Dunkels, for me the benchmark was always König Ludwig Dunkel from Schloßbrauerei Kaltenberg, a brewery run by Prince Luitpold of Bavaria in his castle (apparently to pay the bills). I first encountered König Ludwig Dunkel about eight or nine years ago in my wife's home town. It was nice, sitting in the market place sinking back half litre mugs of the refreshing stuff, and it stuck in my head since. So too did the fact that the Prince has been refused access to the Oktoberfest on account of the brewery being outside of Munich, and despite the royal origins of the fest. What did they do instead? They run a Knight's Tournament. I bet they weren't drinking pints of Ritterbock before doing that though!
From the bottle, König Ludwig Dunkel is a clear, deep reddish brown with a lively head that looks the part. The aroma is redolent of dried fruits and caramelised sugars. Up front, it delivers a sweet, malt-driven hit with a woody tone in the background and finishing with a gentle roasty kick. There's a slight peppery edge, but it doesn't linger. The finish is dry, attesting to its apparently high attenuation, so it's definitely not as sweet as many German Dunkels can be. Nevertheless, it does leave a pleasantly sweet residue under the grassy dryness. To be honest, it's not as good as I recalled (a bit like Highlander and Mysterious Cities of Gold), but it is still moreish, and for that, I like it. Probably better from the tap while sitting in the sun. I shall try again next month.
*sorry, I hate using that word.