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Kelsey drinks beer: Gran Dunkel
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Oconee Brewing Co.'s Grandunkel - photo by Austin Steele

I was 16 when I tried my first beer.

Just for clarification, I lived for a short time as an exchange student in Braunschweig, Germany, so it was legal.

While I can’t recall the brew’s style, it quickly opened my eyes to the wonders of German beer. I guess you could say I became spoiled at an early age.

While I adore the talent and creativity of American brewers, German beer will always hold a special place in my heart.

I don’t know if it’s the noble hops, the centuries of heritage or the fact that every time I drink German beer, I’m instantly transported back to my brötchen- and cycling-filled days in Braunschweig.

When I took a sip of Oconee Brewing Co.’s Gran Dunkel beer, I couldn’t help but smile.

The Greensboro-based brewery crafted a Dunkelweizen smoother than Barry White’s greatest hits.

Gran Dunkel

Brewery: Oconee Brewing Co.

Alcohol by volume: 5.1 percent

International Bitterness Units: 13

Style: Dunkelweizen

Bottom line: Ridiculously smooth and scrumptious – I’m obsessed.

Taylor Lamm, Oconee Brewing Co.’s brewmaster and co-founder, said he aimed to present a brew that was both light and new for most craft beer drinkers.

“There weren’t many breweries doing this style around here,” Lamm said. “I thought this would be a good opportunity to produce something not oversaturated.”

A Dunkelweizen is often described as a cross between a Dunkel, which means “dark” in German, and a Hefeweizen. Lamm used a Hefeweizen strain of yeast and brewed the beer with dark grains.

All of this results in a dark brown, malty, slightly chocolatey work of art.

Unlike other dark beers, like porters and stouts, the Dunkelweizen has a light mouthfeel and proves easy drinking.

The beer doesn’t taste overly sweet, and offers a delightful aftertaste similar to red velvet cake.

It comes at no surprise that Lamm spent two months brewing beer in Munich as a part of his studies at the World Brewing Academy.

“During my time in Munich I kind of discovered the style of beer and got hooked on them,” Lamm said. “Fast-forward several years and this became one of our first four beers.”

He said many of his customers at the brewery arrive with the notion they don’t like dark beer. They automatically write it off as a Guinness-type brew or assume it’s only suitable for the winter months.

“It’s not heavy at all,” Lamm said. “Folks will sip it and say, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ Dunkelweizen is a unique beer that is light enough to be enjoyed year-round.”

I honestly can’t get enough of this beer. I’m already making plans to stock up on Gran Dunkel for Oktoberfest.

Its sweet and smooth nature make it the ideal gateway brew. Even if you don’t like beer, I encourage you to give this one a shot.

For more information about Oconee Brewing Company visit its website. People can visit the brewery at 202 N. West St. in Greensboro, which is about halfway between Atlanta and Augusta. Hours of operation are from 4-8 p.m. Thursday-Friday and from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday.