However beloved this beer was at one time, a German book on top-fermenting beers (Schönfeld) in 1938 makes no mention of erntebier, so we can assume it had pretty much vanished by that time. Or at least the name had.
Modern-day interpretations of erntebier have popped up in several places in Germany, but interesting as this trend is, the beers have little to do with the historical style described by Professor Delbrück. In Franconia, northern Bavaria, Braugasthof Grosch brews a light version at 3.3 percent alcohol by volume. The Alte Klosterbrauerei of Vierzehnheilegen (also in Franconia) makes a “three-grain” pale lager of similar weight; Schlössbrauerei Maxlrainer in southeast Bavaria brews an even lighter one at 2.3 percent ABV. Surely these weak beers are nobody’s muse. Vogel, in Karlsruhe, in Baden-Württemberg brews a 5.3 percent golden lager under the erntebier name.
So, with no help from the modern erntebier brewers, we’re left with having to make an informed guess as far as a 19th century recipe goes. In general, dark beers of old tended to use a larger amount of colored malt rather than all pale (or pils) malt, tinted by a small amount of very dark malt.
Personally, I find that the old way gives a fuller, more complex flavor and aroma, so we’ll be using a good deal of Munich malt. We will also be using a small amount of German röstmalz, a very smooth type of chocolate malt, just to give it a slight roasty kick. Hops in the 19th century would have been the traditional sort, so let’s employ the soft, smooth bitterness of Hallertau Hersbrucker hops.