Sticke Bier is a name broadly given to a special version of top-fermented Dusseldorf-style altbier, generally described as being higher in alcohol and more assertive in character than the traditional version.

The term derives from “stickum,” old Dusseldorf dialect for “gossiping.” In the context of beer, it suggests that the brewer was a bit heavy handed in apportioning the ingredients for a given batch, resulting in a more intense flavor. Legend has it that those in the know would let a select few in on the “secret” that a particular batch was stronger because of the brewer’s “generosity.” In modern times, the assertive character of Sticke is intentional, the result of exacting recipe design.

Although brewers around the world have used the term “Sticke” to describe a more assertive version of altbier, in Germany the name originated with the Zum Uerige pub brewery, located in the Altstadt or “Old City” section of Dusseldorf. A few of the other Dusseldorf breweries make a seasonal strong altbier, each with a unique name. Zum Schlüssel (“The Key”) calls theirs “Stike” (merely dropping the “c” to make the name their own), and another pub brewer, Ferdnand Schumacher, calls their special altbier “Latzenbier,” an apparent reference to the high wooden slats where the rare casks traditionally rested out of view of the less privileged customers.

These special altbiers are notably more assertive in hop character when compared with the traditional altbier and other German styles. Hop bitterness in a typical Sticke can be as high as 60 International Bitterness Units (IBUs) compared with a range of 30–40 IBUs in more conventional altbiers. As in other forms of altbier, the color tends toward dark copper to light brown, and the palate will show fruity notes from a warm fermentation. Alcohol by volume may range from 5.5% to 6.0% compared with a more standard 5.0% in the “everyday” altbiers.

The availability of “Sticke bier” or special altbier is considered a special event. At Zum Uerige, Sticke is available just two times per year, the third Tuesdays in January and October. Zum Schlüssel serves “Stike” on the last Wednesdays of March and October. Schumacher releases latzenbier in mid-September and late November.

See also altbier.