Our stop in Dresden really didn’t have much to do with beer. For years, I have been fascinated by the city and its resurrection from the fire-bombing by Allied planes February 1945. It is estimated that 25,000 civilians died in the raids and subsequent firestorm.

A view of the Dresden’s Altstadt from across the Elbe River.

My recent interest stemmed from our first visit to Munich in 2001. We were at our very first dinner in Germany and Merideth and I were struggling with the Bavarian dialect menu. Nothing seemed to be in our Germany dictionary.

There was an elderly couple sitting close to us. After about 10 minutes of looking at the menu then looking at the dictionary then looking back at the menu, the man finally asked in perfect English, “Can we help with the menu?” We gladly accepted and he and his wife spent the next few minutes translating the menu for us item by item.

In subsequent conversation, we learned that he was a Dresdener and that he was in the firebombing. Having a degree in History and an interest in the Second World War, it was very special to get to talk to this elderly man.

Nine years later, we finally made Dresden part of our Germany itinerary.

The Frauenkirche in Dresden’s Altstadt

A symbol of Dresden’s resurrection is the 18th century Frauenkirche. It seemingly survived the raids only to  collapse into a heap of rubble the last day. It remained a heap of rubble for almost 50 years. Reconstruction began in 1993 and was finally completed in the 2000. Using the original plans, the church was rebuilt with the existing stones where possible.

Our hotel was across from the Frauenkirche. Arriving late afternoon, we quickly checked in and then headed out to walk the Altstadt’s cobbled streets. It was one of the most beautiful we had ever seen in Germany. From the impressive buildings to the blindingly gold statues, we wandered around in awe.

The Frauenkirche rose impressively out of the central square. The checkerboard pattern of new and salvaged stones had us pondering how did the builders know where to put them.

Enjoying an Augustiner Edelstoff aus dem Holzfass in Dresden

Merideth and I were quite parched from the walk around the Altstadt in the hot and humid weather. Located the the opposite side of the Frauenkirche from our hotel was Augustiner an der Frauenkirche. Normally, we wouldn’t be drinking Munich beer in Dresden but we learned from our friend Paul that they poured a beer from the barrel. That’s too good an opportunity to pass up.

While Merideth ordered her cherished Helles, I went with Edelstoff aus dem Holzfass. An “Export” lager, the Edelstoff was a bit warm from being out in the heat. The temperature gave it a ‘real ale meets lager’ mouth feel, but the brew was still crisp and refreshing. The next day, I was fortunate enough to have another one. This time from a freshly tapped keg. The beer’s temperature was much more what I would expect from a German lager. Both were excellent, but the colder version paired better with the hot and humid weather.

There are several breweries in Dresden. We needed to cross to the opposite bank of the Elbe River to seek out the first. Looking at my printed out map, I was unsure of whether we could walk there in a timely manner, but we set out on foot anyways. After about twenty minutes of walking, it looked like we were barely halfway there. Reaching a tram stop, we climbed on the next tram headed in our direction. We were dropped off right in front of Brauhaus am Waldschlössen.

Germany’s first shareholder brewery

The history of the Waldschlössen (little forest manor) dates back to 1790 with brewing commencing in the 1830s. The current brewery reopened in 1997. Quite an impressive building, Brauhaus am Waldschlössen sat on top of a hill with Dresden’s largest beer garden overlooking the Elbe River Valley.

The heat of the day was finally breaking and the evening turned quite pleasant. Merideth and I grabbed an unshaded table on the edge of the beer garden.

Waldschlössen’s Zwickelbier and Hefeweizen

Merideth was in luck as Monday was Hax’ntag. For less than 9 Euro, Merideth got  a pretty good sized pork knuckle which also included a half liter beer. She paired her Haxe with the Hefeweizen. My beer choice was the excellent Zwickelbier which I paired with a two 75 Euro cent pickles.

We enjoyed the view of the river and the distant Dresden skyline as we devoured our haxe and pickles and drank our beers. Another day, another beer garden, another great memory from Germany.

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