“Three Cities, Three Styles” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.
We are firm believers in beer needing to be tried in context of its culture. “Three Cities, Three Styles” was born out of this belief. We visited three German cities, Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Cologne, that each has it’s own unique style of beer. Over three days, we got to experience each beer style in the place of its birth. That is something special.
So enjoy our latest German adventures…
For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.
After spending two days in Düsseldorf, I am somewhat embarrassed that this was our first visit to the home of Altbier. From the moment we entered our first brewery, we realized that this city’s beer culture was something special.
After a short train ride from Dortmund, we deposited our bags in the hotel room and were off to Düsseldorf’s Altstadt to find some Altbier. There are three breweries in the Altstadt. A fourth, Brauerei Schumacher, is just outside the city’s old quarter. It was our first stop, as it was on the way to the Altstadt from our hotel.
We walked into the entrance and were immediately greeted by the sight of the bartender pouring the amber-colored Alt from a wooden barrel. ‘Alt’ simply means ‘old’ in German and the name is a reference to the brew predating the development of bottom fermenting beers. However, an Altbier is lagered.
After investigating the series of rooms that makes up the Schumacher dining room, we discovered a beer garden in the back that butts up against the brewery. The sun shined warm. It was the first really nice day of our trip, so the beer garden was the place for us. The waiter promptly brought us the first of many Alts we would drink during the day. The Altbier delivery system is very similar to that of Kölsch in Köln. Waiters cruise around with trays of Altbier replacing empties with full glasses of beer and keeping tally by ticking a beer mat.
As we watched the brewery workers go about their daily routine, we tasted the beer that made Düsseldorf famous. Schumacher’s Alt was clean and crisp, something I expect from all German beer. It was topped by a really nice hop bite.
After lunch and a few Alts at Schumacher, it was off the the Altstadt, the bustling core of Düsseldorf. We quickly found Uerige, a brewery a stone’s throw from the Rhein.
Uerige, like Schumacher, did a good business for a Tuesday afternoon and we joined the crowd of beer drinkers on the sidewalk. With all the tables outside filled, we found a space in one of the window sills. Halfway through our first Uerige Alt, we realized they also had a series of tables across the cobbled lane, but decided we were happy with our sill.
Do all the Altbiers taste the same in Düsseldorf? The quick answer is no, with Uerige being sweeter and hoppier than the first Alt we tasted at Schumacher. A German gentleman with whom we struck up a conversation, suggested that you can’t drink the other Düsseldorf Alts after Uerige. Uerige’s aggressively-hopped version makes everything else taste very weak.
We needed a short break from the Altbier, so we walked down to the Rhein for a stroll. Plus, we needed to record the introduction to the One Pint at a Time episode. I thought the Rhein would be the perfect backdrop for our first episode outside of Bavaria.
The walk along the Rhein was nice and a pleasant breeze took a bit of the edge off the warm day. I had visions of stopping at one of the multitude of restaurants to enjoy a beer and the view. But the pathway along the Rhein was not a beer drinkers paradise. We passed one Caribbean-themed restaurant after another. The German tourists loved it.
Introduction filmed and sightseeing completed, we hiked back up into the Altstadt to find our third Altbier brewery, Brauerei im Füchschen. Their Altbier was much more like Schumacher in flavor, just not as hoppy.
Seemingly the smallest of the four breweries, they also seemed to have the largest number of ‘locals’ enjoying a few Altbiers in the afternoon. As we drank our Füchschen Altbier, we listened to a group of friends talk amongst themselves, as well as to passers by. Judging by the level of laughter and banter, it appeared to be lots kind-hearted ribbing amongst friends.
By now, it was late afternoon. We had been drinking Altbier for five hours but we still had one more brewery to go, Hausbrauerei zum Schlüssel.
Sitting outside at Schlüssel, we saw two guys that we had seen at all the other breweries that day, except Uerige. They were obviously, like us, on a beer tour and also Americans. Merideth talked to them and these two guys, former brewers at a New England brewery, joined us for what turned out to be a long, fun-filled evening.
We spent five hours at Schlüssel and chatted with some older Germans who sat next to us. I jokingly tried so switch our ever increasing tick-marked mat with my elder German friend’s. With only a couple of marks on his mat, he wasn’t too interested in switching.
Half way through the evening, we were joined by a group of Slovaks. One of them spoke English, so he interpreted for the rest of the group. They were curious about our careers in America and travels. They were a worldly lot of Slovaks and told us about some of their own adventures. Even a huge thunderstorm and downpour couldn’t deter the fun of the night, though it did shut down beer delivery for a short, but excruciating amount of time.
At the beginning of the day, Merideth and I did our normal solo beer touring. But by the end of the evening, we were in an international group of beer tourists. Funny how that always seems to happen in beer travel. It certainly makes the new experiences seem like alt times.
This will be our ninth visit to Germany, which ties it with Ireland as the country we most frequently visit. The beer, food, scenery and German people keep us returning to our favorite country for beer travel.
But this trip is extra special. We are going over for our friend Wolfgang’s 50th birthday party. We’ll join the horde of his friends descending on Mannheim the last weekend in July for fun, merriment and punk show.
Prior to Wolfgang’s birthday party weekend, we are stopping in Munich and embarking on a “City with a Beer Style” tour. We will visit three German cities: Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Cologne. Each has it’s own unique style of beer.
We are using our short time in the much beloved city of Munich to get our European legs, visit a few biergartens, see friends, and of course drink some liters.
While in Munich we’ll make another pilgrimage to Kloster Andechs. The trek was something we used to fit in to our schedule every time in Munich, but on our last few visits we haven’t had the time. The walk, beer, food, and atmosphere all make Kloster Andechs one our favorite breweries.
After getting adjusted to being back in Europe, we head north for some new beer adventures.
Our first new city will be Dortmund. There we’ll search for Dortmunder, which is a native beer style, not a city resident. Back in the day, this beer was popular with the region’s coal miners and steel workers. Think of Dortmunder as a cross between a Helles and a Pilsner.
Unfortunately, over the last decades, the style has suffered the ill effects of brewery mergers. The two major breweries in Dortmund, DAB and DUB, have gobbled up the smaller competitors. The style that put Dormund on the beer map is now only a small portion of their production. Today, a few private breweries are trying to revive this brew and restore it to it’s past glory.
From Dortmund, we travel down the road to Düsseldorf, the home of the top fermented Altbier. Alt means ‘old’ and the name is simply a reference to the fact that the brew predates bottom fermenting beers.
Unlike it’s neighbor in Dortmund, Altbier is thriving in Düsseldorf, with breweries in the Altstadt serving the copper-colored brew from wooden barrels.
Our last stop on the ‘German Cities with a Beer Style’ tour is Cologne, the home of Kölsch. Another top fermenting brew, the golden-hued Kölsch may be the ultimate session beer. It certainly makes for a enjoyable afternoon with friends.
The waiters buzz around with their trays, called a Kranz, filled with 7 ounce glasses, called a Stange, of Kölsch. They dispense the brew with amazing speed. Once a Stange is empty they drop off a new beer, adding a tick mark to the beer mat. The beer deliveries stop and the ritual comes to an end when the mat is placed on top of the glass. Our last time at Früh am Dom, one of Cologne’s main Kölsch bars, six of us finished with 40 tick marks on our mat.
After Cologne, we are off to Mannheim for three days of revelry celebrating Wolfie’s 50th birthday. Interspersed with the beer drinking, there will be a couple of brewery visits.
The culmination of our trip is a punk show headlined by The Dreadnoughts, an Irish punk band from Vancouver, BC. A good time is sure to be had by all.
We hope to add a dozen new breweries to the list, which will put us within sight of reaching 500 by the end of the year.