Monday, 30 May 2011


My image of this town was of a fairly unattractive industrial city, but it's not really like that. The Altstadt, although much of it is far from alt, reminded me a tiny bit of Amsterdam without the canals, and you can meander from bar to bar without walking more than a few yards at a time. The "big four" were top of my list though.
First up was Schlüssel...

Inside it's the usual maze of different rooms. The beer tasted better than I remembered it in the bottle.

Uerige is maybe the most well known...

Their dopplesticke which I once found on Bierkompass was one of the best beers I've ever tasted, but their standard Alt I didn't find to be as good as the other three when I tried them in bottles. Here it was the same. Nice place inside though.

The river front's had a lot of work done, lots of bars and cafes with much greenery on the opposite bank.

Observing what people were drinking, both Pils and Weiss tended to be more numerous than the dark Alts that the town is famous for.
You can't escape the rivalry even when choosing mustard...

Füchsen was one of my favourites in bottles...

And it was my favourite from the barrel as well. Well done that fox. Inside, the rooms have a more modern feeling than the others.

Schumacher had to wait till 10am the next morning. It's not in the central Altstadt unlike the others.

Nutty, chewy even...

Thus concluded my pilgrimage. As you probably heard, the world did not end. How much that was due to my pilgrimage we'll probably never know, but either way I did not receive a hero's welcome when I arrived back in Munich. Instead, the air conditioning didn't work on the leg from Stuttgart, so I had to drink warm Weissbier.

Saturday, 28 May 2011


The Rhine has deposited me on the shores of its most famous son...

Apparently there's some Cathedral or other here...

But that's not what I'm here for: I'm on a beer pilgrimage to save the world. Peter's Brauhaus looked like a promising place to start...

These fellas are called "Kobes", or "Jacks", and keep your glass efficiently replenished with handy circular beer containers...

It's the style here to drink out of 20cl glasses. Luckily you're never waiting long to get your next round though.

The beer unfortunately didn't have much to recommend it. The top fermenting yeast was missing in action, having been cold fermented and lagered out of the building. Peter: remember your yeast's heritage.

Gaffel is one I like from the bottle, so it's time to check it out on home territory...

Like many of the big Bamberg brewpubs, there's a vast choice of rooms, each serving a different purpose: standing, sitting, eating, drinking, inside, outside, up, down, flying around.
Keep them coming Jack.

The beer here is much more how a Kolsch should be, with big fruity flavours.

Last stop before moving on to Dusseldorf was Fruh...

This place is like a rabbit warren inside; you could set an Agatha Christie in there. At 10am it's going strong already. I really like the lack of self-righteous puritanism in Germany that Britain is afflicted with. You can be having a beer any time of the morning and nobody would dream of batting an eyelid.

I think Bavaria is the only part of Germany where they don't count how many beers you've had by putting marks on your beer mat; at least I've yet to see it there, but it's done throughout northern Germany as far as I can tell. Fruh is another decent one; if I lived here I would definitely get out to the pubs much more than I do in Munich.

Friday, 27 May 2011


My pilgrimage to the homes of Kolsch and Alt to save the world marches on. Rüdesheim is the blob of houses on the left...

It's the starting point for Rhine river cruises, and has a cable car thingy to get some views.
If there's ever a town which would turn you into a wine drinker it's this one: most bars' beer offering consists of only Warsteiner and Bitburger, two of the foulest beers in Germany, and the local apple wine goes down great.
I did however stumble upon this Irish pub for beer relief...

These are often named something pitifully unimaginative and cliched, so I suppose "Hajo's" is at least original. Seeing as we are on the Rhine, we are now just within the fiefdom of Kolsch and Alt, and this place stocked one of each.

I think it was Gaffels although I can't be sure... I hoped it would be better when I reached Cologne.
I've had enough Alts now to know that they vary enourmously in quality: the lesser ones can be too sweet or too carbonated and taste a bit Cola-ish. The Frankenheimer Alt didn't suffer too badly from either of those but wasn't particularly inspiring.

The pilgrimage then moved onward by boat...

Thursday, 26 May 2011


When I heard that the world was going to end, naturally I was as alarmed as everyone else. Clearly what was called for was a pilgrimage - not to Santiago, although it's well worth going to, but instead a beer pilgrimage to Dusseldorf and Cologne. If it helps to avert the end of the world then great, but otherwise I would at least have had a chance to try Alt and Kolsch in their home towns before being "raptured", assuming I was invited.
Luckily to get to those towns from Munich you pass through Franconia. Aschaffenburg is a distant outpost though, apparently more culturally attuned to other towns on the Main rather than the rest of Franconia.

A museum in this castle relates the town's history: apparently it used to belong to the Archbishop of Mainz, although who he bought it from it doesn't say.

These fellas were clearly having a great time, you can tell from the expression on their faces, especially the geezer in blue.

Afterwards they probably retired to Schlappe-Seppel, which is the famous brewpub in this town. It has quite a celebrated history and has been around for yonks.

This is a genuine down to earth boozer, where all walks of life come to neck the beers. A year back you probably wouldn't have been able to see for the fag smoke.

They have a choice of filtered and unfiltered, and a Pils which curiously only comes in a bottle. Here's the unfiltered...

To be honest it wasn't anything at all special by Franconian standards, but I didn't tell the waitress that because of her muscles and tattoos.

Dilemma: I once tried Weihenstephan's Helles, because apparently it's the oldest brewery in the world. This immediately begged the question, "Why the fuckity fuck in all that time haven't you learnt how to brew an interesting beer?". It really did sum up what makes so much Munich beer tedious. So when I was faced with the choice of either one of those or some of the local apple wine, which did I choose?

No contest really. The apple wine reminded me of my time living in Frankfurt a decade ago.

I just don't think a beer calling itself "black" can be done under the 'Gebot - you need something roasted in there. This was decent enough though and made a good accompaniment to a late night Currywurst.

Good night Aschaffenburg.


Kölsch is a wicked drink for when the weather is scorching hot. You can drink it super cold and it has the crispness of lager, but still a bit of fruity flavour if it's done right. The only one that's reasonably widely available in Munich is the fairly bland Reissdorf, though in Bio-shops you can sometimes get the splendid Hellers.

Gilden was unfortunately as bland and boring as Reissdorf. In the words of Rik Mayall before he was hard up enough to do unfunny adverts, "I might as well be listening to Genesis". The initial taste of Gaffel made me think it might be the same, but then the meaty aftertaste comes along and bites you in the nicest possible way. A world apart from the Gilden - same beer style, same price, same appearance, same ABV (why oh why are all Kölschs 4.8%???) but one pisses on the other: Caveat Drinkor. The Kuppers was somewhere between the two.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


"Zoigl" beers are my latest attempt to make headway in the confusing myriad of Bavarian unfiltered lagers.

From what I can gather, a "Zoigl" was a sign a brewer would put on their door indicating there was beer available inside - that's the two stars of David you can see on the Alt-Reuther one. These historically would be small communal brewhouses in the Oberpfalz area. Nowadays I imagine it's nothing more than one of the many variations on Kellerbier - there wasn't anything in particular which made these two stand out from the other unfiltered lagers I've been churning through, except that the Wurth was darker (but not as dark as a Munich dunkel). Of the two the Alt-Reuther had more depth.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Soester Hell

What would you do if your doorbell rang, you opened the door, and there was a large beer standing there?
It would probably depend on which beer it was. If it was a Paulaner, you would maybe smile uncomfortably, say "not today thanks", and politely but firmly close the door. If it was John Smiths Extra Smooth, you would scream "get out of my street you sick FREAK", slam the door in its face, and send out an instant Paedo Alert with the local neighbourhood watch scheme. If however it was a Trappist Rochefort or a St Bernadus, you would invite it in, make it a cup of tea, give it some digestives, and listen earnestly while it advised you on your "salvation". You would then perform whatever initiation rites were required to join its particular splinter group of the moonies or whoever.
These thoughts were set in motion by the picture on the front of  "Soester Hell".

Check out the wicked "Wilde Rose Keller" mug that I got from Bamberg.
The fact that "Hell" means light can give rise to some names / phrases that sound slightly uncomfortable in English - on the next street to me there is a "DR HELL" whose name emblazoned across the front of his premises probably doesn't attract too many English speakers into his clutches.
For some reason it comes in a giant sized one litre bottle... it really is enormous...

If this lady were to knock at my door, I would invite her in, but only into the hallway while I found the Betterware catalogue that she had put through my letterbox a few days earlier, from which I would purchase one of those chopping boards that fold in the middle, so all your sliced carrots go in the pot rather than on the floor. I would advise her that she could definitely come again, but that next time she should bring a more varied catalogue (more hops to balance the malt), and maybe lose some weight (come in a smaller bottle so it fits in a standard fridge door).

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


"Landbier", as far as I can tell, doesn't really mean much at all. It seems to suggest a beer which will be quaffed by a hardworking ruddy-faced peasant, who after a day in the hop fields will come home to his wife (who is also his sister) and down a flaggon of "beer of the land", which has a dead spider floating in the earthenware jug. He will then have sex with his goat before turning in for the night.
More specifically I would expect it to be unfiltered, and it should certainly be unpasteurised, although these characteristics don't seem to be defined anywhere. Perhaps it's just a marketing term?

"Eifeler Landbier" certainly wears its unfiltered nature up front, in capital letters no less. It whooshed in the bottle a bit and had a marvellously thick head. It actually tasted like a Franconian kellerbier, and I would have certainly been happy with this if the peasant's sister / wife had served it to me out of a barrel in a barn in the middle of a field in Franconia. A refeshing lack of carbonation, like Kellerbiers, and one I'd definitely go back to.
"Aktien Landbier" had gone to the dark side, and wore its filtered / unfiltered nature under a black cloak. Whether it's filtered or not I didn't find it very exciting, although it was still marginally better than your average Munich dunkel.

Kellerbier seems to amount to the same thing as Landbier, except here it seems that unfiltered and unpasteurised is an essential characteristic. Moosbacher Kellerbier tasted like... all the others to be honest. Malty, highly quaffable, plenty of juicy flavour, whatever.

Of the three though the Eifeler wins hands down. One of the few bottled beers I've had here that I'd definitely return to.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Wales vs Ireland

A while back I lived in a town in the centre of Ireland for six months and didn't find the beer choice too great. Of course Guinness is everywhere but not particularly exciting, and the other beers available all tended to be pasteurised keg stuff. But apparently a craft brewing scene is emerging and beginning to find its way into pubs, so I'll have to search some out next time I'm over there. Luckily Bierzwerg has one, namely O'Hara's Irish Red, and a splendid example of a Red Ale it is. Lots of malty flavour and better than a Hobgoblin. I hope one day Irish pubs the world over do this instead of Guinness.

Next up was "Bronze Crafted Ale" from a brewery called rather bizarrely "The Celt Experience". Ah, the Celts. There can be few ancient tribes about which more complete and utter horseshit is believed. According to popular myth, the Celts swept out of the near east bringing their unique culture to much of Europe, before themselves being pushed out to the outer fringes of the British Isles by ravaging Germanic hordes. However since we've had actual evidence (in the form of mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosomes) to base our knowledge of European ancestry on other than guesswork, this idea has turned out to be, like the Reinheitsgebot, a load of bollocks.
In fact the Celts were simply a tribe who lived in southern France and northern Spain, and never had the slightest thing to do with the British Isles. In reality the population of Britain and Ireland has remained pretty much static since not long after the last ice age. A mistake by a Welsh Philologist in equating Gaelic with Celtic and another mistake by a Roman historian in failing to understand where the Danube rose, has given this obscure tribe a central place in a widely believed mythology, which is of course what Napolean said history really is.
One recommendation: don't try explaining any of this to a drunken Scotsman at 3am in a grotty bar on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg who claims to be a "Celt". I can tell you from personal experience they will not appreciate having their illusions shattered.
The beer itself was pretty decent, more hoppy than the Irish Red Ale, but not quite matching its flavour.
The result: Ireland 3:2 Wales, with a disallowed last minute goal for Wales due to a handball from Craig Bellamy that the referee managed to spot.

Thursday, 12 May 2011


Kulmbach is a short hop from Bamberg. The beer from the Kulmbacher brewery here is available over quite a wide area, including Munich, but is very much in the style of the rest of Bavaria rather than Franconia.
The town features a castle on top of a hill, Plassenburg. From here you can get some views of the town.

There is a speciality beer restaurant in town suitably kitted out...

Their beer of the day was a local Kellerbier...

As smooth and easy drinking as Kellerbier always is.


Bamberg has been blogged about so many times it has blog smelling sweat coming out of its orifices. But it's always nice to get out of Munich to somewhere with more interesting beer. As you sit on the ICE heading to Nurnburg you can ponder where to start the evening as you watch the scenery go by.

There might possibly be a tiny element of overrating Bamberg's beers just because of its novelty and the fact that Franconia is surrounded by a sea of beery mediocrity. I've never found Fassla's beers, for example, to be that exciting, and I don't really go for Rauchbier.

The finest beer in Bamberg for me can be found at the Wilde Rose Keller, up a hill behind the Altstadt.

The climb is worth it and will build up your thirst to a mad frenzy.

The beer garden is fenced around so there's no view to be had, but the beer more than makes up for that, mercifully free of the Rauch taste.

If you want a view of Bamberg then you need to head back down the hill, turn right, and then a nice stroll will dump you at the entance to Spezial Keller.

Here I don't like the beer that much but the view makes up for it. If they could only combine their beer garden with Wilde Rose Keller's beer surely they'd have the finest beer garden imaginable.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Four on the floor: Altbier

I sometimes undertake the thankless, frustrating and somewhat pointless task of trying to convince German colleagues that there is such a thing as non-German beer. The level of banality of responses I get is beyond belief. Last year at a work barbeque I took along what I thought was an extremely safe bet (as I recall a Hobgoblin, a London Pride, a Honeydew and an ESB). One cretin opined "there must be lots of chemicals in it, it tastes strange"... this was a Hobgoblin mind, not a Geuze mixed with fermented ferret sweat. I tried explaining about top fermented yeast and the like, although it would have been an equally productive use of my time explaining quantum theory to a piece of cheese.
There is one colleague however, who comes from Dusseldorf, who likes everything I give her to try. She's used to drinking Altbiers and so doesn't get spooked by the idea of a beer with flavour. Recently on a trip back to her home town she brought back some Altbiers for me. I vote her a capital fellow.

Um Uerige is the only one I was familiar with, although the version I'd tried before was the Doppelsticke from Bierkompass, which is undoubtably one of the finest beers I've had. This is the standard version, which although still splendid doesn't quite have the same depth and complexity.
Schlussel was a fine malty beer although it had slightly too much carbonation for my taste. The two I preferred though, and was quite suprised about, were Fuchsen and Schumacher. Both had a wonderful hoppiness which I wasn't expecting in an Alt. Fuchsen was as foxy as its name suggests, and luckily Schumacher did not attempt to force me out of my chair with a late breaking maneouvre or sudden jab on the steering wheel. Neither did it almost break my neck whilst leaping at me after madly charging out of its goal.