Düsseldorf: Home of Altbier
Altbier (German for old beer) for old alcoholics! Chris and Jen Daws invited us over to sample German hospitality as a warm up to our joint trip to Las Vegas in November. Jen is working in Germany for two years and has an apartment in Düsseldorf. Chris had the pleasure of working with Amanda a number of years back, hence how we all met. We have lots in common as individuals and couples, with a love of beer being top of the list. We flew out of Birmingham after work on Friday, meeting up with Chris in the Wetherspoon’s in the departure hall. We flew with German Wings and Birmingham to Düsseldorf is only a short hop. After a quick and easy transfer via train we arrived at Jen’s apartment to a very warm welcome…and more beer!
Saturday morning started with a late breakfast at a local deli/cafe, with Jen thankfully providing the interpreting service to avoid embarrassing mistakes when ordering food and drinks. With full bellies, we walked to the tram stop and headed towards the Altstadt (German for ‘old town’). Düsseldorf Altstadt is known as “the longest bar in the world”, because the small Old Town has more than 300 bars and discotheques; supposedly, each establishment’s bar connecting to the one next door! Altbier, the famous beer from Düsseldorf, is brewed from an old traditional recipe and is only brewed in a few places around the world since the end of the 19th century. However, Düsseldorf is its spiritual home. Altbier is usually a dark copper colour. It is brewed at a moderate temperature using a top-fermenting yeast which gives its flavour some fruitiness, but matured at a cooler temperature, which gives it a cleaner and crisper taste more akin to lager beer styles than is the norm for top-fermented beers, such as British pale ale. That’s enough of the history lesson!
It wasn’t planned by any means, but the Saturday we had chosen happened to be German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit). It is held annually on October 3 to mark the anniversary of the nation’s unification. It remembers when the Federal Republic of Germany and the Democratic Republic of Germany united to create one single, federal Germany on October 3, 1990. Ahem, I said that’s enough of the damn history lesson! The good thing was that all the shops were closed, but the great thing was that the bars weren’t…the perfect scenario.
As with most drinking sessions with the Daws’, the day was a blur after the initial dozen beers. We started off at Uerige, one of the towns brew bars. It was a lovely autumn day so we drank outdoors, watching the world go by. To be truthful, the world had also stopped for a beer and every pavement was awash with like minded people enjoying life. After a couple, we wandered down to the side of the Rhine and another outside bar. The Altbier was served by both men and women dressed in Lederhosen. The fuzziness was already starting and I’d soon need a pee, but Jen had told us we had to pay the toilet attendants in most German bars, so I crossed my legs for a bit longer. After a short walk back into town, we hit another bar (I think a Frankenheim establishment), more Altbier and a sneaky couple of free toilet visits. This was now a challenge for the day…could I manage to avoid paying to pee throughout the day?
If I’m being truthful, when deciding to blog about a drinking session, I need a better method than using my memory to recall the days events. I can recall what the bars looked like and, in most instances, what we did, but I cannot recall the names…and it’s not just because we were in Germany. All I know is that it was a cracking day. We visited an array of great bars, with lovely beer, a constant buzzing and friendly atmosphere and great company. We hit an Irish bar, which if I recall was the same bar we’d visited a few years ago, just relocated to a different area, blending in with other Irish bars. It was not the same! English football was on, with Chelsea losing to Southampton by 3 goals to 1. England were playing Australia in the Rugby World Cup later on at 9pm, but after the result against Wales I just wasn’t bothered and probably wouldn’t be able to see by kick-off.
The last bar (that I remember) was Hausbrauerei Zum Schlüssel and if the photo of the beer mat is anything to go by we stayed there for at least 7 rounds. This was the best bar by far in my opinion. Amanda and I came here on our last visit, a work trip to a trade exhibition, but the barmaid was a right battleaxe who refused to speak English even though you knew she could. With Jen in tow this wouldn’t have been an issue, but is was not needed as the guy who served us all night was a very happy chappy. The bar was massive, a long wide corridor of a place, with a vaulted ceiling and wooden tables and benches. The other plus was the toilet situation. It was so busy that on the half dozen visits I made I successfully dodged the attendant every time. I had made it through the day without parting with a single Euro cent. It was a small victory, but I felt proud of myself.
The following morning wasn’t too bad in terms of hangovers and the journey home, although long and tiring, wasn’t too bad. It was a great trip. The best part about drinking abroad and especially in Germany, is the fact you do not need to order at the bar, wait for serving staff or even pay as you go. The bartenders just wander around with a tray of beers and keep filling your table until told not to. Each beer is marked on your beer mat and before you leave you simply count up your tally and pay the man what you owe. What a fantastic and civilised method. It would never work in the UK.
Roll on Las Vegas with my lovely wife and the Daws’.