Stuttgart: Beer is not the Main Event

Sign advertising Dinkelacker CD-Pils in Stuttgart.

In Frankfurt, we’re told, Apfelwein is the thing to drink rather then the rather bland local pilsners. Similarly Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg, is surrounded by vineyards, and seems more proud of its wine than its beer.

Nonethe­less, there are sev­er­al brew­eries in town, and even more brew­ery brands (takeovers), and so plen­ty to keep a beer geek enter­tained, if not nec­es­sar­i­ly hap­py, for a few days.

We know from our own expe­ri­ence that Ger­man city brew­pubs are often dis­ap­point­ing, with sweet, yeasty beers that make us long for a prop­er­ly made lager, how­ev­er bland. Ron Pat­tin­son’s Euro­pean Beer Guide gave us no rea­son to expect dif­fer­ent­ly of Stuttgart, but – the curse of the beer freak – we just had to find out for our­selves.

There’s not much to say about Cal­w­er Eck’s beer oth­er than it was soupy, sweet and rather ama­teur­ish. The stronger, bar­ley-water-like Braumeis­ter (5.5% ABV) had mar­gin­al­ly more char­ac­ter than the ‘naturtrübes’ pils (5%), but that isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly a rec­om­men­da­tion. (The food was­n’t much good either, includ­ing schnitzels which we guessed came from a pack­et in the deep freeze, and a ‘beer sauce’ which tast­ed sus­pi­cious­ly like instant gravy.)

We found Sophie’s Brauhaus a lit­tle more enjoy­able, which isn’t say­ing much. From the out­side, it looked like a knock­ing shop (red neon…) but inside, we found a rea­son­ably cosy space full of excitable stu­dents, most­ly drink­ing rather than eat­ing. The pleas­ant pub-like atmos­phere com­pelled us to stay for a sec­ond round, after which what­ev­er charms we had found in the beer (the nov­el­ty of a Schwarz­bier, and one that actu­al­ly tast­ed dark, per­haps?) began to fade.

Sign advertising Stuttgarter Hofbrau.

Despite the ubiq­ui­ty of huge glow­ing signs adver­tis­ing Stuttgarter Hof­bräu, we did­n’t see their pils for sale any­where oth­er than fast food joints and at the foot­ball sta­di­um. If any­one knows the sto­ry behind why this might be the case, we’d love to hear it. (Some­thing to do with being owned by Rade­berg­er, per­haps?)

Schwaben Brau Das Schwarze beer.The fact that we did­n’t stum­ble upon any Schwaben Bräu is per­haps more under­stand­able: the brew­ery merged with anoth­er local giant, Dinkelack­er, some years ago, and, though SB beers are still brewed, they seem to be ‘sec­ond stringers’. The excep­tion is the classy, cof­feeish ‘Das Schwarze’, which was a favourite of Michael Jack­son’s, and is on sale at the Dinkelack­er brew­ery tap (a pla­s­ticky place on Tübinger­strasse) along­side a slight­ly-hazy Keller­pils under the Cluss brand (fan­cy del­i­cate glass, dis­tinct straw­ber­ry-leaf hop­pi­ness) and a sol­id set of ‘San­wald’ wheat beers.

Dinkelack­er’s own brand is reserved for the main­stream big-sell­ers, CD and Pri­vat, both per­fect­ly pleas­ant pil­sners at 4.9% and 5.1% respec­tive­ly, with the empha­sis firm­ly on gold­en-syrup-malti­ness. Not huge­ly excit­ing, but not utter­ly bland either, and cer­tain­ly not nasty.

It felt odd to be in a Ger­man city where beer is treat­ed either as a replace­ment for water, or a sideshow to wine, which has its own muse­um and des­ig­nat­ed walk­ing route, but we know, real­ly, that Ger­many is far too large and com­plex to be summed up sim­ply as a ‘beer coun­try’.

3 thoughts on “Stuttgart: Beer is not the Main Event”

  1. When it comes to beer in Ger­many, your expe­ri­ence of Stuttgart and Frank­furt is the norm rather than the excep­tion. Beer trav­ellers go to the likes of Bam­berg and Munich and think they’re typ­i­cal – but *they* are the excep­tions.

    For the rest of the coun­try, when it comes to draught beer it’s macro-brewed Pils or Weizen, often by a sub­sidiary of a multi­na­tion­al.

    When I think about it – which I try not to do too often, as it hurts – it dri­ves me nuts that there’s no prop­er equiv­a­lent of CAMRA to draw atten­tion to this. Instead, there’s this Ein­sheits­ge­bot-based assump­tion that all is still rosy and world-beat­ing.

    Thank­ful­ly, things are grad­u­al­ly chang­ing. It’s painful­ly slow though.

    (By the by, I’ve not been to Cal­w­er Eck for maybe 10 years, the beers were unin­spired but OK back then. And I rather like a cou­ple of the oth­er Schwaben beers, notably the Marzen.)

  2. By con­ci­dence, I recent­ly got a bot­tle of Schwaben Bräu “Das Helle” from Aldi, of all places. I was actu­al­ly look­ing for Okto­ber­fest beers, which they have stocked in the past at knock-down prices, but not this year, it seems.

  3. I found the Schwaben Bräu Fes­t­bier to be the best of the lot at the Cannstat­ter Volks­fest. Then Stuttgarter Hof­bräu, fol­lowed by Fursten­berg (?), and dead last Din­lelack­er.

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