While in Cologne we woke up one morning and decided to go to Düsseldorf for the day. It was one of the best decisions of the holiday.
We have been to Düsseldorf before, in January 2008, and we wrote five posts about the experience, concluding that…
“the alt itself would not be the key draw… It’s not that we didn’t enjoy it enormously, but you can get similar beers in the UK.”
If we’re honest, we were probably of the view that we’d ‘done’ Düsseldorf, but that just goes to show how daft you can be.
For a start, there are a bunch of new Altbiers to try, and some of them definitely add something to the mix.
The Alter Bahnhof is a lovely brewpub and garden in the upmarket suburb of Oberkassel, over the river. The Gulasch Alt is coppery, earthy and bitter, with a hint of piney hops. There was a pungent hop-tea flavour at the end which added interest without making it seem gimmicky or anything other than a traditional Altbier. We stayed for a couple here.
Also on that side of the river was Brauhaus Joh. Albrecht, which is part of a bigger chain. We visited the Hamburg branch many years ago. Their Alt was almost like some of the Rotbier we’d been drinking in and around Nuremberg. It was also rather murky and earthy. Fine, but… Actually, maybe not even fine. Bearable. Certainly not worth going out of your way for unless you’re an obsessive ticker.
Then it was back into town to check in with Uerige, our favourite from last time, to calibrate our tasting notes against an acknowledged classic. It’s as bitter as we remember, but there are also subtle hints of plum, or maybe blackberry. It reminded us on this occasion more of a British winter warmer than a trad bitter. Great stuff, multi-layered, and hard not to just keep drinking.
Brauerei Kürzer was also new to us. It had a lovely smell of brewing when we came in but was otherwise a little cold, both literally and in terms of atmosphere. Their Alt had smoky notes which was an interesting twist on the style… though we weren’t certain it was deliberate.
Finally, we revisited Schumacher on the way back to the station. This Alt has a strong barley sugar flavour – not sweet, as such, but leaning into the caramel and malt. And the Oststraße tap is also a great pub, regardless of the beer. It has brown wood, murky stained glass, and a fascinating mix of customers.
Overall, there is clearly more to Altbier than our IPA-addled palates were able to detect more than a decade ago. We got back on the train determined not to leave it 14 years until the next visit.