Duesseldorf part three — Schumacher and Schloesser

schumacher.jpgSchumacher is another of Duesseldorf’s smaller breweries whose business seems to go on mostly in the cosy confines of their brewery tap.

Schumacher’s brewery/pub on Oststrasse was extremely busy. We mentioned that Duesseldorf isn’t a tourist city, but its economy is fuelled by conferences and fairs. During our visit, the Boot Messe was on. That’s a yacht show, you’ll note — not a pair of muddy wellies. So the place was crowded with people in very garish, expensive yachting anoraks who were, it must be said, a jolly bunch.

Having now got the hang of how Duesseldorf boozers work, we crammed ourselves into a corner, said a cheery hello to the middle-aged couple whose space we’d invaded, and within seconds were brought a couple of glasses of alt. The tally was marked on the beermat. The waiter barked and rushed off with his tray.

By this point, we were getting used to topping up with alt every few hours, and this one went down very nicely. We’d need a return visit to Duesseldorf to catch all the subtle diferences, but suffice it to say that we liked Schumacher. It is less bitter than Fuechsen’s or Uerige’s, and distinctly malt-accented. It’s nothing like as sickly as Schloesser, though, and still a crisp, dry, refreshing drink. Boak’s favourite of the trip, in fact.

The highlights of this visit: seeing a tiny, bent-backed, faintly magical cellarman emerge from a tiny door beneath the bar to stretch his legs, and watching a fresh wooden barrel rise magically through the bar on a lift.

You want to hear more about Schloesser? Well, we drank it with our dinner because the only place we could squeeze into to eat (Brauerei im goldenen Ring) was serving it. It tasted OK, to be honest, but the difference between the big alts and the local ones is astounding: after Schumacher, it was like drinking fizzy pop.

Finally, in case you’re getting bored of pictures of buildings and signs, here’s a mouthwatering trail for tomorrow’s post:

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Notes

Schloesser’s website is here, but it crashes Firefox.  Schumacher can be found here, in German only.

Duesseldorf part two – Im Fuechsen Alt

fuchschen1.jpgFollowing our drinks in Uerige, we tried to get into Brauerei im Fuechschen, but just couldn’t squeeze our way in. So we went back the next day for lunch. If you want to try altbiers in the old town in slightly more “relaxed” circumstances (i.e. seats, more than an inch of personal space) then a meal is definitely the way forward.

The alt here was quite different from Uerige — lighter in colour, and less bitter, although there was still a good hop kick. With slight orangey notes, it reminded us of London Pride, although the alt is more bitter. We also tried the weizen, Silber Fuechschen. It’s always interesting to have a German wheat-beer that isn’t from Bavaria (or at least doesn’t have that banana yeast in it), and this was very pleasant and refreshing. Like one of the more interesting Belgian wheatbeers, such as St Bernardus. But we still preferred the alt, by nine drinks to one.

As for the food, well, if you like traditional German food, you won’t be disappointed. Big joints of meat with knives stuck in ’em. Luvverly.

Duesseldorf is obviously a bit of a party town. Even in January in the pouring rain, people were sitting outside drinking away, and a few were even… shouting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such “rowdiness” in Germany — although, to be fair, the shouters were getting dirty looks from most of the locals. We also saw some youths drinking bottles of Frankenheim Blue (don’t know, didn’t ask…) in the street and then carefully hunting around for a recycling bin. You don’t see that in Leicester Square.

Duesseldorf part one — Uerige

uerige1.jpgUntil Friday night, our only encounters with altbier had been one bottle of Diebels in London, and a bottle of something else (maybe Gatzweiler?) in Aachen. We’d found it pleasant enough, but not especially remarkable.

Our first 250 millilitres of Uerige Alt came, therefore, as something of a shock. It was intensely bitter — the comparison that sprang to mind was Sam Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, only drier.

The beauty of a beer so dry and bitter is that it simultaneously quenches and intensifies your thirst, and it was hard to say no to the waiter who appeared, as if by magic, with fresh glasses every time ours were nearly empty.

There was standing room only — Duesseldorf isn’t exactly a tourist town, but it’s busy all year round — however, our spot by the bar was fantastic. We watched the impressively moustachioed Bismarck-alike behind the bar filling glass after glass from the wooden barrel, each one nothing but two-thirds of foam at first, but settling out into a perfect serving, brown at the bottom and cream at the top, every time.

He didn’t stop except to prop the barrel on a piece of wood when it reached the end. The space behind the bar was his — no-one else dared invade it. The glass-washer stood on the other side with the customers, dunking and rinsing glasses as frantically as the barman could fill them.

So, we were off to a good start. As we walked back to our hotel, we noticed something we’d never seen in Germany before: people in the streets being ever so slightly drunk and rowdy. More on that tomorrow.

Shepherd Neame Porter

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The White Horse and Bower on Horseferry Road in London is a pretty decent pub. When I was there last night, I was very impressed by the incredibly friendly and helpful staff, the cosy atmosphere and the condition of the beer.

The main event for me, though, was drinking Shepherd Neame Porter for the first time in about three years.

It’s a completely different beast to Fuller’s London Porter*. SN’s Porter is lighter bodied and, despite the “Winter Hop Ale” tag, I was hardly aware of any hops at all. It’s distinctly mild-like, in fact, although at 4.8%, stronger than it tastes.

If I was feeling less charitable, I might say it was a little bland, but I can honestly say I enjoyed every sip, and wasn’t even remotely tempted to try anything else all night.

It’s great that there are now pubs in London where you can drink dark beer other than Guinness. Now it would just be great if all those Young’s pubs would get the Oatmeal stout on the pumps, or at least back in bottles behind the bar.

* We had Fuller’s London Porter at the Plough in Walthamstow on Monday night. It was supposed to disappear at the end of December, but the landlord has a bit left in his cellar and assured me that Fuller’s also have more in their warehouse, which he’s going to try to get his hands on. It’s tasting very nice now it’s matured a bit more!

More winter warmers

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Service update: no internet in the Boak and Bailey household, so updates will be intermittent until it’s sorted. Virginmedia’s service and customer service is terrible. 

Just because Christmas is over doesn’t mean the winter warmers stop coming. Here are some of the good ones we’ve had in the past month or so.

Meantime Winter Warmer

Finally got hold of this one in a Sainsbury’s on the outskirts of London. Worth the trouble, as it’s very pleasant and packed full of flavours – smoke, hints of chocolate, some fruitiness. We thought it was like a smoother, milkier version of their London Porter. Bottled conditioned and 5.4%.

If you want more poetical and detailed descriptions, the Beernut has reviewed it here, and Zythophile has reviewed it here.

Anchor “Our Special Ale” 2007

This is brewed to a different recipe each winter, according to the Anchor website. The 2007 version is 5.5% and very tasty. It’s a red-black colour, with excellent head retention and full body. The aroma reminded us of pine trees and candyfloss. We noted burnt gingerbread flavours (that’s a good thing!), with some spices that were difficult to identify – possibly allspice? Nutmeg? There was also some fruitiness – a little bit like peaches. We wouldn’t be surprised if there were cranberries in it.

It had a bitter dry finish – almost certainly C-hops, but the citrus isn’t particularly pronounced.

All fantastic examples of how lots of flavour can be achieved with a *relatively* low ABV.