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:



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.

We're off to Duesseldorf

Probably no updates until Monday or Tuesday, as we’re off to Duesseldorf. Trying to explain this choice of location to non-beer-lovers has been quite interesting. We’ve obviously very excited; we’ve tried a couple of good Alts outside Duesseldorf and can’t wait to drink it at source.

We will of course be using Ron Pattinson’s European Beer Guide as a key source, as he’s handily put together a map and guide to Duesseldorf. If anyone else has any particular recommendations, do let us know. We’re toying with the idea of going to Muenster as well, to visit Pinkus Mueller, but don’t know if we’ll have time…

Homebrewing question – Belgian wit yeast

brewersyard.jpgAny homebrewers out there used Wyeast 3944 (Belgian wit)?

Does it ever stop fermenting?????

It’s been going for almost two weeks, and has been bubbling at pretty much the same tempo since day 3. It shows no sign of dying down and still has a large layer of foam on the top.

This is our first attempt at a Belgian wit, so we don’t know what to expect. We used mash + adjunct mash and got OG of 1046. It’s difficult to see where it’s at now because of all the foam but it looks to be at about 1012. I’ve no idea where it’s supposed to end up, given the use of raw wheat etc but I would have been happy with 1012 as FG. It’s been fermenting at the top end of the recommended range (about 21 deg C / 70 F), so we can’t blame low temperature.

I know that two weeks is fine for ales, but this just doesn’t seem to be slowing down, which is what I would expect. Am I being paranoid, and will it settle down eventually? Or do we have a wild yeast infection? The beer doesn’t smell like it’s off.

I suppose I should be happy that we seem to have got over the “stuck fermentation” problems of six months ago. We now think that was down to having too many unfermentable sugars from our mysterious crystal malt. Since we’ve stopped using it – no problems on that front!