Frankfurt, Passau and Cologne (again)

We’ve been on our travels! We’d normally announce an upcoming holiday here and ask for tips but, on this occasion, we spent a hectic, disorganised week before we went away in our new favourite German city of the mind: Bad Planning.

So, just to whet your appetite for what we’re afraid to say is going to be a long series of posts recounting every detail of our jaunt, here’s what we made of Frankfurt, where we stopped over for a few hours on the way out.

Zu den 12 Apostel, at Rosenburger Strasse, just north of the centre, like most German brewpubs, offers a cloudy helles and a dunkles. The helles had slightly more perceptible hops than others we’ve had, and was refreshing enough, but we’d be lying if we said it was anything special. We were pleased to find the dunkles didn’t taste sugary and unfermented as so many do, but it certainly would have benefited from more hops. Or any hops.

Any glamour these beers had was entirely because they were the first of the holiday, and those always taste good.

The food was perhaps the most interesting thing: lots of the menu was southern slavonic. We were also impressed that they’d created a pretty convincing beer garden in what was, in effect, an alleyway round the back of an office block.

Tandleman’s also been in Frankfurt recently, we note.

Nächste halt: Passau.

That's never pils!

groninger

Groeninger Brauhaus is Hamburg’s other brewpub. It offers a Bavarian-style wheat beer (surprise, surprise) and a pils, which at least makes a change from a zwickl.

The weird thing is that, without getting too into style guide territory, the pils simply isn’t one. It’s brown, sweet and has very low carbonation. It’s ok, a bit like a bland alt bier. If we were to try to describe the flavour we’d say it had some soft caramel, but that’s about it — there’s certainly no hop character.

These brewpubs are often are huge but this one really takes the biscuit. It was a cross-country hike to get to the loo and there were room after room with tables reseved for 35 or more. Some tables were in huge old barrels, which was cool. And, of course, several roast pigs on the counter.

We've had blander beer

albrechthamburg

The Brauhaus Joh. Albrecht is just behind the Rathaus in Hamburg. It’s in an extremely modern building which looks like the head office of an insurance company from outside. Inside, though, it’s actually very cosy with low lighting and thousands of Christmas baubles hanging from the ceiling in garlands.

The other thing that put a smile on our faces when we entered was an overwhelming and delicious aroma of mashing malt. It’s one of those smells, like fresh coffee or baking bread, that makes you feel contented. More brewpubs should pump it out.

The beers themselves were just about OK. Messing is a pale, cloudy lager, described as hoppy on the menu. It really isn’t. Like the Brauberger beer in Luebeck, it was yeasty in a good way, but without a huge amount else going on.

The Christmas beer, Nickel, was a dark brown, sweet malty brew with a full body and a thick tan head. It reminded us of a slightly fizzier, less fruity, less bitter Old Peculier. In other words, interesting, but not one for the ages.

Kupfer, a dunkel, was the blandest of all — a sweeter version of the Messing tasting mostly of caramel.

Finally, their weizen was a big, cartoon-like Bavarian wheat beer with a huge bubblegum flavour which, to our mind, made it the best of a medicore bunch.

Nonetheless, all were way better than Brinkhoff’s No 1, our benchmark for blandness in German beer.

At least one decent beer in Luebeck

braubergerluebeck

Brauberger in Luebeck is a brewpub in a lovely old building in a quaint part of the old town. There are various implications that the brewery and the pub are pretty ancient although, when you get down to it, the beermats suggest it was founded in 2006.

Nonetheless, the keller is very cosy and their one beer, a hazy yellow zwickl served in tall  straight glasses with handles, is actually pretty good. It’s definitely a step up from the standard modern German brewpub fare. It has a distinctly yeasty flavour but in a good way — refreshing and slightly fruity rather than overpowering and dusty. A mild bitterness at the end makes it a lively accompaniment to the hearty food.

In short, don’t go out of your way to try it, but if you’re in Luebeck, Brauberger is definitely worth a visit.

Luebeck itself is a fascinating and sometimes beautiful place, if a little quiet after the Danish coach parties have departed. If, like us, you sometimes visit places for reasons other than beer, we’d recommend a night or two.

Prague pub roundup

It’s been a busy month or so since we got back from our travels — so busy we haven’t got round to mentioning all of the fascinating pubs and breweries we visited in Prague.  So, a quick summary is in order.

Straight after U Fleku, we headed to the Novomeststky Pivovar, probably the second most touristy place in Prague.  It was very empty, and had quite a dismal atmosphere as result.  The beer was great, though — very yeasty — so much so that it smelled like rising rye bread.  We completed our touristy trio by popping into the legendary U Medvidku.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get into the ‘pivovar’ bit, where you go to get the well-regarded Oldgott Barrique on tap.  We settled for a bottle of the same in another section, which tasted a bit sour and watery. Not really worth the bother.  The boring old Budvar on tap was great, though!

The two most interesting brewpubs took a bit more effort to get to.  Although Klasterny Pivovar Strahov isn’t that far from the Castle, it is up a ruddy great hill.  The beer and the food is a tad pricy by Czech standards, but we’d say it was worth paying the extra for.  On tap was a tmavy and the ‘jantar’ (amber), which was one of our favourite beers of the holiday.  It was almost like a British ale in its bitterness and fruitiness.  Lovely stuff.

Out in the suburbs, Pivovar U Bulovky is worth the trip for a lively and cosy atmosphere (although there’s a very scary waitress) and great beer.  Can’t really see the coach parties rocking up to this place, although we thought we spotted a few other beer geeks, notebooks and beer guides in hand.  U Bulovky offer a good lezak and a lovely polotmavy (amber), as well as a changing range of other beers. The ‘ale’ was more interesting in the fact of its existence than its flavour though — definitely a few too many pear drops going on.

One other pub we have to mention is Baracnicka Rychta, up a side street in Mala Strana.  It offers excellent beers from the Svijany brewery, the nutty “red” being the highlight.  We ate a lot of nakladany hermelin there, and felt very contented with the world.

Apologies for the lack of appropriate accents.  Life’s too short.