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’.

Knut, the Gunmakers, and our latest jaunt

We spent yes­ter­day evening at the Gun­mak­ers (Jeff ‘Stonch’ Bel­l’s pub) with Knut Albert, the not­ed Nor­we­gian beer blog­ger.

We enjoyed a cou­ple of pints of Puri­ty Mad Goose (a gold­en yel­low beer in Jaipur/Hophead ter­ri­to­ry) and Cale­don­ian Dou­ble Dark Oat­meal stout (sweet­ish and mild) and some top notch grub, too – Jef­f’s not being big head­ed when he sug­gests the food at his place is qual­i­ty stuff.

As well as putting up with a lot of inane ques­tions about Scan­di­navia, Knut was also able to reas­sure us that Ham­burg, where we’re spend­ing Fri­day and Sat­ur­day night, is not a com­plete dump as Lone­ly Plan­et would have you believe. We’re in Brus­sels tonight, although get­ting in late, and then in Lue­beck on Wednes­day and Thurs­day nights.

We’ll let you know if we find any beer of note when we return next week.

Monkey beer

Schneider Aventinus (aka Monkey Beer) in action at the Pembury
Schnei­der Aventi­nus (aka Mon­key Beer) in action at the Pem­bury

Schnei­der Aventi­nus is 8.5% alco­hol by vol­ume. That’s bloody strong.

A few weeks ago, we watched a pair of big lads in the Pem­bury drink about five bot­tles each with­out look­ing gid­dy.

We now hear from a friend that these chaps are reg­u­lars and love Aventi­nus so much they rarely drink any­thing else. And they call it ‘mon­key beer’. Because of its banana-like yeast aro­ma?

No – because it makes them act like mon­keys.

Bloody great barrels

As well as being home to some decent pubs, Hei­del­berg also boasts an enor­mous bar­rel as a tourist attrac­tion. In fact, they’ve got sev­er­al, going up in size as you go into the cas­tle.

The biggest (in the pho­to) has a capac­i­ty of 220,000 litres and is ref­er­enced in books by Mark Twain and Jules Verne, among oth­ers. How­ev­er, it’s a tid­dler com­pared to the porter bar­rel that burst on Tot­ten­ham Court Road in 1814, drown­ing sev­en peo­ple. Stonch wrote about that here.

Apolo­gies for the lack of blog­ging action recent­ly and in the next few days. We’re most­ly drink­ing mass-pro­duced lagers in the sun, so not a lot to write about real­ly.

Pretzels – the definitive recipe

I’ve been try­ing to work out how to make prop­er Ger­man-style pret­zels for a cou­ple of years now. They’re just per­fect with a pint – fill­ing, salty and, well, Ger­man.

Today, I final­ly nailed it.

There are lots of recipes around and I tried most of them, but none quite seemed to do the trick. The tex­ture was nev­er quite right – it should be chewy on the out­side and fluffy in the mid­dle. Our recent trip to Ger­many only made me more deter­mined to crack the prob­lem – I could­n’t bear the thought of wait­ing until our next hol­i­day to have anoth­er pret­zel!

Boak did man­age to find authen­tic pret­zels in a Ger­man bak­ery on the Bromp­ton Road and it was inspect­ing one of those that helped me per­fect my recipe.

Almost any fluffy white dough will do. The tricks are all in the fin­ish­ing. Specif­i­cal­ly, the shape you roll the dough into before you make the famous pret­zel shape; the fact that you boil it before bak­ing; coat­ing it with a solu­tion of bicar­bon­ate of soda [UPDATE: use about one lev­el tea­spoon of bicarb]; and slash­ing the top with a knife.

Recipe after the jump.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Pret­zels – the defin­i­tive recipe”