Still more to enjoy in Cologne

We can’t believe that, with all our trips to Cologne, includ­ing a cou­ple of ded­i­cat­ed Koelsch crawls, we’ve not made it to the Paef­f­gen brew­ery tap before. Per­haps it’s because it’s a bit out of the way; or per­haps it’s because we had­n’t done our research – Ron Pat­tin­son calls it a “Euro­pean must vis­it”.

Any­way, we made it right on our most recent trip, and were glad we did. For one thing, the beer is superb – hon­eyed and spicy – very much like an Eng­lish ale, but also dis­tinct­ly not. We’ve had it before and liked it but, here, it was stun­ning.

We loved observ­ing the way the place is run, too.  All the Kobes (wait­ers) com­pete for the same bar­rel, half-fill­ing glass­es in a kranz, then let­ting it sit in a fun­ny kind of uri­nal until they’re ready to go, when they top them off. The super­vi­sor barks at them from his perch as they pass, mak­ing them stop so he can count the num­ber of glass­es they’re tak­ing, pre­sum­ably as some kind of fraud con­trol, but alsop­er­haps so they know when the bar­rel needs chang­ing. And when that hap­pens, with lots of chains and an elec­tric winch, it’s quite a thing to behold.

Inter­est­ing­ly, this was one of the few times we’ve been in a Cologne beer hall at a qui­et time and it  seems to mean you wait a lot longer for your beers – if there isn’t an absolute kran­zload of pun­ters, you have to wait until there is.

Cologne: not just about the Koelsch


We end up in Cologne so often these days  on our way in and out of Ger­many that it’s a strug­gle to find new pubs or beers to try. This time, how­ev­er, we spot­ted an advert for Freis­chem’s Brauhaus on a free city map and trekked out of the imme­di­ate city cen­tre in the rain to give it a go.

It was huge and most­ly emp­ty – because it was 4.30 on a wet Sun­day after­noon or because it only opened a month or two ago? The beer list imme­di­ate­ly had us a lit­tle excit­ed. It includ­ed a Koelsch, of course, but also some­thing called Trub, a weizen, a Christ­mas beer and a stout.

The Koelsch was of the slight­ly dark­er, hon­ey-tast­ing vari­ety (see also Paef­f­gen) and very pleas­ant. Trub was, unsur­pris­ing­ly, a cloudy light beer – their answer to the bland brauhaus zwickl and per­fect­ly drink­able, if unex­cit­ing. The weizen ticked all the usu­al box­es.

Wei­h­nachts­bier was a nice red colour with a good spicy aro­ma. We were split on this one, though. Boak thought it was dull, verg­ing on unpleas­ant, with an off yeast flavour and not much more. Bai­ley could taste roast­ed malt and liked the bit­ter­ness.

The stout was the stand-out beer, though. We real­ly weren’t expect­ing much – a bor­ing schwarz­bier, per­haps? – but it had a good thick body, a creamy choco­late flavour and a great roast­ed bit­ter after­taste. We’d have enjoyed this any­where but, by Ger­man brew­pub stan­dards, it was a knock­out.

Giv­en that it was­n’t far away, we also staged a return vis­it to Hellers, where there were a cou­ple of new beers for us to try as well as some old favourites. Win­ter­bock was an ama­teur take on Aventi­nus, with all the right clove and fruit flavours but  with absolute­ly no con­di­tion. Pity, as this would be stun­ning oth­er­wise. The new bot­tled Pils was very good – bit­ter, but not espe­cial­ly hop­py, and so malty it tast­ed like mash­ing grain.

Bot­tles of Hellers Wiess (the unfil­tered Koelsch) are cur­rent­ly on sale at Cask, the excel­lent pub in Pim­li­co we wrote about here.

Adnams get experimental


It’s easy to think of Adnams as a rather stol­id, big, unex­cit­ing region­al brew­ery. They have some love­ly brand­ing and design and have been very inno­v­a­tive in ‘green brew­ing’ but, nonethe­less, the beers of their’s you see most com­mon­ly in Lon­don are quite con­ser­v­a­tive in their flavour.

They’ve obvi­ous­ly decid­ed to go beyond Bitter/Broadside/blonde beer, though, and (with thanks to Steve the Beer Jus­tice for the tip off) are now brew­ing a wide range of month­ly spe­cials in con­ti­nen­tal styles, start­ing with a Koelsch-style beer.

Next month, they’re rolling out a Bel­gian abbey-type ale, and there are Ger­man and Bel­gian-style wheat beers in the pipeline. They’re also going to take on Guin­ness next spring with a dry stout.

Inno­va­tion does­n’t just need to mean ‘turn­ing up the vol­ume’ or putting coconut in your beer – more sub­tle exper­i­ments with hops and yeast can be just as mind-expand­ing – so we’re look­ing for­ward to try­ing these.

We emailed Adnams to ask where these beers will be on sale in Lon­don, and Danielle sent us this list:

The Car­pen­ters Arms
73 Cheshire Street, E2    6EG

The Brew­ery Tap
69 High Street
Wim­ble­don Vil­lage, SW19  5EE

The Queens Arms
11 War­wick Way
Pim­li­co, SW1V  1QT

The Wen­lock Arms
26 Wen­lock Road, N1    7TA

The Old Dairy
1–3 Crouch Hill, N4    4AP

The Pineap­ple Pub­lic House
51 Lev­er­ton Street
Ken­tish Town, NW5   2NX

The Wim­ble­don Club
Church Road, SW19  5AG

We have a winner: best British Koelsch Klone

A few months ago, we spot­ted that Young’s bot­tled Kew Brew (now “Kew Gold”) is a dead ringer for a decent draught Koelsch. We test­ed that the­o­ry again this week and are now pre­pared to say, out­right, that it’s the best sub­sti­tute for draught Koelsch you can get in the UK.

Fil­tered, pas­teurised bot­tles of Frueh just don’t com­pare. It’s even bet­ter than Mean­time’s slight­ly bland effort.

The Session #19 – German beer

The cap from a bottle of Rothaus Tanen Zapfle
The cap from a bot­tle of Rothaus Tan­nen-Zaepfle beer

This mon­th’s Ses­sion has been set by Loot­corp 3.0 and is on the sub­ject of Ger­man beer.

…the goal is to dig a lit­tle deep­er and write about how Ger­man beers and beer cul­ture have worked their way into your life (and hearts)…

We’ve already blogged about this – our con­ver­sion to good beer took place in Ger­many, so it’s a pret­ty key part of our beer-drink­ing lives. We try to go there at least once a year, and I’ve even start­ed learn­ing Ger­man so I can have all those fas­ci­nat­ing con­ver­sa­tions with Fran­con­ian brew­ers about their mash­ing sched­ules.

It’s a bit eas­i­er to get a reg­u­lar dose of Ger­man beer cul­ture in Lon­don, now that Zeit­geist has opened up. So to cel­e­brate this mon­th’s ses­sion, so we popped along there.

Zeit­geist is aimed at home­sick Ger­mans, so the beer list reflects what Ger­mans actu­al­ly drink. There­fore most of what’s on offer is the usu­al mass-pro­duced, nation­al­ly avail­able lagers – Bit­burg­er, Warstein­er, Koenig Pils etc. In a shrewd move, reflect­ing the ten­den­cy of Ger­mans to boast about their local beer, they also offer a num­ber of big “region­als” – eg Gaffel Koelsch (on tap), Schloess­er Alt and Tan­nen-Zaepfle, by the Baden-Wuert­ten­berg state-owned brew­ery.

Last night, we had a lit­tle vir­tu­al tour round Ger­many. We start­ed in the for­mer DDR, with Wer­nes­gruen­er, before mov­ing to the far north-east west for some Jev­er (seri­ous­ly cheesy web­site, BTW). I don’t think we’ve actu­al­ly blogged about this before, which is sur­pris­ing, giv­en how much we drink it. There’s just some­thing about its bit­ter kick that makes us come back for more. Tastes a bit like hay, in a good way.

Gaffel Koelsch went down well. While it’s not our favourite koelsch, we pre­fer drink­ing this one fresh out of the bar­rel than drink­ing a tired bot­tle of a bet­ter one. It’s always refresh­ing, and drink­ing it next to Wer­nes­gruen­er and Jev­er brings out the malty, fruity flavours.

Then down to Baden-Wuert­ten­burg, where we sam­pled Eich­baum and Rothaus Tan­nen-Zaepfle. The Eich­baum was pret­ty dull (too much hopfenek­strakt and no hops?) and the TZ was OK. When we were on hol­i­day in Hei­del­berg, we drank it there and not­ed that it’s a lot fruiti­er than oth­er pils. It’s drink­able enough, but real­ly not ter­ri­bly excit­ing, unless you’re from the area and feel­ing home­sick.

Final­ly, into Bavaria for Schlenker­la Maerzen. Mmm­mm. Fraz­zles and fruit. Does it for me every time.