That's what Oktoberfest is about

Just surfacing after last night at Zeitgeist.  My stomach is turning somewhat thinking about beer, so this is not the time for detailed beer reviews.  Suffice to say, we had a great time, and so did our non-beer-geek friends.

Can’t really remember a lot about what I drank, but it was all good stuff.  Standouts for me were Scheubel-Sternbrau Dunkel Rauchbier and (in a bottle) Kanone Zwickl.   Go Go Go (but do line the stomach first…)

In case you’ve forgotten, all the details are here.  It’s due to run all weekend, and they may just have enough beer this time…we’d go back, but we’re Never Drinking Again.

Boak (never has my nom de plume seemed more appropriate)

Some interesting Oktoberfests in London

A ferris wheel at a beer festival in Bavaria
A ferris wheel at a beer festival in Bavaria

While the main event is underway in Munich, there are a couple of interesting options for Londoners.

And this is without mentioning the Oktoberfest Pub in Fulham. I’ve never been, so perhaps I’m being judgemental, but from their website it looks awful. Is it connected to the Bavarian Beer House, who are also putting on Oktoberfest fun?

London Drinker has details of other beer festivals coming up.

Help — altbier in London?

Frankenheim altbier, sweating on a Duesseldorf pub table
Frankenheim altbier, sweating on a Duesseldorf pub table

Now that Zeitgeist is satisfying our occasional cravings for Koelsch, I find myself asking: is there honestly nowhere in London I can get a decent altbier on tap? I mean, where I can get anything other than Schloesser or Diebels from a bottle?

The landlady of Zeitgeist, who is from Cologne and therefore obliged to pretend to hate altbier, admitted that they had wanted it on tap, but had been told that no-one was importing it because it’s too like British ale.

With that similarity in mind, when I get the urge to drink alt, I’m having to chill London Pride half to death in the fridge, slop it carelessly into an altbier glass to form a huge head, and use my imagination. Not bad, but not ideal.

The bitterest Pils is (not) hard to swallow

Wernesgruener Pils Legende is, for the moment, my new favourite beer.

It’s made near Berlin and, for a long time, was an East German speciality shipped mostly to the West. It’s now owned by the same people who own Bitburger.

I’ve been ignoring it because I read a review that said it had lost most of its character (like Hoegaarden, Urquell, etc. etc.) and I had other things to try. I don’t know what convinced me to give it a go after all, but I’m glad I did.

It’s remarkable for its bitterness, its hoppiness and its balance. I’ve bought people Jever before and watched them turn their noses up — literally — as its pungent odour assaults them about the brain. Wernesgruener is less extreme, but no less tasty.

Of course, it looks gorgeous in the glass — the thick white head rose inches above the glass and refused to move even a millimetre in the breeze.

I’m not ashamed to say that, when it’s hot, I often want to drink cold lager. This one was just what I needed.

You can get Wernesgruener in bottle at Zeitgeist. It’s sometimes also available in Aldi.

Bailey

German beer festival at Zeitgeist

What better use of a day’s holiday than to pretend you’re in Germany? And how much easier when someone has gone and laid on a German beer festival for you, complete with many beers dispensed Franconian-style out of little wooden barrels.

This excellent little festival was brought to us by Zeitgeist, a great German pub in Vauxhall, Stonch’s beer blog, and Bier-Mania, who organise beer trips to Belgium, Germany and beyond.

This won’t be a detailed review, as we drank too much to remember many details — as did everyone else, by the sound of it … there are now no more festival beers left.

We remember a large range of beer from the Bolten-Brauerei from outside Duesseldorf, with their Alt being particularly nice. Hofmann Export Dunkel Lagerbier was a great example of the complexity that Franconian Dunkels can deliver. Our stand-out favourite was a Dunkel-Rauch by SternBrau-Scheubel which had a gorgeous Maerzen-like malt flavour and amber colour, with a hefty hoppiness and a subtle but complex smoke taste.

We thought the mix of people and the atmosphere was great – some tickers, some trendies, some locals, but everyone getting into it. It was the kind of place you could bring non-beer geeks to (we did) without worrying about whether they’d have a good time.

Also, the excellent range of Brotzeit really helped line the stomach – Obatzda is an acquired taste, but I love the stuff, and they make it well here.

This was easily one of my favourite festivals of all time. Do it again, chaps!

Boak

For another perspective, see Allyson’s write-up on her Impy Malting blog.

Ron Pattinson blogged about Hofmann here.

German beer festival at Zeitgeist, London

I’m sure it doesn’t need plugging from us, but in case you’d (a) somehow missed it and (b) are in London in the next few days, there’s a rather exciting German beer festival going on at Zeitgeist in Vauxhall, with loads of cool obscure Franconian beers.

Stonch has the details.

Our review of Zeitgeist from February can be found here. We still love the place.

German pub in London

Zeitgeist at the Jolly Gardeners, Vauxhall, South London is absolutely bizarre and absolutely brilliant.

We frequently get “homesick” for Germany, despite being from the UK. When we heard about Zeitgeist through Metro, the free newspaper they give away on London Underground, we got very excited. Tonight was our first visit. It won’t be our last.

It’s run by two expat Germans from Cologne and offers 36 German beers, with at least 10 on tap. They took over in October 2007 and reopened the pub in November. Some of the reviews on Beer in the Evening paint a picture of a pub in the middle of a terrifying council estate. Having grown up on a terrifying council estate, I’m less scared of working class people than some, but the fact that you can almost see Big Ben and MI6 from the pub makes it even less of a worrying prospect. It seemed like a perfectly nice area to us.

The pub itself was excellent. Definitely a pub, but equally surely a small piece of Germany 15 minutes from Westminster. The landlord and landlady were both dressed in German football shirts and the barmaid spoke to us in German — that’s the default language. During our stay, the place filled up with expats keen to watch the Germany/Austria match on a big screen.

What about the beer? Well, here’s the menu. Nothing staggeringly exciting for any tickers out there, but all are in great nick, and with most of the common German beer styles represented. We were especially excited to find a decent Koelsch on tap (Gaffel). If you want to know what the fuss is about Koelsch but can’t get to Cologne, here’s your chance to try the real deal nearer to home.

We were amused to see British customers getting full glasses with tiny heads, plus an apology the glass wasn’t completely full, which German customers were served tiny glasses with towering, frothy ice-cream heads. What’s the German for: “I’ll take mine like a native, please”?

The food was good, too. The menu divides it up by region. Notably, there are at least twelve schnitzel dishes on offer, as well as Nuernberger sausages and Cologne potato pancakes.

In short, we’ll be back. This pub deserves to be a big success.

Notes

Zeitgeist is also known as the Jolly Gardeners, and is at 49-51 Black Prince Road, Se11 6AB. Map here. Closest tube stations are Vauxhall, Kennington, Lambeth North, and Westminster.

Bailey