Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sticke Day

Yep, today is the day...

I snuck in a little bit before the official opening at 10am. It doesn't really do you any good until they tap the keg, but it was out of the wind and rain.

Soon they rolled in the barrel. They start out small in the morning, switching to larger barrels later in the day.

First Barrel of Sticke
They finally tapped the barrel and I got the first glass...

First glass of Sticke

The downside to the first glass of the first barrel was it is a little too cold. First impressions were of malt. It went down very smoothly. Once it warmed up a bit you could find some hop bitterness in there if you looked for it. But there was enough there that the beer didn't taste sweet -- just malty.  I didn't ask the ABV -- they will tell you the official 6.5% (what they print on the labels) but it does very from year to year. Judging by how I felt after three, I figure it the alcohol is a bit higher this year.

After three beers, I left to run some errands -- I needed to pace myself today. Around noon I headed back for round 2. The lunch they had today was Königsberger Klopse veal meatballs boiled in salt water with capers and boiled potatoes along with a beet salad. Very nice.

Königsberger Klopse
A few more beers with lunch. I was liking it more and more with each glass -- a dangerous situation. After four or five I decided to take a break until 4:30 when I was to meet up with some German friends.

When I am here with the "Sticke Warriors" group we always reserve a table in the Brauhaus. But the friends whose table I was "crashing" had their table in one of the side rooms. All night long I would run in to locals who would say "So you are here -- I looked for you in the Brauhaus, what are you doing here?" The price of fame.

Tuesdays at Uerige is Potato Pancake night and I needed some grease to counter all the alcohol, so I ordered some. These are more like "potato fritters" than pancakes and were just what I needed. You really see in the picture, but they come with a great chunky applesauce.

 Before I knew it, it was time to call it a night. Nearly 3 liters of over 6.5% beer does me in these days. A sign of age, I guess.

One final tradition on the way home: across the street from Uerige is the home of the local herbal liqueur Killepitsch.  The local tradition is if you have one of these as your last drink of the night, you won't have a hangover the next day. It has always worked for me, so I wasn't going to pass it up!

 They have a little window into their bar, where they will sell you a shot to go. A great way to cap an evening.
Tomorrow is Schlüssel Stike but I hope to make an early night of it as I have an early flight home on Thursday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Day before Sticke

Not going to post much today -- didn't drink anyplace or anything new. But to let you know the big day is coming, the signs were up at Uerige...

Can't wait. Hard to believe this will be my 17th Sticke Day (2 January, 14 October plus this years)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wandering Around Düsseldorf Drinking Beer

I wasn't going to post pictures of all the beers, since there are plenty of pictures of them already on this site (just click the label "Düsseldorf") but then somebody would claim I really didn't "touch all the bases" so here is at least one picture of each beer...

I started off with Im Füchschen. A few years ago they had some major equipment problems and switched to using hop extract instead of whole or pelletized hops. It took a while for them to get the recipe dialed back in. Dialed, they have. It is back to it's old delicious form. This called for another one to be sure.

Füchschen Alt
Next on the path was the new brewery Kürzer. But they are more of a night club and don't open to evening. So I will have to come back another time.

Then it was over to Bolkerstrasse for a Schlüssel Alt.

Sclüssel Alt

The also have a special strong alt, called "Stike" (Uerige's is "Sticke") and as luck would have it, one of the two days it is served is the Wednesday. So much for my easy day before flying home.

Something to do on Wednesday
Across the street is Schumacher's Im Goldenen Kessel, their tap room in the Altstadt (the brewery is on Oststrasse, in the direction of the train station). But the beer is served from gravity barrels just as at the brewery.  For some reason, this tasted really good this morning. So I had another, and another.


Then it was off to my last stop of the morning, zum Uerige.

Uerige Alt
I must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, or maybe I was replaced by a pod in the middle of the night, but today this was not my favorite alt. The Uerige had a bit of a harsh graininess -- if I were judging a homebrew I would say they maybe had oversparged a bit. It wasn't bad by any means, it just wasn't it's usual perfect self. I had another to be sure and it was the same (probably from the same barrel). Don't get me wrong -- it was perfectly drinkable.

Sometimes missed by visitors, there are a couple of brewpubs across the Rhine in the district of Oberkassel. One is part of a chain, Brauhaus Johannes Albrecht. I haven't been there for years but when I have been they have had two beers Messing (bronze) and Kupfer (copper). They were always fine but nothing special. As is common in these new style brewpubs ("American Style Brewpub") the beers tend to be a little under attenuated -- they could stand a few more weeks of lagering.  I decided to skip it again this trip -- I had enough of this style of beer on my bike trip this past summer.

The other brewpub is in an old street car train station at Belsonplatz. It has gone thru a number of incarnations over the years. For awhile it was owned by the same family that owns zum Schlüssel (Gatzweiler) and was known as Brauhaus Gatz.  The beer was never that good and at some point they stopped brewing there (the brewing equipment was covered in dust) and they served somebody else's alt as theirs. Then it finally closed.

Well, last year it re-opened as Brauhaus Alter Bahnhof, brewing Gulasch Alt. Why Gulasch? I have no idea, except it also starts with G as did Gatz so maybe it made things easier.

Brauhaus Alter Bahnhof
The beer was served from traditional gravity barrels and was quite drinkable. It had a bit of a raisin-y note in the finish -- which reminded me a bit of one of the large alt breweries -- but I couldn't dredge up which one -- and I am not about to go try them all to find out. The brewing system was no longer covered in dust and the control panel behind it was obviously active. I am not saying they don't brew the beer -- they probably do -- but a cynical and suspicious might have ideas.

Gulasch Alt
You'd think a place that served "Gulasch Alt" might have a nice goulash on the menu. Think again. Sundays must be "Bavaria day" because they mostly had Bavarian style food. This is all the worse because Uerige did have goulash as they daily "soup" and it is very good and I passed on it because I knew I was coming here. There is a moral in that somewhere.

Brew house at Alter Bahnhof
So I had the Haxeteller -- a chunk of Schweinehaxe with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. It was fine, but heart was set on a nice spicy goulash.

Back across the river to the Altstadt, it was time for a bit of a break. They next place I wanted to visit didn't open until 5pm so I had some time to kill.

What place is that? A pub called Schalander on Kölner Landstrasse. It is about 5 stops beyond the Hauptbahnhof on the U74 or U77 line. If basically is right at the Ickerswarder Str stop.

They are the closest thing to  "beer bar" I've found in Düsseldorf. They have thirteen beers on draft, including four Alt's: Uerige, Füchschen, Schumacher and Frankenheim. In addition they have Pilsner Urquell,  Budweiser Budvar, Andechser Spezial Hell and even Früh Kölsch.

One could do a number of different tastings, but I decided to go with the four alts. The waiter was quite confused -- one person ordering four beers. He must of asked if I was sure about three times, but he did bring all four.

From left to right: Frankenheim, Uerige, Füchschen and Schumacher

One sip of the Frankenheim with that big malty-raisin finish and I knew what the Gulasch Alt was reminded me of.  It was not exactly the same but close. Frankenheim was always my favorite of the large alt breweries (it is 60% owned by Warsteiner).

And the good news was the Uerige tasted how I remembered Uerige -- a clean finish with a big bitterness -- much better than the one I'd had at the brewery. The Füchschen and Schumacher were much like those at the brewery.

One difference is these were all served from modern kegs -- that is, dispensed with CO2. I didn't really notice the difference that much, especially as it took me a while to drink all four.

By this time the jet lag was kicking in, so I called it a night.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

First Beer of the Trip...

... and of course it is a Uerige.

I had a bunch of things I needed to do and they all opened at 10am, so the first beer was a little late -- 10:30am. I am truly sorry and that will not happen again.

The beer was its usual wonderful self.

First Uerige of the trip

Thursday, October 11, 2012

We interrupt this post on Pittsburgh for breaking beer news...

... I will finish up with the great time I had a Church Brew Works and Kaya, but I've run out of time and the next beer trip starts in the morning.

I am off to Düsseldorf for a few days. On Tuesday, zum Uerige will be serving their twice annual strong Altbier (called Sticke) and as it is their 150th Anniversary this year, I felt obligated to attend.

Normally this time of year there is a whole group that goes ("Sticke Warriors Beer Tour") but every four years we go in December instead and this is that year. So I actually will get to taste Sticke when it is fresh and then again in December after it has been aged a couple more months (as they always save a keg for us when we come in December)

So stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

First Evening in Pittsburgh

After a couple of uneventful flights, I arrived in Pittsburgh.  I changed planes in Minneapolis and managed to have a Summit Oktoberfest while waiting for my flight. Not as malty as I like them but very drinkable.

My hotel in PIT had a shuttle bus, which took about 15 minutes to arrive. After I got in, the driver said he had to wait a bit for another pickup. No problem, I didn't have a schedule, other than to drink beer. It turns out the other pickup was the crew from my flight. They were staying a fancier hotel than I and the shuttle went there first. As he was pulling up to their Hyatt Place Hotel, I recognized the name of the mall across the street from my beer research. I asked the driver if he knew a place called "Mad Mex" and he said, sure it's over behind Ditka's (Stuff you learn while traveling -- I didn't know Mike Ditka was from the Pittsburgh area). I asked if he wouldn't mind dropping me off there instead of my hotel. You could tell he thought this a strange request but he did. I was thinking of taking a taxi from the hotel so it saved both time and money.

I sorted of expected a "Post Apocalyptic El Torrito's" and that is not too far off, but in a good way.  I headed for the bar were it looked like they had about 30 or so taps. When I got the beer menu there was an insert "Southern Tier Week -- all draft Southern beers $5." That got my attention but the promo had started the previous Sunday and all the kegs were gone. Oh well.

Since I had started with an Oktoberfest, I went with that theme and had a Fat Head's Oktoberfest. Fat Head's is in Cleveland -- not exactly local but "local-ish" enough. It was a decent beer, very drinkable but nothing to knock your socks off.  But then again, that probably wasn't the brewer's intent.

Next up was Victory Brewing Donneybrook Stout, served on nitro. At 3.7% this really is a session beer. The lower alcohol was very well hidden -- this was a very tasty and satisfying beer.

Victory is at least from the same state, but I wanted a local, local beer. The waitress asked if I like hoppy beers. I guess from my first two choices that could be in doubt. I told her the hoppier the better and she recommended East End Brewing's Big Hop IPA. It is a little on the light side compared to a West Coast IPA (5.8% and 70 IBUs) but it had a very big hop flavor and was extremely tasty. So I had a second.

By now I figure the hotel was wondering what happened to me, so I asked if they would call me a cab. I guess that is not a common occurrence because it took a while for the cab to show up. But what the hey, I wasn't on a schedule.