Wednesday, December 14, 2022

First day in Düsseldorf (Dec 13)

The TL;DR version of our day: We walked around Düsseldorf and drank beer. You want more?

We convened at Uerige to make sure the beer had not changed overnight. It hadn't. This was actually my third beer: the lens was fogged on the first one and a forgot to take a picture of the second one. Trust me, they looked the same.

The price is up to €2.65 for a ,25l glass. I haven't taken pictures of this over the years, but in 2006 it was €1.50. Food prices are up about 10% over last year.

In past years, on Tuesday they had Königsberger Klopse for lunch but that is not available in the winter. So I had goulash for lunch.

Unlike some that I had in Bamberg (and Prague) this had some paprika and peppers in it. The best goulash of the trip.

A few more beers and then we decided to adjourn for a bit a reconvene at Schlüssel. One change from last year (and before) is many places are closed a couple days a week and/or open later in the day. Uerige and Sclüssel are unchanged but for example Im Goldenen Kessel (the Schumacher tap room) is closed Sunday and Monday and opens at 3pm on some other days. There are also a lot of empty shops.

Another sign of the times: If asked to describe the location of  Im Goldenen Kessel I could say between the McDonalds (new) and KFC, across from the Burger King.

At Schlüssel, the beer was pretty much as I remembered, not a bitter as Uerige, making it seem sweeter. Still good, though

We had a few to insure that the first wasn't  a fluke. Soon it was 3pm, the opening time for Füchschen, so we headed over there.

Normally, the Weihnachtsbier (Christmas beer) is only available in the bottles until Christmas Eve when they serve it from the barrel. This year, however, they started serving it from a keg (not a gravity barrel) on December 1. I believe they have a gravity keg on Sundays.

It was very good. Malty and hoppy, much better than what I remember of the bottle 6 years ago (which was probably consumed on the street).

For research comparison purposes, I order the regular Füchschen Alt. It too was very good. They have been upgrading the brewery at Füchschen and I think it is paying off.

We had a reservation at Uerige for 5pm so we headed back that way. There was supposed to be a barrel of the Jrön, their "Green Hopped"Sticke (we'd say "Fresh Hop"or "Wet Hop") but that was not to be. Not really a hardship because I do like the regular Uerige Alt quite a bit.

Our original table was in a room called "The Sauna" -- it can get a bit warm in there if they don't open the windows (which open into another room, not the outside). The windows were closed as that other room had their projection TV system and they were going to be showing some kicky-ball event. But they said "plenty of room in the Brauhaus"so they moved us over there. That is my favorite room.

The beer was the same as it was that morning -- very good.

We had. a good view of the brewhouse and a brew was underway.  The young man doing the brewing was having problems though. He had a concerted look on his face and was talking on a phone. The face was similar the one I have when I am on the phone to technical support trying to get my computer to boot.

We was back and forth to the control console and the two kettles and I think he had a stuck mash because he was using the long piece of wood they use as a dipstick in the boil kettle to try and dislodge something in the mash/lauter kettle.

For dinner I ordered the Kasespätzle. It was good but I thought a bit overpriced for what you get. That is sort of true of all of the entries at Uerige. I think they are priced for when there are trade fairs and people are on expense account.

Beer drinking continued apace for a few hours. Take any of the above pictures and repeat.

(This was just for part of one table).

Of course it's not over until it's over and the Killeptisch has been consumed.

With that we called it a night. Our "Sticke-less"Sticke night.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Travel Day from Hell

We had booked a 9:26am train, getting us into Düsseldorf about 1:30pm, giving us plenty of time to get to the hotel, check in and and have an afternoon session or two before our dinner reservation at Füchschen.

About ten minutes after the train left Bamberg I got an alert on my phone that our connecting train was going be be an hour late arriving in to Würzburg. By the time we reached Würzburg the delay was up to two hours, giving us a 2:30 minute wait. If I were writing a movie script about this the direction would be:: "Cue ominous music."

Our RB (regional bahn -- one small step up from milk run) actually continued on to Frankfurt, arriving about the same time as our delayed ICE. There is frequent service from Frankfurt to Düsseldorf but if we stayed on our local train we would have no seat reservations and with what looked like a developing chaotic situation might mean standing. So we decided to wait for our original ICE (express) to of Würzburg. Decision point number1

The two hour delay slowly increased to three hours.

We decided to break open one of the "train beers" a 2021 Spezial Bock that had been aged in Laphroaig whisky barrels. It had been int he bottle for a year and we were warned it might be a bit sour.

It wasn't but there was a bit of acidity that someone might perceive as sourness. The beer was interesting but the Laphroaig really dominated. You couldn't really tell much about the original beer except it was malty.

We had been tracking some of the other trains from Würzburg to Düsseldorf -- all were delayed but there was one that was scheduled to arrive before our train -- originally by 30 minutes but its delay increased until it was about 5 minutes earlier than our train. Both trains were on the same track.

When the delay was 30 minutes we thought we decided to go to the track and make a snap judgement if we thought there would be seats. But when the delay was down to 5-10 minutes we decided to wait for our train and our confirmed seats.

Cue ominous music #2, Decision Point #2

The earlier train came and left with lots of people getting on. Our train arrived and we boarded and found our seats. We would be 3 hours late but would still make our dinner reservation.

So we broke open train beer #2. Broughton Breweries Old Jock Imperial Stout, Canadian edition.

The story on the label was they had brewed this for an export customer in 2000 and put it into whisky barrels. But the customer never claimed it So it (supposedly) sat in the barrel for 20 years until they decided to bottle it and sell it exclusively in Canada in an attempt to break into the Canadian market.

The twenty year thing makes some sense because if the customer paid up front the brewery couldn't just dispose of it. So after 20 years it might become "abandoned property" and the brewery could sell to to recover storage costs. I saw something similar once in Antwerp with 20 cases of Chimay that a merchant ship bought but never picked up. However British beer friends scoffed at this idea and said we were being scammed. I don't know -- if you can't believe in what is written on a beer label, what can you believe?

Anyway, the beer was awesome, no matter it's story.

Now back to the drama. Our train announcer mumbled when he made announcements and he held the microphone to close to his mouth so there was lots of distortion. I couldn't really understand the German or the English version. But I perked up after once announcement, that sounded like the train would now end it Frankfurt.  Surely it wouldn't be just a sort of passing comment. But the lady across from me got quite upset and the DB App now showed all stops past Frankfurt canceled so I knew I had heard correctly.

So we found ourselves standing on the plant form at Frankfurt Hbf, over an hour later than we would have been had we stayed on the local train. And the earlier train we had just about border but decided not to and just left Frankfurt, headed for Düsseldorf.

Decision Point #3:

We had two choices, a train that left in 30 minutes but took the old Rhine route thru Mainz, Koblenz and Bonn and took 2 and half hours. Or a train on the direct route that took a hour and forty minutes but we'd have to wait over an hour in Frankfurt. The trains scheduled arrival were about 10 minutes apart.

The longer route train had only a two minute delay posted, while the later one was running about 1:30 late. We decided to take the longer route as that would probably be less popular (so more chance of seats) and it hadn't had any real delays.

The train came and we managed to find seats fairly close together. Some of them technically were reserved for frequent travelers with last minute change of plans but we gambled and no one came to kick us out. We would, however, not make our dinner reservation, so I called and canceled.

Once the train was pass Mainz, we broke out the last train beer. A 1999 Thomas Hardy's Ale, the last vintage brewed at the Eldridge Pope brewery before the brewery closed.

I have a bunch of these and the have probably reached their peak and should be drunk. This one seemed to have less carbonation that other's I've had recently but was still a great beer. Very much brown sugar and raisins and alcohol. 

I didn't really relax until we reached Köln (Cologne).

Soon after, we were in Düsseldorf. I resisted the impulse to kiss the cement, mostly because I wasn't sure I'd get back up.  We took the U-Bahn to the Altstadt, checked into our hotel and soon were headed out in search of food and beer.

Our route took us past Sweine Janes, so we popped in for a Schweinebrötchen. Food on the go. I was standing under their red lights so the picture isn't that good. But the sandwich was.

Our destination was Bergerstrasse 1

The front rooms were full the the Brauhaus had tables so we parked ourselves there and soon the first round of Uerige arrived. The phone software burped because the glass was not curved.

The piggy sandwich filled a void but a Frikadelle seemed to be in order. And the mustard, oh the mustard...

As is the case at Uerige, once it was clear we would be there for a while, glasses were replaced almost as soon as they were empty.

After a bit, the events of the day took their toll and we decided to reconvene in the morning. But on the way back to the hotel, an obligatory Killepitsch 

 Last year Deutche Bahn cost me a day of drinking in Bamberg. This year it was an afternoon in Düsseldorf. Of the five past Sticke trips we've had major problems on the stretch at least 3 and maybe 4 times. In theory they will refund half our fare but they can't refund the lost time.

Last Day in Bamberg (Dec 11)

Sunday ended up being a bit of a rest day. Doing laundry, some shopping at the Christmas markets, catching up on naps.

We did gather at Spezial for lunch. First course was typical...

They had sea trout on the menu, which sounded good. Didn't expect it to be battered and friend but it was delicious.

I decided to have a liquid dessert, which strangely enough, tasted a lot like my appetizer.

We had reserved a table at 6pm but by 5:30 I was a bit bored so I headed down and found most of the gang a beer ahead of me.

After dithering a bit I went with an old favorite, Schnitzel Cordon Bleu

After a few more beers we called it a night as we had an early-ish train in the morning., But first we had a round of Sieben Hügel, the local herbal liqueur as our farewell to Bamberg



Sunday, December 11, 2022

Day Three in Bamberg (Dec 10)

Starting off with the traditional pictures of the Rengnitz Canal from the Ketternbrücke

We headed down to Hopfenhaus. the taproom for the Brauerei Hopfengarten. They are a very small brewery in the Gärtnerstadt. They are connected to the family that owns one of the remaining commercial gardens in Bamberg. They are know for making "infusions" with products from their commercial gardens. People know know me know I like "beer flavored beer" but their creations are interesting and worth trying. The also grow the hops used for dry/wet hopped beers.

They have 7 taps but one was dry. The one off frame is called Koala and is made with eucalyptus.

I usually have the Hopfen Gold but today started with the Hopfen Dolde ("Hop cone").

The flavor was nice but sadly it breached my threshold for diacetyl -- too much butter. Others had the Hopfen Gold and Rotbier and they were quite nice.

One thing I remember from past trips was their "Hop Gin." Today they had a Smoked Hop Gin., which sounded like it would be worth a try.

Another miss here. it was fairly rough with not much noticable hop flavor and some general suggestion of smoke. Stick to the plain hop gin.

I asked of they had small sizes and they did, sort of, a half pour in a regular glass. So I ordered the Koala.

There was just a hint of Eucalyptus -- I'm not sure I could have identified it without being prompted. A half measure was about right -- I enjoyed it but a full seidla would be too much.

We headed down toward the Obere Brücke and tucked away in the Obstmarkt is Brüderla, the new taproom for the contract brewery BroBeer.

Last year this was a place called :"Bier Haus" and had a nice selection of draft and bottled beers from the area.  BroBier brews their beer at the industrial sized Schlossbrauerei in Reckendorf (they used to have full wrap bus ads for their "Recken Pils" on the Bamberg city buses.

I ordered their Vollbier and it was a good beer, a bit hoppier than most, which I gather is part of their goal of attracting younger drinkers.

They have 5 standard beers, one seasonal (a Pale Ale today) plus two Reckendorfer beers.

The Helles and Rotbier were also nice from tastes from other peoples beers. The Pale Ale was a bit of a disappointment. Nothing really wrong just no reason to drink another.

I had a positive memory of the Reckendorfer Kellerbier from a long ago visit to the brewery. It was good, though not it the top tier of area Kellerbiers.

We couldn't decide what to do next and we had time until our dinner reservation at Klosterbräu. But we headed there anyway and decided to have a beer in the Schwemme.

Twenty odd years ago Klosterbräu was one of my favorites. In fact, the first beers I had in Bamberg were from Klosterbräu. The Braunbier and Schwarzla were excellent and they did a killer pale bock.  Starting about 10-12 years ago the quality went downhill and I used to joke it was time for my annual beer dump check, because they were (to me) not drinkable.

About 3 or 4 years ago they were purchased by the local industrial brewery Kaiserdom, who upgraded the brewery and provided trained brewers. Brewery turnover was one the the problems with Klosterbräu. The beer quality has greatly improved.

Some locals are concerned, though, viewing like we might when a large brewery buys a local craft brewery. Are they going to use their larger size to muscle in on the smaller breweries? It is something that bears watching,

But in the meantime, the beers have improved. They have added a Rauchbier to the lineup (no matter what their marketing says, it is a new beer). Very smokey.

After freezing the Schwemme, we found out our table was a side room and was ready for us. We gladly moved indoors.

Next up was the Schwärzla ("Little black") and it was much, much improved. Almost like a bottom fermented stout.

Leberknödel soup was on the menu and it sound good, so I ordered it. It was not like any other I've had in Germany. The broth was like beef soup and the dumpling was very dark as well. It wasn't bad, just not what I expected.

The other new beer since the takeover is a Kellerbier. I first tasted it in 2019 after a bike ride and it really hit the spot. This is edition was good, but not as good as I remembered, though the bike ride may have influenced me.

The main course was Schweinebraten with Kloss and Wirsing. Again, the gravy was a bit darker than I'm used to but it was good. The wirsing was a bit strange, not really creamed and a bit think and lumpy. 

With that we finished up and headed back to the hotel. It was Saturday night so Spezial was closed so no danger of a night cap pulling us in.

I played with the night mode on my phone and here a couple of Bamberg night scenes.

A visit to the dorfs (Dec 9)

 As is our tradition, we caught a 10:00am bus to Merkendorf, home of two good breweries, Wagner and Hummel. There is limited service to Merkendorf so the 10am bus is really the only one that works.

Half an hour later we are at Brauerei Wagner.

After a hiatus of three years the parade of beers at Brauerei Wagner, Merkendorf has returned. We passed on the Weizen so 8 beers to start. We missed it last year because a wind storm shut down long distance rail service and we lost the only day we could visit Merkendorf.

All were good. From left to right: Pale Bock, Dark Bock, Jubiläumsbier, Rotbier, Märzen, Pils, Festbier and Lagerbier.

Usually my favorites are the Pils and the Lagerbier, which was the case today, but the Märzen was much better than I remembered. All were good though. I chose the Pils and my next beer.

Kartoffelsuppe was on the menu and I am a sucker for that. This one was a bit different but tasty.

Lunch was a Schnitzel Sandwich -- €6 or an extra 50 cents for cheese and onions.

It was good. It would have been outstanding with a bit better bread. That was the secret ingredient at the old Cafe Abseits -- they had a special bread baked for them by a local baker.

I chose the Lagerbier for my next beer. In the background you can see somebody chose a Weizen so we touched all the Wagner bases...

I love this brewery name signs over the bar. Just in case you forget where you are.

Their main room is just cozy, and quickly filled up with locals. We did get a few side looks.

We then trekked back up the hill to Brauerei Hummel, which only had seven beers on tap. Luckily the dreaded Cowboy Schwarzbier was not one of them. Every day is a beer festival in Merkendorf. A village with just over 900 people has 16 locally brewed beers on tap. Should be in the book of records.

From left to right, Kellerbier, Pils, Weizen, Märzen, Bock, Jubiläumsbier, Dunkel. All were good but a few were on the edge of butteriness but were drinkable.

As is usual, the Kellerbier was my favorite.

The kellerbier is gravity displeased and they have a special fridge for it. I want one of these in the worst way...

We hopped a bus back to Memmelsdorf where it dropped us off almost in front of Drei Kronen.

They had three beers on tap today Helle Lotte (wedding beer), Böckla, and 1457 Lager. All were well made and tasty.

Turns out they also have an IPA in the bottle and my brother ordered one.

It was what you'd expect for a well made German IPA -- clean and crisp, a nice bitterness and some nice hop flavor.

It is hard for me to get used to sunset at 4pm -- it looked like it was quite late so we headed back to the bus stop and caught the next bus back to Bamberg.

It turns out the same bus continued on the Wunderberg (after a short rest for the driver) and we had purchased day tickets so stayed on the bus and check out Brauerei Keesmann

We had already inquired about dinner reservations a couple of weeks ago and we told no chance, but we thought we might have a quick bock int he Schwemme.

It turns out the Schwemme was also fu ll so we were relegated to the smoker stations outside. By my phone it as 31ºF so the bock was consumed a bit faster than maybe optimal. As expected it was very good and by far the best bock we'd had so far.

We walked across the screen to Mahrs Bräu and they had a table for us, sort of. They have covered the entire courtyard under canvas, making it one huge tent. They had a couple of heaters trying their best but it still was fairly chilly. But we where hungry so we sat down.

I ordered the U. There is a bit of a controversy raging on the internet about the U. I found it be an enjoyable beer, with no flaws, but a shadow of its former greatness.

It really reminded me more of an unfiltered Helles. It used to be a bit more bitter and much more "lively." I'm not really sure how to describe the latter, bit it used to have it and now it doesn't. But if you hadn't tasted it before (or for a long time) you might wonder what the controversy was because on its own, it is a good beer.

Somebody else ordered the bock.

I found it to be too sweet -- I'm glad I didn't order one because I probably wouldn't finish one.

For dinner I had the Treberschnitzel -- a Schnitzel breaded with spent grains. It was good but not as good as the ones we used to get at Andy Gänsteller's place in Strassgiech.

One beer was enough and we decided to head home. On the way we passed a pub (Undisclosed Location #1) were I popped in for a Spezial U. They also have Sonne (Bischberg) Helles and Keesmann Herren Pils on draft, so something for everybody. If you know it, good for you but remember the first rule. If you don't know it, come drink with me and I'll take you there...

Further along I came to Undisclosed Location #2. I have head recently that they will have to close next year for some reason which wasn't; clear to me. They have a nice bottle selection and on the weekends they usually have a gravity feed barrel on the bar. Today's was the Kellerbier from Eichhorn in Dörfleins. A very nice beer.

It was dark so I apologize 

By the time we got back to Spezial they had closed the front doors (but we have a key) but there were still people in the pub. We might have been able to finagle a last beer, but I called it a night.