After the first part about Cologne and its Kölsch, we resume our trip to the west of Germany last autumn with the second part, dedicated to Dusseldorf and its reference beer style, Altbier. As we made with the first entry on the trip, first we’ll give you some notes and impressions about the city. Then, we’ll focus on beer, describing the general characteristics of the beer style and expressing our opinion on the different Altbier we were able to enjoy during our day in this city.
Located about 20-30 minutes from Cologne by train, depending on the train you catch, Dusseldorf seems to be a quiet and modern city, maybe with a little less tourism than Cologne, which doesn’t mean that you are not going to meet a lot of visitors walking through the Altstadt, the old town of the city. Although Dusseldorf doesn’t have a magnet for tourists like the cathedral of Cologne, the attractions of the city are distributed in several areas with the Rhin River as an axis of all of them. From its Altstadt, full of restaurants and picturesque corners, a walk near the river passing next to the tall television tower, sometimes the symbol of the city, to the old Dusseldorf harbour is a very pleasant experience. This old harbour, nowadays dismantled, has been restructured in an interesting mix of apartments and office buildings, including some apartment buildings designed by Frank Gehry and some other old buildings which has been restored even with some pieces of modern art. It’s a pity that we could only spent a journey in the city, I’m sure there will be more opportunities to come back in the future.
Focusing now on beer, we got the impression that Altbier, although very prominent, it not as omnipresent as Kölsch in Cologne. This doesn’t mean that Altbier brewery pubs are not up to par with the ones in Cologne. There are similarities between both types, as the decoration and charm of all of them. The family atmosphere and the feeling of being regular gathering places are also common factors.
With regard to beer, Altbier is a clean and usually dry beer, fermented with a specific ale yeast which is able to ferment vigorously at relatively low temperatures for ale strains. So far, more or less like Kölsch. However, you just need to take a look to one Altbier to notice the main difference between both beer styles. Altbier, with a light to dark amber colour, give more presence to malty flavours with the use of darker malts. Bitterness is variable and they don’t usually have hop aroma.
As with Kölsch in the nearby city, it is usual for Altbier to be served by gravity from wooden casks, with servers replacing empty glasses for full glasses until you decide to stop, noting little marks on the coaster with the drinks consumed. The glass in which Altbier is served is also different from the traditional Stangen used to serve Kölsch, with a little more capacity, 25 cL. We don’t know if it is due to this extra volume, but the price of one glass of Altbier is slightly more expensive than one glass of Kölsch, around 1.90€-2.05€ depending on the place.
The last part of this post is going to be dedicated to give descriptions and express my impressions about the beers we tasted and the traditional places where we drank them. As in the post with the first part of the trip, I’ve organized the beers from the ones I enjoyed most to the ones I enjoyed less. Anyway, I must say all of them were pretty good.
Zum Schlüssel brewery was established in 1850 and nowadays is a subsidiary of a larger brewery located also in Düsseldorf, which in turn is owned by other larger German brewery, which itself is owned by the even larger Carlsberg Brewery in Denmark. As all of the Altbier breweries described here, the beer is brewed on premises. The brewery pub is located in the Altstadt and it is restrained, looking like a typical German brewery pub. The place is full of tables to drink standing up or, especially, seated. Its Altbier is dark amber in colour, clean and very malty, finishing with a very nice sweet touch that I loved.
Schumacher is the oldest Altbier brewery in Dusseldorf, established in the Altstadt in 1838, although it moved to a more spacious place near the train station in 1871, leaving a smaller pub in the Altstadt. Schumacher is still an independent private company. The place is similar to the one from Schlüssel, maybe bigger and with more decoration, with hop plants and paintings about beer motives giving a nice view. Its Altbier is copper in colour, with some hop presence, clean and dry, similar to the one from Schlüssel but with a less sweet finish.
Füchschen brewery looks like a restaurant more than the other places. Opened in 1848, it seems less spacious than others due to the fact that there is less space between tables. We had read about the food being good here, so this was the place we chose to regain strength. And we certainly did it! Satisfying and tasty dishes, good prices, totally recommended… if you are able to find a seat. Its Altbier is probably the lightest in colour of the four and it is similar to the two previous ones, being in middle of both. Sweeter than the one from Schumacher and less sweet than the one from Schlüssel, less bitter than the first and more bitter than the latter. It is, like all of them, a clean and easy to drink beer.
Uerige was our first stop to drink beer in Dusseldorf and we loved the place. Probable was the most beautiful of all the beer places we visited, including the ones in Cologne. This place is very charming and it exhales tradition. Regarding its beer, it is the most different of all the Altbier we tasted. It is by far the most bitter Altbier and it has some toasted touches probably from darker grains. It was the Altbier I enjoyed the less, but it could be possible that the fact that we were used to drink Kölsch the previous days had something to do with this. Anyway, an easy to drink beer, as all the previous ones.
With this second part, we finished the story about our trip to Cologne and Dusseldorf. As a final note, I have only one more thing to say. No matter if you travel to Cologne or Dusseldorf, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the nearby city. Train connections are frequent and it doesn’t take a lot of time to travel from one city to the other. Both cities and their beers are worth the trip. Until next time. Prost!