Friday, November 22, 2013

Great Collectors Items-Blechschilder

While visiting a Passau flea market in September, I cam across a great item for German beer aficionados. I purchased a brightly colored tin beer sign for my son. Later in Nuremberg, I found a great little shop across the street from the train station specializing in these metal beer signs made of tin. They feature various breweries and are quite attractive. I picked up two and brought them home to add to the Berliner Kindl sign I had purchased in Berlin way back in 1987. Below you can see all three hanging on the wall of my den.


Of course, you might want to hang them sparingly. Overdoing it will make your wall look like some kind of bar and your wife may not like it.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Franconian Breweries

While in Germany last months, I discovered a great website on Franconian breweries. Franconia (Franken) is a region of northern Bavaria that is rich in breweries and good beer even if the folks there don't really consider themselves Bavarians. The below site has lots of information (in German) with lots of pictures of beer coasters and plaques.


http://www.braufranken.de/html/braumittelfranken.html

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Drinking Beer Where Nazis Drank Beer



Santorini Greek Restaurant, Erlangen






Undated photo of Huburtus-Note Berg Brau sign



Last month, when I arrived in Erlangen, I decided to have dinner the first night in a Greek restaurant named Santorini. It is located at 55 Friederichstrasse. I was the first customer in and while ordering and eating, I had a chance to chat with the owner, a Greek lady.  I told her that I was very familiar with the place since during my time as an MP in Erlangen in the 1960s, I had spent considerable time there. At that time, it was known as one of Erlangen's rowdiest GI bars. She told me that she had heard stories about her restaurant's past.

The original name of the establishment was Huburtus, a name that survived up to the time I was there in the late 1960s. It was established in 1928 and quickly became in drinking place for Nazis. In 1931, the local Nazi paper, Kampf, had ads for Huburtus as a place for SA folks to drink. Coincidentally, the beer being served there was Bergbrau, a local brewery from nearby Fuerth. It was still the beer being served when I was there. (The current establishment now serves Kitzmann beer, Erlangen's biggest brewery.) To my knowledge, Bergbrau is no longer in business.

Item image

After the war, Huburtus became a GI bar. In my era, the Americans referred to it as "George's" after the then-current owner. He either died or was divorced, and his wife Renate became the owner. She later married an American officer named Tom. (They have both since passed on.)


Huburtus (George's) during Fasching 1968. That's me in the red sweater. As you can see, I am deeply contemplating sitting and drinking beer where Storm Troopers once sat and drank beer.


Above: This is Gertie, our German waitress. She knew every four-letter word in English, and we loved her.

Since then in the 70s and beyond, the bar went through a succession of names, Cheers, Sports Bar, Schlothex and Mucho Loco before becoming Santorini.

If you happen to be in Erlangen, stop in. The food is good and you may even see my ghost trying to break up a fight.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Drinking Beer Where Dietrich Eckart Read Poetry




Dietrich Eckart (1868-1923) was one of the original members of the Nazi party in Germany. A playwright of some renown, he actually produced a German version of Peer Gynt. Later, drifting to Munich he became a mentor to Adolf Hitler as the Nazi party was founded. Eckart was the editor of an anti-Semitic journal called Auf gut Deutsch and came up with  the funds to start up the Voelkisher Beobachter, the Nazi Party newspaper, of which he became editor-in-chief. He died before Hitler came to power in 1933 and is buried in Berchesgaden.

As a student, Eckart studied medicine (none too seriously) at Erlangen University, was a member of the Corps Onoldia, a burschenschaft (fraternity), and frequented a tavern called the Goldener Mond, where he entertained his friends by reading poetry. A mysterious illness incurred in Erlangen led to morphine dependence, which ended his student days. During the Third Reich, Erlangen's Bohlenplatz was re-named Dietrich- Eckart- Platz.

So it was during my last sojourn in Erlangen in September that I was having dinner with an American friend who lives in Erlangen. He was telling me about an Irish pub in town and described its location near the train station. I was not familiar with the place and asked him to show me. As we came up to the place, I immediately recognized it as the Goldener Mond. As we settled in and I ordered a (German) beer, I recounted the history of the place to my friend. Today, it is what could be charitably described as a student hangout or maybe just a dive bar, but with an Irish flair. It has likely not seen any serious renovation since the days when Eckart hung out there. It is located at 18 Innere Bruckerstarsse at the corner of Goethestrasse.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Last Visit to Germany

Avoid the Major Brews

I just returned from my latest trip to Germany. I visited Munich, Passau, Erlangen and Nuremberg and sampled many brews. Here is what I observed.

My first stop was a two-day stopover in Munich since my Lufthansa flight was from Chicago to Munich. I stayed in the western suburb of Pasing. My first meal was at a nearby inn and they were serving two brands, Becks, the major brewery from Bremen in northern Germany, and Munich's Spaten. I tried the Becks Pils first, and it was highly disappointing. I then switched to Spaten, which I had never been fond of anyway. Again, disappointing but better than the Becks.

The following day, I walked around Munich. I had lunch at a pizza place, and their brew was Thurn and Taxis, the major brewery of Regensburg. It was alright-better than the two from the previous evening. I also stopped in for a liter at the Augustiner Beer hall. Pretty good.

I had wanted to go to the Hirschgarten, reputed to be Europe's largest beer garden, but the weather was not favorable. Beer gardens and rain don't mix. They also feature Augustiner, so what I had at the Augustiner hall must have been just as good.

Bierh
Augustiner Hall Munich

One thing I noticed in Munich and also in Passau was that many restaurants are not featuring just one brand, but a couple of brands with a variety of styles such as pils, helles, hefe or dunkles. I stuck with the pils and helles. I also noticed that the traditional custom of a draft beer taking 7 minutes in the process seems to have gone by the boards.

I then took the train to Passau (not waiting for the Oktoberfest to begin). My first night in Passau I took the bus to the Herbstdult, the Autumn Fest, which is mostly a luna park type affair with kids' rides, booths for brats and beer plus two large spaces for the beer fest scene.

Passau has a few breweries, and the fest was featuring Innstadt and Hacklberg, two breweries which have merged. I wound up going two nights and I can say that their fest beer was the best of my trip. Drinking them in restaurants was a different story. Other breweries in Passau are Loewenbrau (no relation to the one in Munich) and Aldersbacher, both of which were alright. By the way, Passau's historiography says that Adolf Hitler, before coming to power, would visit the owner of the Loewenbrau brewery, Franz Stockbauer, when he visited the city. The brewery is located on Franz Stockbauerweg.


After three days in Passau, I was on the train to Erlangen, my prime destination since here is where I spent my Army years.

Erlangen has basically two breweries, Kitzmann, the oldest and the best) and Steinbach, which was re-instituted several years ago. Both have  eating and drinking facilities at their breweries. Kitzmann has a nice stube and beer garden while Steinbach has a cellar restaurant and bar above which seems to be a favorite with the happy hour crowd.


Above Kitzmann beer garden


Steinbach's beer is not to my taste because it has a hefe quality to it. That's why I prefer Kitzmann and drinking it at their brewery was one of the best of my sojourn. One evening, however, I stopped into the Steinbach bar just to check it out and ran into a friend from the city archives. I joined him and his friends for a beer, and through him managed to get a free Steinbach polo shirt.



Another beer that has managed to get into the Erlangen restaurant and kneipe market is Kulmbacher Moenchof. I didn't think it was that great, but I did have a Kulmbacher pils from the bottle and it was pretty good.

Other beers I tried in Erlangen:

Jever in a bottle- a northern brew not bad
Greif of nearby Forcheim- OK
Held from the Fraenkische Schweiz area near Erlangen- OK
Aufsesser from Rothenbach in Franconia-pretty good.



I also had an Efes Plzen (Turkish) while in a Turkish food place. This is a quality beer which I loved when in Turkey.

In addition, while dining in a Bohemian-German restaurant in Erlangen, they were featuring Bernhard, a Czech beer, which was also nice.

I also spent a day in Nuremberg. I try to avoid Tucher, the main Nuremberg,brewery and a smaller one, Lederer. In addition, the nearby Zirndorfer beer from the nearby village of Zirndorf, is one of the worst beers in Germany, to my taste anyway. At lunch I had a Veldensteiner, from an old Bavarian brewery that imports to the US. Not bad. For dinner I was a guest at my friend, Tony Gentile and his Italian restaurant, Osteria Da Toni in nearby Stein. Since he served Tucher and Zirndorfer, I went with the wine.

You may be getting the impression I am not as crazy about German beer as this blog suggests. Not true, but I think I have brought home an important lesson. In recent years, many of the largest German brewing companies have bought up many smaller breweries and become mass produced to the point that that they have compromised on quality-just trying to appeal to the largest taste market.  This has resulted in what some Germans call, "industrial beer." Thus, it is a good idea to:

1 Stick to local brews wherever you are

2 Go for the smaller and less-known breweries. Avoid the large, well-known brands.





Monday, September 2, 2013

Heading to Germany

German beer, here I come! I will be flying from California to Munich September 10. Two nights in Munich, specifically in the Pasing area, where I plan to check out the Hirschgarten, the world's largest beer garden, or something like that. They serve Augustiner and a couple of other Bavarian brews. Yes, I will miss the Oktoberfest. I really don't care. Too big. Too rowdy and too commercialized.



On the 13th, I will take the train to Passau on the Austrian border, where the Danube and the Inn rivers meet.. They are holding the Autumn Festival, and that should mean more good beer.



On the 16th, I take the train to Erlangen, where I will stay until the 25th when I return home. I will have lots of friends to meet with, so my schedule will be pretty full.

Kitzmann is the largest brewery in Erlangen. They have a nice stube and garden at their brewery, which I will definitely hit. Another must is the Entlas Keller, located on the beer fest grounds and open during the warm months. You can sit on the benches, drink a liter (or two) and eat roast duck and such.

Entlas Keller


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Beer Fest in Passau?


I have an Innstadt beer glass in my collection, but I have never tasted the beer itself.



There is a 50-50 chance I will be spending September in Germany. Where is the issue. For sure there will be about a week in Erlangen, my old army posting and subject of a history I wrote a few years back.

I am considering Passau on the Austrian border since I have never been there. From September 6-15, they will be celebrating their Autumn Dult (as opposed to the larger Mai Dult in May) festival, both of which, of course, feature beer. Don't ask me to translate Dult. It's a Volksfest.

http://www.passauer-dult.de/

First on my list would be the Karlstetter Beer Tent

http://www.karlstetters.com/frameset1.htm



If this happens, it will be a flight to Munich, train to Passau, then on to Regensburg, Nuremberg and Erlangen.

Keeping my fingers crossed.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Moninger Ratsherrn Pilsner of Karlsruhe

I have not posted anything new here for awhile, but I do want to put in a plug for a great German beer if you happen to be in the Karlsruhe area.

Moninger Ratsherrn Pilsner.



Here is their web site.

http://www.moninger.us/brewery/



Admittedly, I am speaking from my visit to the Karlsruhe area back around 1980, but I distinctly recall this beer. I even brought one of their glasses back to the US for my collection. Now I can't describe to you the taste as having a blueberry finish or being hoppy or tannins (maybe that's wine) or whatever the aficionados call it. I just remember it as clean, smooth, and having  that simple but great German pils taste. For the week or so I was there, I recall seeking out places to eat that served Moninger.



If you are in the area, you should do the same. Tell'em I sent you.

(They won't know what the Hell you're talking about, but they'll served you anyway.)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Erlangen Brings Back an Old Brewery (Weller Bier)

3x11 im Glas


In May of 2011, I was attending Erlangen's annual Bergkirchweih beer fest. We were staying at a gasthaus in Bubenreuth, just north of Erlangen. They were featuring a new beer called Weller Bier to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the closing of the old Weller Bier brewery. It was a good beer, to my taste, similar to the city's major brewery, Kitzmann, and better than the other brewery in town, Steinbach.

Here is the information (in German) on the recreation of Weller Bier by a descendant of the original Weller who owned the brewery.

                                                           Weller Bierkrug neu


http://www.weller-bier.de/

The brewery's address is 17 Theaterplatz. I assume that this reopening was not temporary. The brewery apparently is producing limited quantities served in certain restaurants in the area. I will be back in Erlangen in September and will investigate this further-if you get my drift.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Erlangen-Bierstadt



Photo from Steinbach Brewery website


Erlangen, a university town in Middle Franconia (Bavaria), is where I spent over two years serving in the US Army in the 1960s. Later, after several subsequent visits, I wrote a history o the city (Erlangen: An American's History of a German Town") During my research, I found, surprisingly, that up until the early 20th century, Erlangen had been known as quite a city for beer and actually exported some of its products out of the country. Today, that era has long since passed, but I would like to relate here some of the information I included in my book.

Beer-making in Erlangen goes back to the Middle Ages. By 1696, the ciiy's old town (Altstadt) had 9 breweries operating-principally on and around the Martin Luther Platz. The company that would come to be known as Kitzmann, which today is the oldest-standing brewery in Erlangen, was established in 1712. In 1724, ownership passed to Joseph Vierzigmann, whose name is the most prominent in Erlangen's history when it comes to beer. In 1833, after a succession of owners, it came under the ownership of  Johann Lorenz Kitzmann. Today, it is still run by the Kitzmann family and is one of two surviving breweries. Two other notable breweries that lasted well into the twentieth century were Henninger Reifbrau (est 1690) and Erichbrau (est 1718) breweries.



Prior to refrigeration, the city stored its beer in caves built into the Burgberg hillside on the northern edge of town to keep it cool using ice from the Regnitz River, which flows past the town. In 1755, the city began its traditional Burgberg beer fest, the oldest in Germany and arguably after Munich, Germany's most popular. It takes place at the same site during the Whitsuntide season, 12 days during the end of May and early part of June. (Bergkirchweih) I highly recommend it. During the fest, the recipes of the old Henninger and Erich breweries are revived. The beer is sold right at the entrance to the caves of the Burgberg.
Henninger Reifbrau Erlangen German Stein StonewareErich Bräu
                                (R) Old Erichbrau building behind Altstaedter Kirche (Old town church)


Bergkirchweih


During the 19th century, Erlangen established an international reputation for its beer. An important factor was Erlangen becoming part of Bavaria (1810), which meant that it had to conform to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 (Reinheitsgebot). This meant that only three ingredients could be used, water, hops, and barley malt. In addition, Erlangen's brewers switched from an over-fermentation method to an under-fermentation method that was being used only in Bavaria.  The final product was a greatly improved beer. By the end of the 1860s, Erlangen was exporting three times the amount of beer as Munich and more than Nuremberg and Kulmbach as well. Even in the US, the term Erlanger was known for a particular type of beer from Erlangen. I recall back in the 1970s-1980s, when Schlitz came out with a specialty beer called Erlanger. The results were, predictably, disappointing.

When I was stationed in Erlangen during the 1960s, Kitzmann, Erich, and Henninger were the three breweries in town. By that time, Erlangen had seen its beer companies decline in the early part of the 20th century. Henninger, by the way, was founded by the same man (Heinrich Henniger) who later founded the Henninger brewery in Frankfurt-still that city's major brewery.

Today, Kitzmann is the main brewery in Erlangen. A more recent brewery is Steinbach, which had originally been founded by Carl Steinbach in the 1860s, closed, and re-instituted by the Steinbach family in recent years.


Both companies have drinking and eating facilities at their breweries. The Steinbach brewery on the northern edge of the old town, has a pub at the entrance, a small outdoor beer garden, and a cellar-type restaurant below. Their beer is close to a Hefeweizen taste, somewhat cloudy with a strong hint of lemon.

(above) Steinbach-(below) Kitzmann

The Kitzmann brewery opened an outdoor beer garden and stube only in recent years. Highly recommended. In addition, during the months where the weather is good, the Niklas Keller (named after an early Erlangen brewery)  restaurant at the beer ground site is open. You can sit outside on the benches, eat a meal, and quaff a liter or two of Kitzmann.



Two years ago, when I was attending the beer fest, the hotel where I was staying in nearby Uttenreuth was featuring a recreation of another old local brewery that had disappeared ages ago. I don't recall the name and I don't know if it has continued to operate.

Incidentally, I still own glasses and mugs from Kitzmann, Erich and Henninger which I purchased during my army stint in Erlangen over 40 years ago.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Old Bisbee Brewing Company

Old Bisbee Brewing Company Homepage


While I normally would not write anything here about American beer, I have to give a shout out to a tiny brewery I discovered this week in Bisbee, Arizona, a charming old western mining town where my father was born. It is the Old Bisbee Brewing Company.

The Old Bisbee Brewing Company is a really micro-brewery located adjacent to Brewery Ave near the entrance to Old Bisbee. It is one of the best American brews I have tasted. Unlike watery brews, this beer approximates the more creamy texture of German beer.

The brewery has a tiny bar and  a patio where you can drink and enjoy a brat as well. Their selections include a pilsner lager (my favorite) a hoppier brand, a stout, a lime lager, and a black and tan.

Check out their site.

http://www.oldbisbeebrewingcompany.com/

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Other Countries Have Great Beer Besides Germany?

Since this site has settled the question of which country has the best beer (Germany), I will mention a few others that rate honorable mention. This includes only those countries I have visited and know from personal drinking experience. This is no particular order.

Europe

The Netherlands

Dutch beer is excellent. The Heineken's there is much better than the product we get in the US. Ditto for Amstel. The only problem each time I was there is those darn small glasses they served it in. Hopefully, that has changed. When I was living in Italy, Heineken's was brewed in that country "under license and supervision" of blah, blah, blah, woof woof woof, quack quack quack. Take my word for it; it was Italian beer.

Interestingly, Amstel has a brewery in Curacao, where the beer is made from de-salinated sea water. The while water itself is the best I have tasted anywhere, the beer doesn't measure up to Netherlands quality.

Czech Republic



Outstanding beer in another country where beer is king. The Pilsner Urquell and Budweis are both excellent and better than you find imported into the US. If you want a real Budweiser, try the original Czech brand. It puts that swill here at home to shame.

Turkey



A surprising choice, but this country produces great beer, which goes perfectly with their food. The biggest brand is Efes Pilsen. When I was there in the late 1980s, they also had a Tuborg brewery. Just as the Heinken in Italy, the result was Turkish beer and thus, better than that produced in Denmark in my opinion.

Asia

Indonesia



The Indonesians have a fine beer called Bintang. Not surprisingly, they were schooled in brewing by the Dutch being a former colony. It goes well with the rich Indonesian cuisine.

Philippines



San Miguel in the Philippines is outstanding. Though you can find it in the US, like other imports, it is not the same as in the home country. Hong Kong has (or had) a San Miguel brewery when I was in Asia in the 1970s, but it was nowhere close to that in the Philippines. Several years ago, I found a Filipino restaurant in Aruba serving San Miguel that the docking Filipino sailors brought in. It was very good.

That's it. As for the Americas, I cannot give the same reviews as I can to the above. Mexico is a good country for beer as is Thailand and to me their imports, Bohemia and Singha respectively, are the best imports you can find. They don't rank at the top, however.



If you are asking why I don't include Belgium, it is because my time spent there amounts to one evening trying to sample as many brews as I could. I don't go for strong beer, and the first one I ordered smelled and tasted like perfume. I even tasted a Stella Artois. It's OK, but not up to Germany. Till I get another chance to visit the country, I withhold judgement.




Thursday, March 14, 2013

What About the Beers of SW Germany?

Aside from Bavaria, another region of southern Germany rates pretty good for beers in my view. That would be the state of Baden Wuerttemberg.

Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Two of the most well-known beers are from the state's biggest city, Stuttgart. Those would be Dinkelacker and Stuttgarter Hofbraeu, both of which by own tasting experience many years ago were pretty good. (My old army sgt pal, who is an American descended from the state, disagrees as as to Dinkelacker, however.)



Dinkelacker also produces Schwabenbrau, which I like.


Schwabenbraeu

Here is one that I recommend-from Karlsruhe. It is Moninger Ratshernn Pilsner.



My experience with this beer goes back to the early 1980s when we were visiting friends in the nearby village of Bad Herrenalb. This one was the best I found in that area. The local beer of Bad Herrenalb, Monch's Klosterbraeu, was also pretty good.

The only beer I am aware of in Heidelberg is Engelbrau and only because I have a mug of theirs. I don't know how good it is or about any other breweries in the city.



As for Freiburg, I only ate and drank beer there for lunch one day, and I recall being somewhat disappointed in the beer. My friend, who studied in Freiburg, says the beer there "sucks". I wouldn't be that harsh since even the disappointing brews to me are good.

I should comment about Goeppingen, where I spent the first couple of months of my army tour in Germany before moving to Erlangen. This is where I started drinking beer-at a local beer fest. I don't recall the brands and actually didn't get off post that much. It seems the big brewery there was Staufenbrau, which apparently moved in 1996. Here is a page that also lists other breweries in Baden Wurttemberg.

http://braubw.wordpress.com/ehemalige-brauereien/goppingen-staufen-brau/

A couple of local Goppingen breweries I found on the internet are Kaiser Brau and Lammbrau Hilsenbeck.

All in all, if you are traveling in the region, I don't think you will be disappointed in the beers there.

Friday, March 8, 2013

What About Beers in Northern Germany?'

Everyone talks about Bavarian beers, but the question I ask is whether they are truly better than those in other parts of Germany. No question that Bavaria is the best place to drink beer with its beer gardens and beer halls. Munich is the classic example. But what about northern Germany?

Let's start with the Rhineland. Dortmund has the greatest reputation with breweries that export to the US, such as Dortmunder Union and DAB (Dortmunder Aktien Brauerei).

http://www.germanbeerinstitute.com/Dortmunder.html

Konig Pilsner of Duisburg is well known around Germany and can be found in other parts of the country. Until I drink it in Duisburg (where I have no plans to go), I will withhold final judgement.


Nord-Rhine Westfalia is the home of another internationally-known brew, Warsteiner. I have yet to drink it in Germany, but found it disappointing not only in the US, but in Switzerland as well.



Becks of Bremen  has the biggest international reputation. I have only had it once from a bottle in Erlangen. Good but I would rather try it closer to home. An American friend of mine who studied in Germany says in Bremen, it is better to drink it from the bottle as opposed to the tap.That same friend (he studied at Goettingen) sings the praises of Einbecker, which is brewed in Einbeck as opposed to nearby Goettinger Edel Pils.



Back to the Rhineland, where Cologne is noted for its Koelsch, a lighter pils, and Dusseldorf is noted for its dark beer (Dunkles or Alt). When I was going there back in the 1960s, the pubs in the Altstadt were serving all dark beer. You had to specify light beer. Maybe it has changed now. Diebels Alt is a known brand.



Cologne-home of Koelsch beer


Jever beer, brewed in the town of the same name, is well known inside Germany and has a good reputation. The only time I have had it was in Riga, Latvia at a German style restaurant /pub that featured it as their main brew. It was better than Latvian beer, but I can't say how it tastes in Germany.


Basically, I can only list the most well-known beers of Northern Germany without giving my opinion on how they taste where they are brewed. And that is only a matter of personal taste. Again, we go back to the basic premise that there are thousands of locally-brewed beers in towns and villages that are just as good as the well-known brands. I do think, however, that the the beers in northern Germany as in other parts of the country can stand up to the Bavarian brews.